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Library Philosophy and Practice 2009

ISSN 1522-0222

Information-Seeking Behavior: A Study of Panjab University, India

Dr. Preeti Mahajan
Department of Library & Information Science
Panjab University
Chandigarh, India

 

Introduction

According to Wilson (1999, 2000), information-seeking behavior includes "those activities a person may engage in when identifying their own needs for information, searching for such information in any way, and using or transferring that information." Kakai, et al., (2004) have defined information-seeking behavior as an individual's way and manner of gathering and sourcing for information for personal use, knowledge updating, and development. Information-seeking behavior of students, researchers, and professionals has been the focus of enquiry for decades. Initially, however, user studies were conducted primarily to evaluate library collections. These were followed by studies of the research habits of individuals or groups that would lead to the design of appropriate information systems and services. In mid 1980s, the focus shifted to holistic approaches to information-seeking behavior. According to Line (2000), new studies of information users and their needs are even more necessary in the age of the Internet. Researchers such as Callison (1997), Devadason and Pratap (1997), and Ellis (1993) have explored quantitative and qualitative methodologies for user studies.

Information-seeking behavior differs among user groups. Academic libraries must understand the information needs of faculty and students in order to address those needs. This study explores the information-seeking behavior of undergraduates, postgraduate students, and researchers in sciences, social sciences, and humanities at the Panjab University, Chandigarh, India.

The Panjab University Library has a rich collection of 650,000 books and 600 journal subscriptions. Moreover, 4,000 journals are available online through UGC Infonet consortium and 300 from Indest consortium. The library has developed a digital library portal. The library is amongst the top ten universities in India in journal usage through the Inflibnet consortium. This study examines the kinds of academic information needed by respondents, which resources they prefer, whether they are satisfied with the library collections, and the general pattern of information-seeking, with special reference to the influence of course of study. The descriptive survey method was used and data was gathered via questionnaire from 250 users. Respondents were also asked for their opinions and suggestions during an interview. The tables below provide analysis of the data.

1. Specialization
Specialization Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Sciences 40 40 20
Social Sciences 40 40 20
Humanities 20 20 10

Table 1 indicates that a total of 250 questionnaires completed, and consisted of 100 undergraduates, 100 postgraduates, and 50 researchers from sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

2. Time spent per week in the library
Time Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Less than 5 hours 25% 29% 72%
5-10 hours 48% 56% 14%
10-20 hours 21% 8% 8%
More than 20 hours 6% 7% 2%

Nearly half the undergraduate students and more than half of the postgraduate students spend about 5 to 10 hours per week in the library. Nearly three-quarters of the researchers, however, spend less than 5 hours per week in the library.

3. Undergraduate satisfaction with collection
Type of material Very good Good Fair poor
Text books 12% 71% 12% 5%
Reference books 48% 34% 16% 2%
Journals 56% 36% 5% 3%
Magazines 71% 24% 12% 3%
Newspapers 76% 24% 0% 0%
Thesis 58% 30% 12% 0%

A majority of undergraduates report a good collection of textbooks in the library, and journals were rated similarly. The collection of reference books, journals, and theses was rated Very Good by nearly half.

4. Postgraduate satisfaction with collection
Type of material Very good Good Fair poor
Text books 54% 27% 12% 7%
Reference books 24% 51% 16% 9%
Journals 74% 21% 3% 2%
Magazines 64% 28% 5% 3%
Newspapers 69% 27% 3% 1%
Thesis 69% 27% 3% 1%

Unlike undergraduate, only about half the postgraduate students rated the textbook collection Very Good, and only about one quarter rated the reference collection similarly. A majority of postgraduates are satisfied with the journals, magazines, newspapers, and theses.

5. Researcher satisfaction with collection
Type of material Very good Good Fair poor
Text books 24% 46% 24% 6%
Reference books 36% 58% 6% 5%
Journals 70% 36% 2% 2%
Magazines 70% 28% 2% 0%
Newspapers 72% 14% 1% 2%
Thesis 50% 42% 1% 5%

A m ajority of researchers are happy with the availability of journals, magazines, and newspapers, but are not satisfied with textbooks or reference books.

6. Assistance from library staff
Services Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Manual catalogues 94% 99% 100%
OPAC 99% 97% 100%
Location of documents 86% 89% 76%
Use of reference books 92% 96% 86%
Bibliographies 0% 0% 0%
Newspaper clippings 0% 0% 0%
Circulation 96% 98% 98%
Interlibrary loan 0% 0% 0%

Most respondents are satisfied with the assistance provided by the library staff with searching information in the manual catalogue, OPAC, and reference books. Most also indicated the helpful behavior of staff in locating and checking out materials. On the other hand, no respondent was satisfied with help in compiling bibliographies, newspaper clippings, and interlibrary loan. When asked the reason, respondents said that they were not aware of any such service being provided by the library.

