Bennett, D., & Buhler, A. (2010). Browsing of E-Journals by Engineering Faculty. Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.
This article is about a survey conducted by the librarians at the University of Florida (Marston Science Library http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/msl/). The librarians surveyed the engineering faculty (Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, and Professors) to determine faculty use of tables of contents in either print or online format. I have mixed feelings about surveys because everyone in the target groups are not required or have a desire to respond to the survey. A researcher could lose relevant information for their assessment. I could also see how a survey could be a helpful assessment tool for getting information from a large group of people (for example: engineering faculty at a university). The University of Florida has eleven (11) departments in the engineering field of studies (http://www.eng.ufl.edu/).
The librarians reviewed several key articles and studies about electronic journal user’s behavior. The first article by Tenopir (2003) stated that “browsing a small number of core journals is important (in print or electronic forms), especially for subject experts and for current awareness searching.” The librarians found another survey conducted in 2005 by Inger and Gardner (2008) that stated “e-mail alerts and journal home pages remained the two favorite methods for viewing the latest issues of core journals.”
From the twenty percent (20%) that completed the survey, results indicate that the engineering faculty still uses tables on contents and journal browsing to support current awareness and other information seeking needs. Thirty percent (30%) of the Assistant Professors, nineteen percent (19%) of the Associate Professors, and twenty five percent (25%) of the Professors responded to the survey. The librarians explained the local electronic journal use on campus and off campus. Engineering faculty has online access to most of their current journals. Respondents still pay attention to the journal name when reading articles. I thought it was interesting that the librarian noted that ninety percent (90%) of the engineering journals were currently available electronically and are no longer received in print format.
Differences in behavior across academic ranks and engineering subdisciplines are apparent. The librarians included several graph and pie charts to identify the academic ranks which I found very helpful. The most popular method to browse articles by engineering faculty was to visit the publisher or journal web site (fifty nine percent (59%) of respondents). I usually browse electronic alerts from the favorite professional journals. If a see an article that I like or find interesting, I will locate the journal (print of electronic) and read it. I thought it was amazing that the majority of the engineering faculty did not change their browsing behavior when their favorite journals changed to electronic format.
The survey results also revealed a trend of Professors relying more on the interpersonal network that is carefully built by researchers as their career progress (for example, conferences or peers outside the University of Florida). When the faculty was asked about graphics and logo recognition while browsing, they (eighty five percent (85%) noticed the graphics and logo of ScienceDirect (Elsevier) Figure 1.
Figure 1: ScienceDirect (Elsevier)
I should not be surprised but I was surprised that the engineering faculty admitted that they have favorite databases and they searched for articles in only their favorite databases. That survey question and answer results could be used to verify the electronic collection’s usage (collection development). I was glad to read that sixty nine percent (69%) of the faculty surveyed uses library-subscribed databases for their article searching.
The survey assessed that engineering faculty still use table of contents and journal browsing to locate useful electronic articles. The format (discontinuing print journals for electronic journals) changed did not change the behavior of this target group. This article spotlighted the academic ranks and how each rank still pay attention to journal names. The librarians of this survey will continue their research by sending out a similar survey to engineering graduate students. They are also planning on repeating the survey at a five year intervals to the engineering faculty.
Inger, S. & Gardner, T. (2008). How readers navigate to scholarly content: Comparing the changing user behavior between 2005 and 2008 and its impact on publisher web site design and function. 1-32. Available at: http://www.sic.ox14.com/howreadersnavigatetoscholarlycontent.pdf.
Tenopir, C. (2003). Use and Users of Electronic Library Resources: An Overview and Analysis of Recent Research Studies. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources., pub 120. Available from: http://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub120abst.html