Search Interface academic libraries


A (brief) history

Interface: a definition


+ modes of information seeking

+ cognitive load


+ usability testing


+ faceted searching

+ displaying results

Challenges for libraries

+ public libraries

+ academic libraries

The future/Conclusion


Academic Libraries

Academic libraries may serve a less diverse population of users, but face their own set of unique challenges. Research indicates that students (and particularly those new to university) return unsatisfactory search results due to errors and overly simplistic searches; however, Ahmed, McKnight, and Oppenheim are quick to point out that "this failure is caused not only by the lack of their search skills or training but also by the inadequacies of the search interfaces” (2006 p. 158). Authentication processes and link resolvers such as SFX are just a few of the features common to library websites and commercial databases that students struggle with (Kitalong, Hoeppner, and Scharf 2008, p. 193). Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, usability tests have also shown that students prefer search boxes to subject or alphabetical database lists (2008, p. 193). Kitalong, Hoeppner, and Scharf, contend that these results “reinforc[e] the need for library instruction to redress gaps and misconceptions in how students understand both the research process and library research techniques as compared with ‘googling’ ” (2008; pgs. 192, 193); while there is no doubt truth to this, the authors' assertion seems to take the onus off of libraries and vendors to improve the 'gateways' to the electronic resources they provide.

UBC Library Homepage

back top of page next

Search Interface: In Your Face
By Lindsay Tripp and Neil MacDonald
LIBR 557: Information Retrieval Concepts and Practice
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC
December 4th, 2009