Librarian helping student locate online resources for his studies

In the dark about library user experience?

08 February 2023 • Michael Smith, marketing officer

How can researchers do their best work when utility outages mean they’re sitting in the dark or unable to get online? How can a student get good grades when they can’t find or access high-quality resources? How can you improve library user experience?

When we commissioned worldwide research into users’ experiences of their academic libraries we heard about some fantastic support being provided by librarians. But we also learned of some difficult – and occasionally heart-breaking – experiences. No one could be unmoved by a researcher in Nigeria who spent years on a project only to discover the same work had already been done years earlier. Unable to access journals and research papers online, they had no way of knowing. 

Every day, problems accessing trusted, high-quality and up to date digital resources have impacts – sometimes large, sometimes small – on students and researchers everywhere.

Time for action 

We recently published our findings in our library user experience report. It highlights library users’ most pressing difficulties and suggests actions that libraries, resource providers, network providers, utility companies and governments could take to improve access to quality resources and support students and researchers better. 

It shows how people in different regions of the world experience various problems more, or less, acutely. And it is eye-opening to learn that basic things like reliable access to internet connectivity can’t be taken for granted, even in some of the world’s wealthier nations. 

Common themes 

Clearly, some of the difficulties are outside the remit of the library community. But there are others that librarians can do something about quite easily. For example, students and researchers alike said they have problems with: 

  • Finding all the relevant results for their search query 
  • Accessing those results easily 
  • Identifying the ones that are reputable 
  • Organizing their work 
  • Integrating and citing resources in their work 

When students and researchers come up against these difficulties some wisely ask for help from librarians. But others simply create their own workarounds, especially if they get discouraged by a library portal they find clunky. When they do go it alone they have varying degrees of success; a significant number choose sub-par options, from browsing Sci-Hub to adapting their assignment’s title and direction to fit whatever content they can find instead. 

Solutions to enhance library user experience 

There are practical things libraries can do to offer high-quality support to students and researchers and at OpenAthens we’re here to help you on that journey. 

For example, we work with libraries and content providers so we can help you get started with single sign-on quickly and easily. It means students and researchers can find and access your resources any time, even when they are working off-site. Our solutions can also make it easy for you to see and manage what content is being used so you can make smarter decisions about promoting and managing resources. 

Woman selecting book from library

Interested in hearing more about library user experience?

Are you interested in hearing more about library user experience from professionals in the sector? Register for our annual event, AccessLab, to hear more about how common issues are being resolved.

AccessLab 2023