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Library Philosophy and Practice 2009

ISSN 1522-0222

Information-Seeking Behavior of Law Faculty at Central Law College, Salem

S. Thanuskodi
Lecturer, Library & Information Science Wing
DDE - Annamalai University
Annamalai Nagar, Tamil Nadu, India



The increase in the amount, type, and format of information available on the Web has affected information-seeking behavior (Fidel, et al., 1999). Current information is important to everyone. The philosophical emphasis on direct, experiential acquisition of knowledge in the material, physical plane of existence is an important component of information seeking. Individuals have personal reasons for seeking certain forms of information (Leckie, Pettigrew, and Sylvain, 1996). Abels (2004) observes that from 1998-2000, both use of the Internet and expenditures for monographs increased.

The library is the most widely-used source of information available to literate societies. Librarians must be aware of the kind of information being sought and how it can be obtained. Because of the rapidly escalating cost of purchasing and archiving print journals and electronic media, the library has the duty to provide and maintain efficient services.

Related Studies

The literature of information seeking behavior of faculty is wide-ranging. Significant and interesting studies include Suriya, Sangeetha and Nambi (2004), Sethi (1990), Prasad (1998), Shokeen and Kushik (2002), Bane and Melheim (1995), Al-Shanbari and Meadows (1995), Reid (1995), Abdullah (1995), Challener (1999), Reneker (1992) , and Bandara (1993). Further reading is included in the References section of this article.

Most studies of information-seeking behavior have been done in developed countries, with much less data having been gathered on the developing world. No study has been undertaken in Tamil Nadu on the information seeking behavior of law faculty. This study investigates the information-seeking behavior of law faculty at the Central Law College, Salem.


The study used a questionnaire, which was less time-consuming and economical for a scattered population. The population of the study consisted of the 64 full-time academic staff working in the Central Law College, Salem. Guest faculty are included in the population.

The survey instrument had two sections. Section 1 collected personal information such as gender, academic rank, highest qualification, and teaching experience. Section 2, comprising 10 questions, collected data on the information-seeking behavior of the respondents. Questions in this section focused on the following areas: information sources used by the respondents, use of Central Law College library, adequacy of library collections, library use and computing skills of respondents, and the use of IT-based library sources and services. In order to ensure reliability and effectiveness of the instrument, the questionnaire was pilot tested on ten final year students. The pre-testing exercise was undertaken to identify any problems that potential respondents might face in understanding questions posed to them. Results of the pilot study showed that respondents were able to understand the questions and their responses were interpretable.

In order to save time and ensure better response rate, the questionnaires were personally distributed to the academic staff in their offices in May 2008. Fifty-six (87.5 percent) filled-in questionnaires were returned within two weeks of distribution.

Results and Discussion


Of the 56 respondents, 5 (8.92) were Professors, 7 (12.5%) Senior Lecturers, 19 (33.92%) Lecturers, and 25 (44.61%) Guest Lecturers. Forty-seven (83.92 %) of the respondents hold a master's degree.

The largest number of respondents, nineteen (33.92%), have been teaching for five years or less. Seven (12.5%) have between 6 and 10 years of teaching experience, and 13 (23.21 %) have between 11 and 20 years. Seventeen (30.35 %) respondents have 21 or more years of teaching experience. Twenty-nine (51.78 %) of the respondents were male and 27 (48.21 %) were female.

Library Skills

Respondents were asked to provide a self-assessment of their library skills. It was assumed that these skills might have a bearing on the ways respondents use the library to acquire the needed information. Those respondents with better skills were expected to use library resources and facilities more effectively. Most respondents rated themselves “very good” or “good,” and none reported “poor” skills.

Table 1: Library Skills
Skill Level Number Percentage
Excellent 5 8.92
Very Good 21 37.5
Good 13 23.21
Fair 17 30.35
Poor - -
Computing Skills

In a self-assessment of computing skills, nearly half rated themselves “very good,” while 14 percent considered their computing skills “poor.”

Table 2: Computing Skills
Skill Level Number Percentage
Excellent 2 3.57
Very Good 11 19.64
Good 27 48.21
Fair 10 17.85
Poor 6 10.71
Information Seeking Behavior

This section includes data on the time spent by respondents on different activities, including reading and literature searching, library use, perception of the importance of various information sources for teaching and research, and the use of IT-based sources and facilities.

