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Finding a needle in a library stack: Improving wayfinding in an academic library

Scaife, Bernard Michael (2018) Finding a needle in a library stack: Improving wayfinding in an academic library. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Students have difficulty locating items on the shelf in a library. This mixed-methods case study reviews the existing literature relating to this issue and investigates the nature of these problems. It tests an online wayfinding App which the researcher created which was installed at Goldsmiths University library. The aim was to ascertain whether this could improve the ability and perceived experience of students seaching for items. A field exercise is incorporated into the research which investigates six participants’ experiences of finding material both with and without the aid of the App, using the semi-structured interview technique. The research also investigates whether there are variances in the nature of difficulties experienced at different study levels including both undergraduate and postgraduate students in its sample. The results indicate that students find an online wayfinding App useful and feel that it reduces the anxiety which surrounds the retrieval of physical items in libraries. There is a demonstrated time saving in using the App, particularly in relation to finding the correct stack. Self-efficacy levels increased following the field exercise. It was also noted that the parallel use of signage in the App and in the library in order to indicate a stack number was a significant factor which improved the wayfinding experience. A noteable aspect of this research were unexpected results from two participants who declared that they had Specific Learning Disabilities. Their performance and insights indicated that steps could be taken to improve their student experience and that further research in this area would be beneficial. The key recommendation is to install an online wayfinding App with companion signage in order to improve the student experience.

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