Rowan University Libraries to Engage in Remote User Testing Study

By Aileen Bachant

This spring, Rowan University Libraries will evaluate the accessibility of online Library resources through a remote user testing study. The three-part study, proposed by the Rowan University Libraries Website Committee in partnership with EBSCO Information Services, will inform decisions for the highly anticipated Libraries website redesign project, estimated to begin in the late fall of 2015. EBSCO is currently offering this service as a pilot project, and may offer this service to other customers in the future.

The Rowan University Libraries Website Committee is addressing the many questions that have arisen about patron access since the additions of the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University [CMSRU] and the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine [RowanSOM] in 2012 and 2013, respectively. 

The mission of the Rowan University Libraries system is to provide services and resources to this multi-campus, multi-disciplined audience of users with varied educational levels and research needs.  The challenge for the Website Committee is to design a cohesive web presence that provides ready information and access to shared resources.

Questions about website navigation range from typical to unique, with the top five being:

  • What features do patrons expect to see first when they access their library’s homepage?
  • How do we communicate that access processes and policies vary from campus to campus?
  • How do we communicate that access processes and policies vary for different student and faculty populations?
  • What features and services are underutilized because they are poorly named?
  • How do we improve access of research materials for patrons if we don’t know how and where they’re getting lost?

Through this study, the Committee hopes to address at least one or two of these questions. Because the Rowan University Libraries website supports three different landing pages, all part of the same system, and each catering to different campus populations, our research team plans to administer three separate tests: One at the main Glassboro campus, one at the CMSRU campus (Camden), and one at the RowanSOM campus (Stratford).

The tests will be administered remotely by EBSCO Information Services using a web application supported by (link is external). Each participant – 10 from each campus study – will be given 30 minutes to complete several tasks, beginning at his or her Library’s homepage. A short pre-test and post-test questionnaire establishing the participant’s affiliation to the University and level of education will help determine if /how different populations of users navigate and use the Rowan University Libraries website differently. The tasks proposed for each campus test are designed to allow for failed searches. How users respond to each task will help the committee determine the arrangement of new features and the rearranging of existing, formerly “lost” content pieces in updated versions of the website. The goal is to use these sessions to improve overall website navigation so that all users may discover resources and services with ease, no matter what campus they call home.

All test sessions will be recorded, allowing the research team to both hear and see the participants’ search and discovery processes. Participation is completely voluntary, but will be incentivized by $10 Amazon gift cards, provided by EBSCO Information Services.

While the tasks listed for each campus test vary, the objectives are mostly the same:

  • To analyze patrons’ process in finding an electronic book or journal article (based on citation info, title, author, etc.)
  • To determine whether or not patrons understand how to reserve a group study room (test new online reservation system)
  • To determine whether not patrons understand how to place an Interlibrary Loan request (or, if they even know Interlibrary Loan services exist)
  • Find help with citing sources
  • To determine whether or not patrons understand how to request/find research help with a specific subject/topic (this could include LibGuides or Ask-a-Librarian)
  • To determine whether hours of operation are listed appropriately on each homepage

Part one of this three-part test – the RowanSOM test – is scheduled to begin on April 9, 2015. We look forward to sharing our findings with other academic research libraries this fall.

Aileen Bachant is Marketing and Outreach Coordinator at Rowan University Libraries.