Design of an Interface for Library Electronic Resource Selection
People with information needs requiring the use of bibliographic and other research databases often have difficulty finding and using the appropriate one. While universities make these resources available, they have trouble making them accessible. Providing an effective interface for database selection, particularly for the remote user with no human help at hand, is a significant challenge.
Library research databases are notably complex and heterogeneous: they vary in the kinds of information provided (citations, abstracts, full text, statistical data), types of sources included (articles, conference proceedings, book contents, dissertations), dates (span of years that the database has been in existence as well as span of publications dates for the materials covered), and the breadth and depth of subject matter. We have observed unclear labeling in existing systems, leading to unpredictability and usability problems. We have also seen quite a bit of inconsistency, especially in the type and degree of information provided in the descriptions of each database. Collections are rapidly growing in size and variety as publishers release new products and electronic versions of existing print products. Libraries have had to struggle to keep up with this growth, and haven't been able to take on the problem of providing a coherent integrated interface.
The prototype interface we are designing attempts to address this problem by providing multiple points of access. From a single screen, one can browse the collection of resources using subject-based groupings or a more full alphabetical list. Users who know what they want to use can access it directly through a title select feature. The taxonomy and organization of the page seeks to match the mental model of the users and to accurately represent a complex body of information to assist the user with the selection process.