Search Success at the University of Manitoba Libraries Pre- and Post-Summon Implementation

Search Success at the University of Manitoba Libraries Pre- and Post-Summon Implementation

Lisa O’Hara (University of Manitoba Libraries, Canada), Pat Nicholls (University of Manitoba Libraries, Canada) and Karen Keiller (University of New Brunswick Saint John Campus, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1821-3.ch015
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The University of Manitoba Libraries (UML) hired an external company to perform usability testing on its website in 2008 and 2009. A component of the website testing required test participants to find particular books and articles and to identify materials on a particular specific topic using the UML’s search tools. The need for a resource discovery tool was made clear when participants were not generally successful in completing these tasks. The UML released Request for Proposals (RFP) for a resource discovery tool in 2010 and shortly afterward acquired Summon™1 as the successful tool. Usability testing was performed on the Summon™ resource discovery tool while it was still in beta development at UML to see if there was an improvement in search success for students. The results of the two usability studies are described in this chapter, with an emphasis on the Summon™ usability testing and suggestions for further research.
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The University of Manitoba Libraries is a doctoral-level university serving over 25,000 students and the UML’s collections number over 1.8 million titles in 19 libraries including eight hospital libraries. For both the external consultants’ testing and the Summon™ testing, the UML was using SirsiDynix®3 Symphony®4 version 3.2 and Web2 was the web catalogue interface. The UML also uses SFX®5 as its OpenURL resolver which is called “GetIt@UML” on the UML site. The Libraries provide access to over 300 separate databases in a variety of subjects which support its programs and at the time of website testing databases were made available using a home-grown system. This system provided alphabetic and subject lists and also provided information about the database including a summary, number of concurrent users, whether it was SFX®-compliant and more. During the Summon™ testing, the Libraries had migrated the home grown system to a Drupal system which gave the same information as the home-grown system but in a different format. Although none of these Libraries’ systems were looked at comprehensively in either test, the systems and their abilities were certainly factors in the usability testing of the Libraries’ website and of Summon™.

As part of the usability testing process and investigation into resource discovery tools the Website Usability Team and then the Resource Discovery Layer Task Force examined the literature available in the area. Since the focus of this chapter is usability testing, only the relevant literature on usability testing will be discussed. Most definitions of usability are based on either the International Organization for Standardization definition or Nielson (Bevan, 2006; Nielsen, 1993, 2000; Y. Chen, Germain, & Rorissa, 2009). Usability is often associated with five dimensions: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction (Nielsen, 1993). The best definition of usability for our purposes was found in a 2001 article by McGillis and Toms as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve designated goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use” (McGillis & Toms, 2001). Convenience is also an important factor in usability in the library context and has been found to be “the primary criteria used for making choices during the information-seeking process” (Connaway, Dickey, & Radford, 2011, p. 188).

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