As promised earlier in the week, I’m checking back in today with some thoughts on my Information Seeking Behavior Tracking experiment. As you might imagine, it wasn’t the easiest task. It’s hard to pay attention to all that you’re doing during the day that relates to looking for information, particularly when you’re in the information business. That said, I think I did well enough to draw a few conclusions:
- I don’t use my library’s website very much.
- I use Google a lot.
- I get side-tracked often, thanks to having so much information pushed at me during the day.*
- I still use the old fashioned, “first-hand experience” method of answering some questions that I have. For example, one day I didn’t even look at my Weather Bug app to see the temperature before taking my puppy for her morning walk. Instead, I just went outside to discover it was cold.
- I use social media to both give and receive information. As it should be.
*If I call this divergent information behavior, it probably sounds better, doesn’t it?
Of course, the first two items on my list help me appreciate the behavior of many of our patrons. My library’s website is filled with valuable information, but I don’t use it often because (a) I believe that I know where to go for the information I need (library bypass – guilty as charged), and (b) I’m lazy. I don’t want to go through multiple layers to get to the things I need. And I don’t think that I’m all that different from most of the folks who use our library. I also generally get “good enough” information by quickly searching the Internet (I use Google) and following one of the top 3-4 results. There may well be better information out there, but “good enough” is good enough.
This brings me back to the question that I’ve been asking for awhile, the question that led me to track my behavior in the first place. As a librarian, I spend valuable time and effort packaging the best resources for my patrons. I create subject guides, websites, flyers, handouts, emails, and posters. I teach classes and give presentations. All of these are efforts to let students and faculty and researchers and staff know what’s available to them, but I’m not very convinced anymore that it’s the best way to get the message out. I’m not suggesting that I quit doing those things, but I do believe that I need to think as much, if not more, about how I get the message to patrons as I think about what the message is in the first place.
This morning, I read an article entitled, “Design Dimensions Enabling Divergent Behavior across Physical, Digital, and Social Library Interfaces” (Bjorneborn, L., Persuasive Technology, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 6137, 2010, pp 143-149). Citing the work of B.J. Fogg and Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, Bjorneborn writes,
Human behavior may be seen as a product of three factors: motivation, ability, and triggers. … Motivation includes information needs and interests. Ability includes information literacies to navigate with integrated body and mind through physical, digital, and social information spaces. Triggers include convergent and divergent design dimensions that may stimulate convergent and divergent information behavior.
Our patrons come to us with motivation and we concentrate a great deal on improving their ability to navigate our resources, but how about triggers? What are the triggers that we have in place to make them use our resources, including US. How do I trigger people to call me for help? How do I trigger them to think of me when they’re in need of something that lends itself to my expertise? How do I put myself – how do we put all of our library resources – in the pathways of our patrons’ information seeking routines?
These are important questions that I don’t know we’ve spent much time thinking about and addressing. I also think that they become all the more important as we’re seeking to do new things and provide different services that don’t easily trigger “librarian” in someone’s mind. We reaped the benefits of the “book = library/librarian = book” connection for a good, long while, but when we’re trying to sell services like data management, that connection isn’t there. We need triggers.
Bjorneborn concludes his paper noting that, “Persuasive design may bridge ‘affordance gaps‘ between users’ perceived affordances and designers’ intended affordances.” Put another way, maybe librarians need to look to the literature of design, psychology, and maybe even the “Science of Shopping” to help us fill and/or bridge the gaps between what we want our patrons to know about us and what they do know.