As a result of our research, the service “Emeroteca Virtuale” (provided by the CIBER consortium) confirms its importance within our University Library System: users who have been questioned and interviewed declared that many are the reasons to use this electronic service: for instance, the “Emeroteca Virtuale” is available 24 hours a day, allowing a researcher to save time and, apart from an easiness in its use, this service often provides access to journals for which the print version is not available yet.
Against these positive aspects, this research demonstrates that there are also some negative factors that may induce people to avoid a deeper approach to the “Emeroteca Virtuale”. In fact, many users declared that they usually find technical difficulties in using e-journals, some others declared that back files are not enough to satisfy their research needs and that many journals, which may be interesting for their research purposes, are excluded by our collections. Finally, it is clear that many respondents suggest an increase in consortia purchases, and they often do that under the conviction that collections should be improved especially (and even exclusively) in their electronic formats.
At the beginning of this work some questions have been posed: the study that has been carried out not only gives an answer to those questions and to some others that can be examined in the questionnaire, but it also provides us with valuable quantitative and qualitative data.
Do our users know the Library System website?
At first, one of the things that had to be discovered was the level of familiarity of users with our library system website. This research shows that most of the users know our library system website quite well, but a considerable number of users confessed their little knowledge of it.
However, this information must be considered in comparison with the actual use of the Emeroteca Virtuale, which is just one of the services provided by the library system website (see the following question). Patrons were also asked to indicate how expert they felt as regards the use of this digital tool provided by our library system website: we have discovered
Are users aware of the Emeroteca Virtuale and with what frequency do they use it?
Answers from the questionnaire that has been submitted for this study show that most respondents actually use the Emeroteca Virtuale. What was surprising, however, is the fact that many respondents declared they had never heard of this consortium service before the submission of the questionnaire.
It must be said that many respondents are students. However, their lack of knowledge about the “Emeroteca Virtuale” was almost astonishing, especially if we consider that most of them are students at their final year or preparing their dissertation.
Another result is that the Emeroteca Virtuale is generally used once or twice a week by many users and that only few users consult it more than once a week.
Finally, we also wanted to investigate which is the main way used to spread the information about the existence of this service: as already said above, the most part of respondents declared that the questionnaire for this research was the first tool through which they became acquainted with the “Emeroteca Virtuale”.
Then, words from library staff as well as information within the library system website turned to be the main tools to improve awareness of this digital service. In many cases, this information passed directly from teachers to students.
What are the main reasons to use or not to use the “Emeroteca Virtuale”?
This research tried to explore which are the main reasons to use or not to use the Emeroteca Virtuale at our University, considering the ever growing context of library consortia purchases.
Results confirm that there is the necessity to support new cooperative initiatives to disseminate scholarly information but it is also clear that many goals still have to be pursued if we expect an increase in users’ satisfaction.
Respondents have indicated that the main reason to use the EV is that it is always available and saves time. Then, other reasons are important too, like the fact that one can search more years at a time and that access is also possible from home, always providing updated information. Interviews gave us more insights showing that users are also happy about some personalised services that the EV provides them with.
On the other hand, there are reasons that limit the use of this digital tool: first of all the absolute lack of awareness of the existence of this consortium service. Then, many users still declared that they prefer reading from paper, while some others are discouraged by the fact
that they do not find enough documents in their field of research. This, in particular, would suggest us the implementation of new strategies to better manage consortium acquisitions.
Finally, during interviews patrons also complained about the presence of technical difficulties in using the computers at the library, which were often considered inadequate for online searches and downloading for later storage of all articles found.
What is the user’s level of satisfaction with the Emeroteca Virtuale?
This research has tried to define the level of users’ satisfaction with the Emeroteca Virtuale, outlining some particular features this service provides users with. First of all, the number of titles available was taken into consideration and it has been demonstrated that most of the users declare to be satisfied, even though some people complained that many interesting titles are not available from home.
Then, the same positive result came from the question investigating satisfaction with journals updates, speed of access and ease of use of the service.
Another important result is the one showing a lack in user education. In fact, many respondents would like to have more information about the services provided by the library system. In particular, as regards the Emeroteca Virtuale, results demonstrate a growing interest in tutorials explaining the use of all functions and potentialities connected to this consortium service
What kind of suggestions can users give us both to improve satisfaction with the
“Emeroteca Virtuale” and with other e-journals at our campus?
The last part of the questionnaire involved a series of initiatives proposed to patrons in order to ameliorate access to e-journals at our campus. Patrons were asked to rate the level of usefulness of each proposed initiative.
Specifically, some questions insisted on consortia services and purchases, which users seemed to appreciate, while the cutting of print subscription in favour of online licenses did not get the expected result: in fact, just a limited number of patrons indicated this as a good initiative.
What was certainly clear from these last questions is that remote access to the Emeroteca Virtuale and the implementation of new personalised services are necessary initiatives that the library system should soon improve. At the same time, education on the use of the service is considered very useful.
6.1 Recommendations for further research
This research focused on the satisfaction of our users with the consortium service called
“Emeroteca Virtuale”. In particular, many aspects connected to the use and non use of this digital tool have been considered, as well as suggestions given by patrons and related to possible improvements in the efficacy and efficiency of the service. This research also intended to show that consortia are now important in the daily library life.
However, it would be important to go on with the study of the relationship between the library system perspectives and users’ expectations in terms of e-journals acquisitions and management. What is more, a further analysis on what exactly users consult while using the electronic library tools and with what frequency they do it, would be a step toward a better understanding of our users’ needs.
In particular, the researcher here refers to the possibility of making log file analysis, using one of the tools now commercially available and that could help us manage usage statistics in a much more proficient manner.
Furthermore, it would be also important to make a distinction among the different fields of interest, in order to better distinguish and depict the specific users’ needs related to their area of study. It would be useful to plan different questionnaires for different targets, in order to have distinguished results for different categories.
Access to different e-journals should be considered in more details, taking into consideration not only the “Emeroteca Virtuale” but also studying the different features of other kinds of access to e-content: this would let the researcher have a wider idea about how to organize a perfect service for maximum user satisfaction.