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User Studies

1. Introduction: A library user study may be defined as any study relating to library use, in any or all of its aspects. It refers to any systematic examination of the characteristics and behaviour of the users and, if feasible, of non-user of library system and services. User studies are, by definition, about people, behaviour and contexts. They need both quantitative and qualitative approaches to be combined to produce the both the holistic view and the robust data needed to validate data collected. User studies, use studies, information-need studies, information transfer studies, communication behaviour studies, information dissemination and utilisation studies, user-research, etc., are all closely related terms.

2. Need of the User Study: User studies and user data are essential to system analysis. User information is the important part in measurement and evaluation of library services. It is also helpful for the planning of libraries. User studies have a number of impacts on library services and system. User studies are directly or indirectly, playing a pivotal role in systems and services, such as collection development, resource allocation, improvement of library techniques etc. Library user studies are important for the following reasons-
a) To Identify the User Need: In the context of library and information science or system, it is extremely important that in-depth user studies are conducted to acquire the actual and potential needs of the users.
b) To Know How Well the System Works: On the basis of user studies, the collection building, processing and organisation and service are assessed.
c) To Improve the System or Services: A user study indicates the successes and shortcomings in the planning and development of services and it can be used in improving the system. The result of the user studies are potentially useful in bridging the gap between the kind of information services needed and the kind of services in existence. Again, the user studies provide a substantial body of specific knowledge, facts and conclusions that are of great value for the development of new facilities.
d) To Justify the Expenditure: The library and information centres are the spending institutions. Their cost need to be justified based on the use studies, and it can only be achieved through user studies.

3. Type of User Studies: Herbert Menzel investigated user study and defined information seeking behaviour from three angles:
a) Behaviour Studies: When approached from the point of view of the scientist or technologists, these are studies of scientists’ communication behaviour. It aimed at determining the overall pattern of interaction with the user community.
b) Use Studies: When approached from the point of view of any communication medium, they are use studies. Studies to assess the use of given information source, such as books and periodical publications - generally known as use studies
c) Information Flow Studies: When approached from the science communication system, they are studies in the flow of information among scientists and technologists. It is the studies to determine the information flow pattern in the system of communicating knowledge.

4. Methods of User Study: The user studies can be of qualitative type or quantitative type. Monitoring user behaviour is a qualitative user study, where as how many time a book is consulted by the user is a quantitative type of user study. Methods of user study could be classified as follows-
a) Qualitative Methods: Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern such behaviour. The following qualitative methods can be use for user studies
i) Focus Group: The term was coined by psychologist and marketing expert Ernest Dichter. A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members.
ii) Card Sorting: Card sorting is a simple technique in user experience design where a group of subject experts or users, however inexperienced with design, are guided to generate a category tree or folksonomy. It is a useful approach for designing information architecture, workflows, menu structure, or web site navigation paths.
iii) Contextual Design: Contextual Design (CD) is a user-centered design process developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt. It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering data relevant to the product via field studies, rationalizing workflows, and designing human-computer interfaces. In practice, this means that researchers aggregate data from customers in the field where people are living and applying these findings into a final product.
iv) Prototype: A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming. A prototype is designed to test and trial a new design to enhance precision by system analysts and users. Prototyping serves to provide specifications for a real, working system rather than a theoretical one. In some workflow models, creating a prototype-a process sometimes called materialization is the step between the formalization and the evaluation of an idea.
b) Quantitative Methods: Quantitative research is the systematic empirical investigation of observable phenomena via statistical, mathematical or numerical data or computational techniques. The following quantitative methods can be use for user studies
i) Survey Methodology: Survey methodology studies the sampling of individual units from a population and the associated survey data collection techniques, such as questionnaire construction and methods for improving the number and accuracy of responses to surveys.
ii) Web Analytics: Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage for example Google Analytics.
iii) Citation Analysis: Citation analysis is the examination of the frequency, patterns, and graphs of citations in articles and books. It uses citations in scholarly works to establish links to other works or other researchers.

5. Conclusion: User studies focuses on understanding user behaviours, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. In general, it can be said that there are good grounds for carrying out user studies since they are the most effective way of determining user needs and therefore of being able to establish the facilities to meet them properly; they also enable continuous evaluation of the system to take place. User studies show the different channels employed by users in the information acquisition process and also the different types of information sources and the frequency with which they are used.

How to Cite this Article?
APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.
Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.
MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.

Badan BarmanBadan Barman at present working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India. He is the creator of the LIS Links ( - India’s most popular social networking website for Library and Information Science professionals. He also created the UGC NET Guide ( and LIS Study ( website.

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