CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

Measuring Usage and Usability of Online Databases at Hartnell College: An Evaluation of Selected Electronic Resources

Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to collect and examine statistical and survey data in an effort to determine whether three electronic resources made available by the Hartnell College library are actually being used by the target population for whom they were acquired. The second goal was to significantly advance understanding of how selected online database products collect and report usage statistics, how usable students find existing electronic resources, and whether usage levels justify the costs of renewing online resource subscriptions.

The major problems examined within the study include a lack of common measurement standards and the absence of a universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes usage. Additional problems included a lack of comparative data to evaluate similar electronic resources and the absence of any prior analysis of database use at Hartnell College. Data for this study was obtained from two sources: server log files and user surveys. Each month, log files containing electronic resource usage statistics were downloaded, analyzed and stored in spreadsheets by the Hartnell College Systems Librarian. This information was supplemented by data collected during a usability study and user satisfaction study conducted in spring 2002. Test participants were drawn from two Hartnell College classes: one section of English 253 and one section of English 10l.

There was a total of 25 participants. Findings from the completed study indicated EBSCOhost and Pro Quest databases were used more than CQ Researcher, with EBSCOhost receiving the most use. Despite this finding, usability and user satisfaction surveys indicated that students participating in this study found CQ Researcher the most effective tool in helping them perform directed research. Students also rated CQ Researcher highest in user satisfaction, followed by EBSCOhost and then ProQuest. The factual statistical data derived from this study will assist decision-makers at Hartnell College as they prepare the 2003-2004 Library materials budget. An awareness of usability and user satisfaction ratings of existing electronic resources by students have resulted in planned revisions to existing bibliographic instruction courses.

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