Whilst it is the norm for services such as SUNCAT to carry out an annual survey (reports are here) of users and their use of the service, it is also most important for those running such services to be aware of how users (actual and potential) approach resource discovery generally. The report entitled UK Survey of Academics 2012 ,funded by Jisc and RLUK and carried out by Ithaka S+R, is therefore of considerable interest. The report details the findings from a survey of a sample of UK academic staff with just under 3,500 responses received.
One chapter, of particular significance from a SUNCAT perspective, is that entitled Providing materials to academics: formats and sources. One most interesting finding is:
“In the case of journal collections, about half of all respondents–slightly more in the arts and humanities than in other fields–strongly agreed that they “often would like to use journal articles that are not in [their] library’s print or digital collections.”
Given that SUNCAT’s principal raison d’être is to provide information on the serials’ holdings (print and digital) of major research libraries (there are currently 90 Contributing Libraries) this makes welcome reading. Of some worry, though, is the response that, when locating information at the outset of research:
“Overall, the largest share of respondents–about 40%–indicated that they begin their research processes at a general purpose search engine on the internet or world wide web. A slightly smaller share–about one-third of respondents–indicated that they begin their research at a specific electronic research resource/computer database. A relatively smaller share–slightly less than 15% each–of respondents reported starting with an online library catalogue or a national or international catalogue or database”. (p.21)
For a service such as SUNCAT it is vital for all potential users to know it exists and what facilities it provides. SUNCAT is assisted in alerting users to the existence of the service by information provided on institutional websites and EDINA is very grateful to the many institutions who have promoted the service in this way. To assist library staff, a leaflet outlining specific ways some organisations had promoted the service was distributed in 2011 and proved to be a useful source of information. We will be looking anew at the information in the leaflet and updating it where appropriate. We will also be looking at other ways of promoting the service and bringing it to the attention of potential users and would, of course, welcome any suggestions on ways we might consider.
There was another response in the report of considerable interest to SUNCAT.
Roughly 3 out of 5 respondents indicated that they often or occasionally use library-provided inter-library loan or document delivery services to access journal articles and monographs. (p.39)
The importance of serving inter-library loan staff has long been recognised. In the recent survey for the provision of feedback on the new interface there were requests for the inclusion of British Library Codes and email addresses. BL Codes will be made available in the initial release of the service and it is hoped to provide the email addresses in a future release of the software.
The report, therefore, is of much interest to SUNCAT. Whilst it does reinforce some of the reasons for the establishment of the service in the first place, it also is a prompt to us to review our promotional activities to try and ensure that all who might have reason to use the service know about its existence.