Managing User Expectations in the Changing Information Paradigm/
Global Information Resource Head, Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai, India.
The disconnect between the users expectations and the librarians reality is often greater in
the virtual world than in the traditional face-to-face meeting. Increasingly more users see the
virtual reference encounter as magically solving a whole range of problems with instant
answers and full-text electronic content. Right information to the right user at the right time!
This cliché needs to be re-looked for ‘extended’ meaning, in the light of changed user
expectations today. Right information, in the present day context is, ready-to-consume
information, where library is expected to provide value-add to the raw content, in terms of
intelligence and analysis. Right information today is no longer just delivering of contextual
information. It necessitates libraries to provide closely aligned services, library teams to be
dedicated to projects, billed to projects, and library teams working in collaboration to create
information assets. Right information is information provided in pre-defined formats and
templates as expected by the user. Right user denotes segmentising users to provide
appropriate and secured accesses across various information sources. Right user today means a
measured empowerment to users in participative and user engaged services. Right time is
2. Factors that impact user satisfaction
a) Information products
Satisfaction is judged on the quality of information provided in terms of accuracy,
relevance, detail, precision and context
b) Information system/services
Satisfaction comes from timeliness, ease of searching, user-friendliness
A study1 on academic libraries to understand the user satisfaction levels against these
two parameters was undertaken and it concludes that satisfaction with the information
product is more important for overall satisfaction when compared to satisfaction with
the information system/service. Information is the dominant concern of the user. Thus,
it may be that finding the information is more satisfying to the library user than the
experience of the process s/he has to go through to obtain it. These findings concur
with OCLC2 survey findings which state that satisfaction with the overall search
experience has a strong correlation to the quality and quantity of information returned
in the search process.
Technology has shifted the user expectations from a mere ease of access to
information, to empowering users to be an integral part of a library design. Any
service that is designed with an end-user empowerment in mind, almost always
embraces Web 2.0. However to select a right set from within these myriad
applications, the library needs a researched understanding of its end-user needs.
Technology has become the backbone of the end-user library service, and
technological developments have impacted the end-user expectations of the younger
users enormously. Demography of the library users plays a crucial role here.
Technologies will keep changing but its choice will, among other things, also depend
on the demography to which the library will serve. Demographic characteristics differ
not only between types of libraries, but also within a library’s organizational set-up.
While a set of elderly users still struggle to use a library’s online catalogue, the other
set of tech savvy users demand service deliveries on mobile and streaming media.
Evidences3 show that expectations differ in a systematic way between different types
or groups of users. Different expectations are seen stemming from experience, age,
profession. OCLC4 survey findings show responses vary considerably by the age of the
respondents. For example, young U.S. respondents are much less likely than those over
65 to agree librarians add value to the information search process.
3. Managing user expectations
On the one hand technology has eased information search, retrieval and dissemination. But
on the other, it has added a huge challenge of keeping up with user expectations. In addition to
meeting user expectations, libraries must now also manage them. Some measures that libraries
can take to cope up with user expectations are discussed. They include -
a) adopting new performance indicators and benchmarks to measure user satisfaction
b) exposing and educating users to the invisible online resources
c) enhancing visibility of the apparent disintermediation of library staff through embedded
d) educating users on digital copyright and licensing to help users expect the rightful
e) using the users language
f) acting as a knowledge centre by connecting the right people with each other
With ubiquity of information resources and delivery modes, libraries today need to walk the
tight rope of user delight. In its pursuit to exploit technology, library should take care not to
abandon those users who are unfit to receive services due to technological shortfalls. In its
efforts to provide anytime anywhere services, library should be mindful of legal implications
and data security. User empowerment should not lead to users forgetting the library that serves
them. Otherwise libraries will be the victims of their own success. Usability assessment tends
to be associated with the practical assessment of the ease, efficiency, learnability, and
flexibility of the digital library. However, usability assessment seldom deals with differences in
user communities. A conscious demographic study of the information needs and information
seeking values of users will ensure enhanced satisfaction levels across libraries user segments.
New service benchmarks must be formulated and followed. But most important of all is
educating the user to appreciate that developments come with associated limitations so that
users are clear on what are reasonable expectations.
(The author acknowledges the contributions made by his colleague Dr Dhanashree Date in
conceptualizing / writing this invited paper).
1. Xi, Shi & et.al. Satisfaction Formation Processes in Library Users: Understanding
Multisource Effects, Journal of Academic Librarianship, Mar.2004, 30 (2), pp.122-131
2. OCLC - Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources : A Report to the OCLC
Membership, 2005 http://www.oclc.org/reports/pdfs/Percept_all.pdf
3. Bawden, David & Vilar, Polona. Meet or manage ? User expectations of digital
4. OCLC - Op.cit.