Linking Information Seeking Patterns with Purpose, Use, Value, and Return On Investment of Academic Library Journals

Donald W. King, Carol Tenopir

Abstract


Objective – To demonstrate the power of the critical incident method in studying the information seeking patterns of university faculty.

Methods – Faculty at five U.S. universities participated in a study concerning their information seeking and reading patterns involving scholarly journals. The surveys relied on a critical incident method of asking questions concerning the last journal article read. This method allows analysis of the relationships among the purposes of reading articles, ways in which faculty first learned about the articles, where they obtained them, aspects of their use, and the value or impact of the information read.

Results – Results show that journal articles were by far the most used source of the last substantive piece of information used for work. Over half of article readings were from articles provided by libraries (52%, compared with 32.6% from personal subscriptions), and journal articles were the most frequent way faculty became aware of information prior to reading about it (33.9%, compared with 19.4% from informal discussions).

Conclusion – This project has shown that articles read for the purpose of research, found by searching, and obtained from the library collections have the highest value to faculty by many measures. Library provided articles save faculty time and effort, which can be quantified using contingent valuation. The return on investment (ROI) for library collections can be calculated by measuring all library costs and establishing the monetary returns to faculty members through contingent valuation. Library journal collections are estimated to have an ROI of between 3.3 and 3.6 to 1.

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