Catalogue search interfaces at the University of Oxford:a study of users' attitudes and behaviours

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Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economics and Social Studies

Original languageEnglish
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Award date2010
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Abstract

The past few years have seen a rise in the employment of next-generation OPAC interfaces. Based on internet search engines, they are designed to match users' search behaviours and be intuitive to use, unlike older OPACs. Much has been written about next-generation systems but little practical research has been carried out.

SOLO, a next-generation interface, has been introduced at the University of Oxford while OLIS, an older, second-generation, OPAC is still available. This study investigates users' attitudes and behaviours towards the two interfaces and their search behaviours when using them. An online questionnaire was used to investigate users' attitudes and data taken from the two systems was analysed to reveal users' behaviours. The survey used a non-probability sample and so wider conclusions about the population of users could not be made.

The results showed that there is considerable overlap between usage of the interfaces: over half of respondents use both at least once a week. OLIS was considered more predictable, familiar and easy to navigate around, and the inclusion of patron functions was also a positive. However, the number of searches performed on OLIS has declined by over 50% since SOLO's introduction. SOLO was considered to have a better appearance, be better for subject searching, and led to more serendipitous finding of items, but the integration with OLIS for holdings information was considered poor. SOLO's next-generation options to personalise the search experience, such as tagging, were not widely used; however, facets were used in 18% of sessions and 'did you mean' corrections in 5.8% of sessions. Search behaviours were similar on both systems: most sessions with short and simple strategies were the most popular. Far fewer constructed advanced searches were performed on SOLO compared to OLIS: SOLO's single search box means users do not need to formulate more complex queries