Document Type







Library and Information Science


Our experience as librarians suggests that library staff search and locate library resources differently than college students. We bring to our work knowledge about library collections and search tool functionality that may inform our strategies for finding library resources. Through our training and experience, we have developed more accurate mental models for the information universe for which our library website is a portal. The purpose of this research is to explore that hypothesis and if it has merit, to articulate those differences in information seeking behaviors, particularly search strategy and tool use. As those patterns of difference are identified, the findings may be used to improve the usability of the website for students as well as illuminate real student behaviors for library staff. In general, library staff used different strategies, selected different tools and used facets and search limits in ways that were different than students carrying out the same tasks. Their “preknowledge” about library collections and differences in how search tools function informed their search strategies. Students were more interested in efficiency and assumed a “Googlelike” search functionality when presented with a search box.

Additional Information

ARL grants blanket permission to reproduce and distribute copies of this work for nonprofit, educational, or library purposes, provided that copies are distributed at or below cost and that ARL, the source, and copyright notice are included on each copy. Turner, N.B. (2010) “Librarians Do It Differently: Comparative Usability Testing with Students and Library Staff”, Proceedings of the 2010 Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment Baltimore, Maryland October 25-27, 2010.


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