7. Satisfaction with present library services
Satisfaction level Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
20% 4% 5% 7%
50% 7% 13% 31%
75% 63% 59% 46%
100% 26% 23% 16%

A majority of respondents rated the library services at 75 percent of their satisfaction level.

8. Purpose of information-seeking
Purpose Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Reading 68% 52% 44%
Preparing notes 100% 98% 0%
General awareness 50% 56% 72%
Discussions 6% 24% 62%
Research work 0% 84% 100%

Most students seek information to prepare notes for examinations, whereas all the researchers seek information related to their research. Seeking information for discussions and general awareness is favored more by the researchers than other respondents.

9. Time spent per week on information gathering
Time Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
0- 2 hours 58% 32% 0%
3-5hours 38% 46% 4%
6-8 hours 4% 14% 12%
More than 8 hours 0% 8% 84%

It is clear from the table that the researchers spend more than 8 hours per week on information gathering because it is important for their research. Most students spend less time on information gathering because it is provided in the classroom or available in textbooks.

10. Formal sources of information
Formal sources Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Books 94% 86% 48%
Journals 58% 76% 96%
Reference sources 46% 49% 36%
Conference proceedings 36% 42% 76%
Online databases 24% 58% 100%

Students rely more on books than other sources, whereas researchers rely more on journals, conference proceedings, and databases, because they need current information in their research areas.

11. Informal sources of information
Informal sources Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Email 93% 96% 100%
Discussion with teachers 96% 98% 100%
Deminars 34% 46% 92%
Discussion with librarians 47% 44% 48%

Email and discussion with teachers is preferred by most respondents, who feel that friends and teachers direct them to various sources of information that may be useful. Teachers even provide them with journal articles and books. Researchers also attend seminars and conferences to acquire information by establishing new contacts or hearing lectures and discussions. It is interesting to note that discussion with librarians as provider of information is not much favored.

12. Method of seeking current information
Method Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Current issues of journals 56% 72% 100%
CAS/SDI 14% 14% 23%
Personal communication 68% 74% 48%
Seminars/ conferences 24% 56% 92%
Internet 67% 83% 98%

Researchers prefer current issues of journals and the Internet more than students. Although the library provides a current awareness service, it is not fully used. When users were asked about it, most, especially students, were not aware of it.

13. Impact of ICT on information seeking
Impact Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Yes 98% 99% 100%
No 2% 1% 0%

Since information is available in different formats as a result the implementation of ICT, users were asked to indicate its impact on their information-seeking behavior. Virtually all users were aware of its impact and found it beneficial.

14. Preference for formats
Format Undergraduates Postgraduates Researchers
Print 14 % 16% 8%
Electronic 35 % 23% 12%
Both 51% 61% 80%

Users prefer information in both print and electronic form; however, students desire more exposure to electronic sources, and they also expressed a need for training in the use of these resources.

Conclusion

The core of the library profession remains the same, but methods and tools for information delivery continue to grow and change dramatically. Libraries must understand information-seeking behavior of users to re-engineer their services and provide information efficiently. The results of this study reveal users who are are more or less satisfied with library collections and services, but who want training in the use of online information. Although document delivery service is being provided on demand, the researchers pointed out that it would be worthwhile if the library could provide them with indexing, abstracting, and interlibrary loan service as well.

References

Callison, D. (1997). Evolution of methods to measure student information use. Library and Information Science Research 19 (4): 347-357.

Devadason, F.J., & Pratap, P.L. (1997). Methodology for the identification of information needs and uses of users. IFLA Journal 23 (1): 41-51.

Ellis, D. (1993). Modeling the information-seeking patterns of academic researchers: A grounded theory approach. Library Quarterly 63: 469-486.

Kakai, J.M., Ikoja-Odongo, R., & Kigongo-Bukenya, I.M.N. (2004). A study of the information seeking behavior of undergraduate students of Makerere University, Uganda. World Libraries 14 (1) Available:  http://www.worlib.org/vol14no1/print/kakai_print.html

Wilson, T.D. (1999). Models in information behavior research. Journal of Documentation 55 (3): 249-270.

Wilson, T.D. (2000). Recent trends in user studies: Action research and qualitative methods. Information Research 5 (3). Available: http://informationr.net/ir/5-3/paper76.html

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