Dissertation Information for Dee Michel
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: A file structure model of library search behavior
Abstract: A comprehensive model of library search behavior does not exist. We have no conceptual framework to understand either the structure of the library, or how it is used by library searchers. If there were one, it would be useful in directing research, improving instruction for librarians and library users, and design of libraries. An iterative process of analysis and observation was used to create such a model. 52 adult English-speaking searchers, with varying types of searches, were observed in 49 search sessions in six public and academic libraries in southern California. Notes were taken on search aids. The physical movements of the searchers were recorded. Searchers were encouraged to speak aloud their thoughts with regard to the search process, with probe questions asked as necessary. Questions were also asked about the searchers' background and search objects, and their feelings and perceptions of the search process as a whole. The model consists of an analysis of the structure of the library and an account of how searchers interact with that structure. Three layers of library structure are defined: guidance superstructure, file structure and target information. The search aid is the basic unit of analysis, search aids can have file structure, and present four types of guiding information: identification, location, suggestion and help. Searchers' interactions with this structure are analyzed in terms of information processing, with nine types of information defined. Seven wayfinding steps are given that apply at all levels of searching, and seven others applying to file movement alone. One result of this analysis is a new definition of browsing as a file movement not knowing either a route to desired records or a destination of an access field. Another result is a way of looking at the cognitive state of efficient library users: they conceptualize their search objects as things that can be found in files. Applications of the model are presented in the form of a set of hypotheses and open-ended research questions generated by the model, and a reliability check in which two researchers successfully operationalized the concepts from one hypothesis covering the major aspects of the model.
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