A Conference Presenter ‘Helped Me See Something’

What did you learn, see, and do at the SLA 2016 Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO? In this post, Alex Grigg Dean, library manager at Lexmark International, shares his most important conference takeaways.

Alex Grigg

Tonya McCarley, who is the lead user experience designer at ProQuest, helped me see something that I should have noticed from my own search behavior, but hadn’t quite connected the dots on yet. In her session titled “Advanced Search” is an Oxymoron, she was able to present the evidence from all of ProQuest’s user data to show us that the vast majority of our users don’t use the advanced search options on the opening pages of search interfaces.

These days, people are consistently running simple Google-type searches (unrestricted free text without Boolean operators) and then narrowing the results afterward using facets. Post-search limitations by facet have pretty much replaced the use of pre-search limiters.

This might have been more obvious to me if I had simply analyzed my own search behavior. I often start my queries with a quick search or two to see whether any information exists on a topic; only after it is obvious that significant citations are available do I start deciding how I want to select a subset of them. At that point, the easiest way to proceed is to choose limiters if they’re available on the results pages.

In the future, I will keep this search behavior in mind and stop trying to force the advanced search pages on my users when they no longer need them. This is the sort of information that I attend SLA conferences to learn, and which is hard to come up with on my own. I don’t have enough user data to perform this kind of analysis, but some info pros do and are willing to share it for the improvement of others’ user interfaces.

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