Search behavior is an important field in library science. LIS professionals are responsible for the classification, storage, and retrieval of information. As each of these areas become more complex, search behavior and strategies are evolving into more sophisticated exercises with definable patterns (Ercegovac, 2008).
A person’s search behavior or choice of strategy is based on four factors: task, time, interest, and availability (Singer, 2012, p.1). During a search, one factor can become dominant, affecting both the quality of the search and the behavior of the searcher.
Rubin (2010) describes one model of search behavior in which individuals are classified into five different groups: Horizontal Information Seeking, Navigators, Viewers, Squirreling Behavior, and Checkers. Other researchers classify the way people search as strategies (Singer, 2012) and classify them as either steps or preferred methods.
Academics focus on two competing models of search behavior or strategy (Baro, 2010). According to Ellis (1989) a searcher uses six actions: starting, chaining, browsing, differentiating, monitoring, and extracting. Kulthau’s (1994) Information search Process (ISP) utilizes six stages of searching: initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and presentation.
By understanding the way patrons search for information, we as librarians can tailor our services to meet their needs. Of all the services we offer (eg., reference, job-search help, reading suggestions) I submit that the task of Information Literacy is the most important.
Why? With the proliferation of information now available on the web, most patron searches begin on the web (Zickuhr, 2012). In addition, the mission statements of today’s libraries are now focusing on patron “self-reliance” (USF, 2007; Rubin, 2010). Thus, if more people are becoming more self-reliant (as opposed to asking a librarian for the information directly) then I submit that our primary goal should be learning how our patrons search and our primary service should be helping them understand what is the best information to use.
Baro, E. E., Onyenania, G. O., & Osaheni, O. (2010). Information seeking behaviour of undergraduate students in the humanities in three universities in Nigeria. South African Journal of Libraries & Information Science, 76, 109-117.
Ellis, D. 1989. A behavioral model for information retrieval system design, journal of Information Science, 15: 237-247.
Ercegovac, Z. (2008). Information Literacy : Search Strategies, Tools & Resources for High School Students and College Freshmen. Linworth Pub.
Kuhlhau, CC. 1994. Seeking meaning: a proeess approaeh to library and information serviees. Nowood, N.J.: Abex.
Lesk, M. (2005). Understanding Digital Libraries. Elsevier.
Rubin, R. E. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman.
Singer, K., Singer, G., Lepik, K., Norbisrath, U., & Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, P. (2012). Search Strategies of Library Search Experts, http://arxiv.org/abs/1206.2465, accessed on October 28, 2012.
University of South Florida. (2007). USF Libraries Strategic Plan: 2007-2012. Tampa, Florida.
Zickuhr, K., Rainie, L., Purcell, K., Madden, M., & Brenner, J. (2012). Libraries, patrons, and e-books. Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 22, 2012 http://libraries.pewinternet.org/ 2012/06/22/libraries-patrons-and-e-books/, accessed on September 9, 2012.