Time Spent on Various Activities

There is a range of teaching loads represented, but 80 percent of the respondents report spending 15 percent on research and publication and administration respectively.

Table 3: Time Spent on Various Activities

Time Teaching Student Welfare Research and Publication Administration Reading and Lit Searching Other Activities
% N=56 N=56 N=45 N=37 N=56 N=15
1-15 6 (10.71%) 51 (91.07%) 37 (82.2%) 31 (83.78%) 47 (83.92%) 9 (60 %)
16-30 16 (28.57%) 5 (8.92%) 8 (17.7%) 4 (10.81%) 6 (10.71%) 6 (40%)
31-45 29 (51.78%) - - 2 (5.40%) 3 (5.35%) -
45 above 5 (8.92%) - - - - -
Information Channels Used

Respondents were asked to indicate which information channels they consult first. More than three-quarters “always” consult their personal collections first.

Table 4: Use of Information Channels
Information Channel No. Always Frequently Occasionally Never
College Library 56 27 (48.21%) 23 (41.07%) 6 (10.71%) -
Personal Collection 53 41 (77.35%) 10 (18.86%) 2 (3.77%) -
Book Stores 54 7 (12.96%) 24 (44.44%) 21 (38.88%) 2 (3.7%)
Colleagues 49 17 (34.69%) 22 (44.89) 10 (20.40%) -
Consult Knowledgeable person in the field 47 9 (19.14%) 13 (27.65%) 24 (51.06%) 1 (2.1%)

Library Visits

Nearly half of respondents visit the library at least three times a week, with another 20 percent visiting daily.

Table 5: Frequency of Library Visits

Visit Frequency Number Percentage
Daily 11 19.64
Weekly Three Times 27 48.21
Once in a Week 7 12.5
Once in a Month 9 16.07
Several times a year 2 3.57
Never - -

Purpose for Seeking Information

Preparing lectures is the most important reason for seeking information.

Table 6: Purpose for Seeking Information

Purpose Number Percentage
Preparing lectures 45 80.35
Updating knowledge 5 8.92
Research 2 3.57
PhD study 3 5.35
Entertainment 1 1.78

Resources for Teaching

Textbooks and law reports are the most important resources for teaching.

Table 7: Resources for Teaching

Information Sources Number Percentage
Books 27 48.21
Law Reports 15 26.78
Statutes 5 8.92
Research Articles 3 5.35
Legal Digest 3 5.35
Thesis and Research Reports 2 3.57
Pamphlets - -
Encyclopedia 1 1.78

IT-Based Sources and Facilities

More than 40 percent of respondents use the OPAC, and more than 20 percent use CD-ROM databases.

Table 8: IT-Based Sources and Facilities

IT-Based Sources and Facilities Number Percentage
Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) 23 41.07
CD-ROM databases and products 12 21.42
Online local and international databases 3 5.35
Audio Visual and multimedia collections 1 1.78

Search Engines

Google is the search engine preferred by nearly half the respondents.

Table 9: Search Engines

Search Engines Number Percentage
Google 27 48.21
Yahoo 11 19.64
MSN 7 12.5

Library Effectiveness

Respondents were asked to provide their overall assessment of the effectiveness of Central Law College Library in meeting their information needs. More than 80 percent considered the library “Effective” or “Very Effective.”

Table 10: Library Effectiveness

Effectiveness Level Number Percentage
Very Effective 12 21.42
Effective 34 60.71
Somewhat effective 10 17.85
Ineffective - -


The study revealed that the respondents use IT-based library sources and facilities less frequently compared with printed sources. It might be due to the lack of awareness about their availability, improper selection of materials, or unfamiliarity with these products. Similarly, it is also noted that email is the most popular Internet application, whereas other Internet-based services and applications are only used by a limited number of respondents. This is a matter of concern, as presently, electronic information sources and the Internet are considered extremely important tools for effective teaching and research. Therefore, the Central Law College library might like to review its electronic information resources.

Library staff or reference librarians could use their time better by focusing on assisting users. Reference librarians should help users improve their skills and to find the information they need. Librarians should also assist users in learning the use of IT-based resources. The library must provide adequate equipment and technology for reference librarians so that they can offer these services

The study investigated the information needs and information seeking behaviour of law faculty members at the Central Law College, Salem. Respondents use a variety of information sources for teaching and research. Books and law reports are considered mosy important. It is interesting to note that, although respondents perceived the library as effective in meeting their information needs, they prefer to consult their personal collections first.

