Skip to main content

Assessment at Niagara University Library: Usage Studies

Usage Studies

This page reproduces assessment studies on usage and user behavior.

Ongoing: Collection Development. The Library regularly examines usage statistics--for example, book circulation and article downloads. Particularly useful for collection development are the usage statistics in Summon, the Library's discovery service, where we can examine the specific keywords user type.

January 2017: The Library uses a discovery service called OneSearch (note: its corporate product name is ProQuest Summon). A search box is prominently placed on the Library's home page and allows users to search for articles, books, and media in a single search. In calendar year 2016, users conducted 164,919 searches. In calendar year 2015, users conducted 104,126 searches. This is an increase of 58 percent. 

September 2016. The Library provides access to electronic books via purchase on demand. Our users trigger purchases when they start reading a book.  The Library examined 575 triggered purchases for the last 12 months. Here is the broad subject breakdown of those purchases:

MEDICAL  11.72%
EDUCATION  11.34%
SOCIAL SCIENCE  9.26%
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS  8.13%
HISTORY  7.37%
POLITICAL SCIENCE  6.81%
LITERARY CRITICISM  4.73%
PSYCHOLOGY  4.73%
COMPUTERS  3.97%
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES  3.02%
RELIGION  3.02%
DRAMA  2.27%
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY  2.08%
PERFORMING ARTS  2.08%
SCIENCE  2.08%
HEALTH & FITNESS  1.51%
ART  1.32%
NON-CLASSIFIABLE  1.32%
FICTION  1.13%
PHILOSOPHY  1.13%
FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS  0.95%
JUVENILE NONFICTION  0.95%
LAW  0.95%
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING  0.95%
FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDY  0.76%
JUVENILE FICTION  0.76%
BODY, MIND & SPIRIT  0.57%
LITERARY COLLECTIONS  0.57%
SELF-HELP  0.57%
HOUSE & HOME  0.38%
MUSIC  0.38%
NATURE  0.38%
REFERENCE  0.38%
STUDY AIDS  0.38%
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS  0.19%
COOKING  0.19%
CRAFTS & HOBBIES  0.19%
DESIGN  0.19%
GAMES  0.19%
PETS  0.19%
PHOTOGRAPHY  0.19%
SPORTS & RECREATION  0.19%
TRANSPORTATION  0.19%
TRAVEL  0.19%
TRUE CRIME  0.19%

Observation. Most notable is how less book-dependent Philosophy and Religion have become, which mirrors what we see in the circulation of print books.

March 2016. Observation. Busy past 5pm during spring break. Tutors meet students later in the day. Will stay open until 6pm next spring break.

August 2015. Not a study, but we discovered that we can greatly increase the faculty response rate to an email message by using this text in the subject line: "Put Your Fall 2015 Textbooks on Library Reserve!"  That is, compared to something like "Library News" or "Library Update."

Spring 2015: Goal. Observe how students use the Library’s web site and its discovery tool (Summon/OneSearch) for various research scenarios. Methodology: Conducted a usability study in April and May 2015 with seven students. Samantha Gust met with each student individually. She observed how each student responded to each of four research scenarios and took detailed notes. Outcomes: 

  1. Some students attempt subject searching in Spydus but use keywords and fail.
  2. Some students type an article title in the Serials Solutions search box.
  3. Some students type an article title in the search box on the LibGuides Databases page.
  4. One student thought the E-Books search box on the home page was the catalog.
  5. One student said she learned about Google Scholar on Pinterest.
  6. Some students put single words in quotations, e.g., “conspiracy” and “theory.”
  7. Some students went to EBSCO or ProQuest when asked to find the full text of a specific article.
  8. One student logged into ILLiad and typed keywords into the search box.
  9. One student typed “President Kennedy’s Assassination” site:gov into Academic Search Premier.
  10. Most students begin their research by clicking “Research” and selecting “Articles & Databases.”
  11. Only one student used OneSearch without being asked to do so. 

Will check to see if the search box on the LibGuides Database page can be removed. Samantha  Gust will prepare a detailed report and a presentation for the other librarians and facilitate a discussion about potential changes to the web site, reference desk interactions, or library instruction sessions. Future usability studies will follow. 

Fall 2012: Goal: Determine the impact (if any) there is having the a reference librarian stationed at the library’s circulation desk as opposed to the reference desk location. Methodology: In the Fall 2012 semester from 5 pm to 8 pm reference librarians staffed the circulation desk. During that time frame they were asked to keep track of the number of questions they picked up.  Data was to determine the viability of having the reference librarians working from the circulation desk as opposed to the reference desk location. Outcomes: Data showed that Reference librarians fielded reference questions while working at the circulation desk and in verbal assessments librarians reported they saw more opportunities for reference interactions. Action: Reference Librarians continue to work 5 to 8 at the circulation desk and we would like to do a more detailed study and explore ways that we could schedule more hours at the circulation desk. 

May  2012: Goal: Test this hypothesis: A link resolver provides an easier way for users to jump between databases to download full text journal articles. If effective, the downloads should increase. Methodology:  Statistics were analyzed for several key databases a year after the introduction of the link resolver. Results. ScienceDirect downloads increased by 11%. JSTOR downloads increased by 20%. ProQuest downloads increased by 23%. Canadian Business and Current Affairs downloads increased by 49%. EBSCOhost downloads decreased, but that could actually be a signifier that the link resolver was effective because students were more easily jumping from EBSCOhost to other databases. Actions: None.