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So those of you who know me know of my love of vendor floors, vendor presentations and all things exhibits. I guess it goes with trying to keep up with what is out there available for our patrons and looking for those missing pieces that would really be of use to our students, faculty and staff (but the swag is also appealing). Tomorrow I will summarize the stuff I have learned from vendors (I have a few more to visit) but suffice to say that there are some interesting things out there. Today I’ll focus on a very thought-provoking speaker. I’m still digesting her presentation and may have more thoughts later, but here are the basics.

This morning started out with a vendor breakfast from Serials Solutions about their Summon discovery service. Before the pitch for Summon began, however, Carol Tenopir from UT Knoxville spoke about a recent research study that she conducted with colleagues on what factors contribute to faculty decisions about what scholarly articles they read. She said that faculty read 80% more articles now than they did in 1977 but spend 35% less per item in reading them. The survey respondents ranked the importance of seven article characteristics: topic, source, author, author institution, online accessibility and journal title. What they found was that after topic (which was far and away the winner) then the factors in order of importance were accessibility, source, title, author, type of publication and author institution.

As a followup to this part of the study, they also did conjoint analysis to get a different perspective. With conjoint analysis you give people lists of groups of characteristics and ask how likely they are to read an article with these characteristics. So you would start with “online at no cost to you, mid-level peer reviewed journal and a good but not top-tier author” and then you would give them other choices in which one of these options is changed and after giving the full range of options you can begin to see the relative weight of each of the options. What they found was that the three most important factors were Authors’ Reputation (35%) Journal (28%) and Free Online 37%. They found that faculty would read lower level authors and lower level journals (as long as they were still peer-reviewed) but that they had very little tolerance for having to pay any money at all.

The main question then becomes how we as libraries can facilitate the reading process and the answer becomes clear that we can continue to increase the access to online journals available to our faculty. Whereas the problem in the past used to be scarcity of resources, now the problem is abundance. So how do we make sure our faculty get quick access to the right articles from the journals they want and the authors they want in a timely and easy to discover manner. The question may be a discovery service such as Summon or Ebsco Discovery service so tomorrow I’ll talk more about those and the other products out there. I may also pipe up about a session I went to about using Twitter in an embedded librarian scenario…..stay tuned!