References and Further Reading

Abels, E. (2004). Information seekers' perspectives on libraries and librarians. Advances in Librarianship 28: 151-170.

Abels, E.G., Liebscher, P., & Denman, D.W. (1996). Factors that influence the use of electronic networks by science and engineering faculty at small institutions: Part 1- queries. Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 47 (2): 146-158.

Adedibu, L., & Adio, G. (1997). Information needs and information seeking patterns of medical students at Lautech, Ogbomoso. Aslib Proceedings 49 (9): 238-242.

Al-Shanbari, H., & Meadows, A.J. (1995). Problems of communication and information-handling among scientists and engineers in Saudi Universities. Journal of Information Science 21 (6): 473-478.

Bacha, A.K. (1995). Use of Internet in Malaysia with special reference to International Islamic University, Malaysia. Paper presented at the COMLIS IV Conference, Tehran, June 1995.

Bandara, S. (1993). The problem of managing agricultural research information systems: a profile of Jamaica. IAALD Quarterly Bulletin 38 (1):16-21.

Bane, A.F., & Milheim, W.D. (1995). Internet insights: How academics are using the Internet. Computers in Libraries 15 (2):32-36.

Barry, C. (1996). Information-seeking in advanced IT-culture: A case study. In: P. Vattari, et al. (Eds.) Information seeking in context . London: Taylor Graham.

Brown, C.M. (1999). Information seeking behaviour of scientists in the electronic information age: Astronomers, chemists, mathematicians, and physicists. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50 (10): 929-943.

Dee, C. and Blazek, R. (1993). Information needs of the rural physician: A descriptive study. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 81 : 259-264.

Fidzani, B.T. (1998). Information needs and information-seeking behaviour of graduate students at the University of Botswana. Library Review 47 (7/8): 329-340.

Guest, S.S. (1987). The use of bibliographic tools by humanities faculty at the State University of New York at Albany. Reference Librarian 18 : 157-172.

Jones, Y.P. (2006). “Just the facts Ma'am?” A contextual approach to the legal information use environment. In Proceedings of the 6th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems . University Park, PA, USA: ACM Press. pp. 57- 359.

Majid, S., & Kassim, G. M. (2000), Information-seeking behaviour of International Islamic University Malaysia Law Faculty Members. Malaysian Journal of Library & Information Science 5 (2): 1-17.

Prasad, H.N. (1998). Information seeking behaviour of physical scientists and social scientists: A report. Annals of Library Science and Documentation 45(2): 41-48.

Reitz, J. M. (2004). Online dictionary of library and information science . Available: http://lu.com/odlis/

Sethi, A. (1990). Information seeking behaviour of social scientists: An Indian conspectus. New Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation.

Shokeen, A., & Kushik, S.K. (2002). Information seeking behaviour of social scientists of Haryana universities. Library Herald 40 (1): 8-11.

Suriya, M., Sangeetha, G., & Nambi, M. A. (2004). Information-seeking behaviour of faculty members from government arts colleges in Cuddalore District. In: Kaul, H.K. and Patil, S.K. (Eds.), Library and information Networking (NACLIN 2004) . pp. 285-292.

Sutton, S.A. (1994). The role of attorney mental models of law in case relevance determinations: An exploratory analysis. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 45 (3): 186-200.

Vollaro, A., & Hawkins, D. (1986). End-user searching in a large library network: A case study of patent attorneys. Online 10 (4): 67-72.

Wales, T. (2000). Practice makes perfect? Vets' information seeking behaviour and information use explored. Aslib Proceedings 52 (7): 235-246.

Wiberley, S. E., & Jones, W. G. (1989). Patterns of information seeking in the humanities. College and Research Libraries 50 (6): 638-645.

Wilkinson, M.A. (2001). Information sources used by lawyers in problem-solving: An empirical exploration. Library and Information Science Research 23 : 257-276.

Wilson, T. D. (1997). Information behaviour: An inter-disciplinary perspective. Information Processing and Management 33 (4): 551-572.

Wilson, T. D. (2000). Human information behavior. Informing Sciences 3 (2): 49-55.

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

Yuan, W. (1997). End-user searching behavior in information retrieval: A longitudinal study. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 48 (3): 218-234.



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