The OCLC Global Council survey on discovery and fulfillment: an important baseline


How do library users navigate their paths from an initial point-of-need to the final moment of getting the resources they require? That process can be as fast as a single search and one click, or it can encompass many stops and starts, false trails, frustrations, and wrong turns … as I think we, as information professionals, can testify from our own research efforts.

Understanding and improving those journeys is among the most important work we do.

My own research has touched on many issues related to this, admittedly, broad topic. My colleagues and I have asked questions like:

  • What do academic users do when searches don’t result in fulfillment?
  • What demographic characteristics influence the access of users?
  • How can we use tools like search log analysis to better understand user experiences?
  • How do issues of “container collapse” affect discoverability?

There’s a lot to study and a lot to explore. Which is why I was thrilled when the OCLC Global Council chose “Discovery and Fulfillment” as its focus area for 2020.

A global survey … an important baseline

In 2019, the Global Council focus was open content. Based on those findings, we believed we should be looking at discovery and fulfillment more broadly. And while, as I said, much work has been done in this area, doing a new international survey would give us an important baseline on which to establish further efforts.

Please take and share this important survey on library discovery and fulfillment Click To Tweet

What I’d like to ask you to do right now, before going any further, is to take the Global Council survey on discovery and fulfillment. We want to have input from as many types and sizes of libraries as possible, from all around the world:

Thank you! If you could also share the survey link with your social networks and encourage your colleagues to complete and submit it, we’d really appreciate it.

The unique work of OCLC Global Council

Efforts like this—a global survey, across library types—are not easy and require a lot of time. They require people who are willing to put in time above and beyond their daily jobs and other professional responsibilities. I’d like to thank the OCLC Global Council Program Committee for all their hard work on this project.

  • Lorely Ambriz, Chair, El Paso Community College (ARC)
  • Diane Beattie, Library and Archives Canada (ARC)
  • Earl Givens, Jr., Catawba College (ARC)
  • Mohamed Mubarak, Hama Bin Khalifa University (EMEA)
  • Rocky Ralebipi-Simela, Department of Higher Education, Science & Technology, Republic of South Africa (EMEA)
  • Constance Wiebrands, Edith Cowan University (APRC)

I’d also like to thank the 19 Global Council delegates who participated in virtual focus group sessions, and who contributed to some key learnings that helped tremendously in designing the survey itself:

  • Personal recommendations heavily influence the discovery of library resources. Many students seek out and use library resources their professors recommend. And, for some, those may be the only resources they will use.
  • “Googling” is the ubiquitous start to the discovery journey. Analytics have indicated for some libraries that referrals from Google are strongest and that 90%+ of searches are referred by Google.
  • The identity of the public library is expanding into a provider of all kinds of social services. In some instances, the public library is one of the only public spaces available in the community, creating demand for services that some library staff are not equipped to provide.
  • Restrictive licenses prohibit libraries from offering services to their communities. Libraries need cost structuring for ubiquitous and easy access to electronic content. As one delegate put it, “We are in a stormy time around platforms for that. It’s still very up in the air how libraries are best going to be able to provide this.”
  • Streaming content, both music and movies, is most popular among “new” offerings of libraries. Librarians agree these services need to be easy to use, be mobile-accessible, and contain quality content.
  • Open access content is desirable but has its barriers. Open access materials are not easily searchable or discoverable, may be seen as less scholarly by some, and may not be easy to integrate into existing workflows and systems.
  • Lack of resources, both in real costs and time, is a primary limiting factor in expanding library digitization. Libraries simply “don’t have time to digitize everything.”
  • The library on-demand marketing messages of “Intuitive Discovery” and “Smart Fulfillment” yield common understandings. The concepts are understood to mean easy, user-friendly, seamless, automatic, unmediated, natural language searching, recommendations, single authentication, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the system knows where to get it—and knows how to balance the load, the system knows me and my preferences.
  • Artificial intelligence, privacy, the library as space, and the need to digitize while we can top the list of “next big things” expected to impact libraries.

These thoughts helped us immensely as we finalized the survey.

Moving forward together

There are so many discovery-to-fulfillment journeys for so many different types of library users. Together, we can learn from each other and improve the speed, efficiency, accuracy, and FUN for those who rely on us every day. I’m confident that this survey will be a big step in helping us move forward in some really exciting ways.

If you’d like to learn more about the survey and the process that went into it, I encourage you to watch this presentation I recently gave on the subject.

And if you haven’t already … take the survey right now. ?

Special thanks to the Global Council members who participated in the virtual focus group sessions: Diane Beattie (Library and Archives Canada); Sarah Campbell (Portland (ME) Public Library); Chatham Ewing (Cleveland Public Library); Earl Givens, Jr. (Catawba College); Mary Konkel (College of DuPage); Pilar Martinez (Edmonton Public Library); Brenda Mathenia (College of the Rockies); Beate Meinck (Library of Reutlingen); Mohamed Murabak (Hamad Bin Khalifa University); Stacy Nowicki (Kalamazoo College); Joy Panigabutra-Roberts (University of Tennessee, Knoxville); Rocky Ralebipi-Simela (Department of Higher Education, Science & Technology, Republic of South Africa); Kathy Ray (University of Nevada, Reno); Jan Simane (Max-Planck-Institut, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz); Eric Suess (Marshall [Idaho] Public Library); Matthijs van Otegem (Erasmus University Rotterdam); Constance Wiebrands (Edith Cowan University); Anna Wolodko (University of Warsaw, Poland); and Hong Yao (Queens Public Library).