In preparation for coding our CLOCK Open Data application, Trevor Jones and Andrew Beeken set out to understand how staff and students discover electronic data within the university’s existing library OPAC (online public access catalogue) system, and additionally, their Internet search behaviour. The proposed CLOCK system is to be developed with a range of users of the existing OPAC system in-mind – each with their own user requirements; though in general the format of returned search data is similar for each person. For instance, a search for a resource will return: title, author, and an ISBN – though this is not necessarily the case for a department such a ‘Performing Arts’ where a resource, such as a ‘Play,’ does not return an ISBN. Additionally, the CLOCK system needs to be intuitive and friendly for all users.
Focusing initially on Performing Arts students, a cognitive interview was devised comprising of three tasks designed to capture participant search behaviour whilst engaged in research activity.
Screen capture software was used to record the on-screen activity of the participants performing research (a task) with the tools of their choice, and an accompanying audio stream was recorded to provide a running commentary of the participant’s train of thought during the exercise.
Performing Arts students love to talk
Each task was allocated ten minutes – producing three 10 minute video files for each participant, for which there were a total of four participants. In addition to screen capture, a questionnaire was given to each participant with questions related to how they would perform the research for the given tasks (no use of computer). The reason being that there may be differences between thinking about a task and actually performing a task; and so, we asked two participants to begin with the questionnaire followed by the computer-based task, and the other two participants beginning with the computer-based task and filling out the questionnaire afterward.
The questionnaire also asks participants to comment on the tools used, and to provide discussion on the effectiveness of the toolsets and any issues encountered, and additional functionality they would like to have.
The three tasks below were written to resemble pseudo Performing Arts coursework assignments that incite the use of expected tools i.e. OPAC and Internet search engines.
You have been tasked with the production of a stage play based on silent movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, for which the only sound allowed to be used is the noise associated with cars (engines, car horns, indicators, reversing sonar, wipers, screeching tires, crash noises etc.).
Examine the literature on Performance Arts Attendance with a view to analysing trends of socio economic characteristics that influence attendance at performing arts events. What, if any, are the factors and barriers to audience retention?
Headlining current affairs, and being of concern with schools and child development agencies for many years now, children’s ‘behaviour’ has devolved in working and middle class families. Write a play that captures the essence of these ‘concerning’ times from one or more of the following perspectives: the school, the parent, the child. In addition, the play must be written in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan that veils the story behind an alternative setting (The Mikado).
Analysis of this data has shown that the main toolsets used are: OPAC, Google, Google Scholar, and International bibliography of theatre and dance with full text (a commercial database). There were variations of keywords used in the search criteria and not all with success. Two reasons may account for this: spelling mistakes and poor choice of keyword. In general, only the top six results were scrutinised for relevant information; further results being ignored. This possibly due to the time constraint imposed on the task, or perhaps from the belief that additional results would not yield desired results.
Participants followed an expected pattern – launch Google, enter keyword, find the top hits (usually Wikipedia), get some background information, and then refine search (ejournals, articles and books); this involved using Google Scholar, OPAC and the commercial database. For video and sound samples, participants used YouTube and a Sound-byte specific website. No search was performed on OPAC for film and sound. NB. Europa Film Treasures is accessible from OPAC, but the search facility is limiting and does not provide an option to search by film title? Film and Sound returns a broken link. Google was deemed to be very supportive for searching information with its automated text search feature and recommendation function, and of course being simple and intuitive to use. Some search terms were clunky at returning desired results, for instance things such as ‘theories’ and ‘criticisms’ of a play, ‘previous’ productions, ‘presently running’ productions.
Improvements were identified as follows:
To assist with searching: automated text/suggested words; highlighted key words; a side panel for storing returned searches that can then be used again later or discarded – including an identifier to indicate their source e.g. Google, OPAC etc..
A way of displaying inter-library loans, and relevant information relating to the search, with an indicator for which articles are actually available. The related information could be things such as where a play is presently showing, ticket office number, or past versions of the performance company, links to video… basically something that provides extra context relevant to the search.
Once a search has been performed – a method for jumping directly to the text that appears in the initial search return. For instance, when searching Google a list of results is returned which provide a sample of the text from within that web source; but when you access that link it is not easy to see where that text appears within the page.
So what next?
We’ve got more users to observe, and we’ll need to see how they conduct their use of the university toolsets and understand their particular requirements. These participants will include academic staff and library cataloguers.
For participating in this phase of the CLOCK project, we would like thank the following Performing Art students: Gemma Smart, Charlotte Haythorne, Marc Brock, and Kirsty Barnes.