Code4lib Day 2: How People Search the Library from a Single Search Box

by Cory Lown, North Carolina State University

While there is only one search box, typically there are multiple tabs, which is especially true of academic libraries.

  • 73% of searches from the home page start from the default tab
  • which was actually opposite of usability tests

Home grown federated search includes:

  • catalog
  • articles
  • journals
  • databases
  • best bets (60 hand crafted links based on most frequent queries e.g. Web of Science)
  • spelling suggestions
  • loaded links
  • FAQs
  • smart subjects

Show top 3-4 results with link to full interface.

Search Stats

From Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, ~739k searches 655k click-throughs

By section:

  • 7.8% best bets (sounds very little, but actually a lot for 60 links)
  • 41.5% articles, 35.2% books and media, 5.5% journals, ~10% everything else
  • 23% looking for other things, e.g. library website
  • for articles: 70% first 3 results, other 30% see all results
  • trends of catalogue use is fairly stable, but articles peaks at the end of term

How to you make use of these results?

Top search terms are fairly stable over time. You can make the top queries work well for people (~37k) by using the best bets.

Single/default search signals that our search tools will just work.

It’s important to consider what the default search box doesn’t do, and doubly important to rescue people when they hit that point.

Dynamic results drive traffic. When putting few actual results, the use of the catalogue for books went up a lot compared to suggesting to use the catalogue.

Collecting Data

Custom log is being used right now by tracking searches (timestamp, action, query, referrer URL) and tracking click-throughs. An alternative might be to use Google Analytics.

For more, see the slides below or read the C&RL Article Preprint.

Published by

Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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