Judith Siess, Information Bridges International, Inc.
Finding Out About User Needs
 Describe some of the typical duties of your job.
 In what subject area(s) are you most interested?
 Which library services do you actually use—and how often? (You may want to
list the areas about which you would like feedback and have them check them off
or rank them.)
 What kind of books do you read regularly? (science, technology, fiction, don’t
read books) Which magazines or journals do you read regularly? Which do you
read in the library and which do you subscribe to?
 Tell me about the problem you are facing. How did the problem come to light?
What are some of the critical issues within the problem? RRFCN*
 What outcomes or changes are you hoping for? RRFCN
 What will you do with the resources/information provided? RRFCN (How will
the information be used?)
 What information or resources do you already have? Whom have you contacted:
are there any human experts, products, papers, reports, or documents relevant to
this task of which I should be aware? RRFCN
 When do you need the information/resources? When is “too late”? RRFCN
 Who will be my point person in this task? Is there someone else I should copy on
communications? RRFCN
 Ask new hires about their expectations of the library. You can get ideas from their
previous experiences at other organizations. You could also re-visit them in a year
or so to see how you’re doing at meeting their needs.
How Users Find Information
 What information sources do you regularly consult or have at your desk (or in
your home)?
 If you don’t use the library, where do you go? Why? For what kinds of
information and for what purposes? Are these other sources satisfactory? Why or
why not?
 Think back to a recent time when you needed information. What information did
you need? For what purpose? How did you find it? Was it enough?
 How successful are you usually in finding information?
 How often do you not even look for information—or go to the library—because
you either thought you wouldn’t find it or it would be too much trouble or cost too
 What sort of frustrations and time delays are you encountering in finding
How Users Use the Library
 Do you refer others to the library? Why or why not?
 Do you request an analysis of the retrieved information by the librarian?
 Does giving your research problems to the librarians save you time?
Have you had a staff member speak to your group/class/department? On what
subject(s)? Was it useful? If not, would you like a staff member to contact you
about a presentation? On what subject(s)?
o Possible subjects: databases available in the library, other resources in the
library, how to find a book or journal, how to find an article, how to do
research, how to use Google better, how to determine if what you find is
good or bad (information literacy)
What is your preferred method of communication with the library? Telephone?
Email? Memo? IM? In Person? Other? If offered, would you use IM to contact
the librarian for help with a research problem?
Would you be interested in receiving a targeted list of new items in the library?
How frequently? (daily, weekly, monthly) Via what medium? (email, IM,
interoffice mail, other)
Have you used the library website? For what purpose? (curiosity, answer a
specific problem, find a person, find a book or article in the library, access
databases—from home, in office, elsewhere, find a policy, renew materials, other)
Did you find what you needed? If not, what did you do next? (ask someone else,
call the library, forget it)
What additional feature(s) or information would you like to see on the website?
Examples of Open and Closed Questions (RRFCN)
Open questions:
What would you like to have happen as a result of receiving this information?
How will this information enhance your work?
How will we know when you have enough information to meet this particular
What methods have you already tried to find this information?
Are there any products or other information sources of which I should be aware?
How urgent is this request?
Closed questions:
What have you already found?
How many examples do you need?
What is your deadline? What is the exact date the information is needed?
To whom should the information go?
Users Rate the Library
 On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest, please rate the following:
o The library itself:
 Attractiveness of the facilities
 Convenience
 Quiet places to work or study
 Computer facilities (enough, up-to-date)
 Signage (enough, clear, attractiveness)
 Location
 Lighting
 Comfort
o The staff:
 Friendliness
 Willingness to help you
 Knowledge
 Number (are there enough of them)
o The website:
 Ease of use
 Ability to find needed information (was what you wanted there?)
 Attractiveness
 What one thing could the library do—or improve—that would help you most?
 How will we know we’re doing a good job, in your eyes?
Regional Resource and Federal Center Network information Specialists, Just Ask:
The Best Way to Get Your Clients the Right Information is to Find Out Exactly What
They Want, Information Outlook 10(4):33-35, April 2006.