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You are in: Home > Digital Research > Approaching Digital Researc - Helen Young

Q&A: Approaching Digital Research - Helen Young

  • Name: Helen Young
  • Position: Academic Services Manager
  • Location: University of Loughborough Library

Helen Young photo

In a new series of blog posts, we ask members of the steering group about their involvement in the project, their experiences of digital research UX to date, and how they are looking forward to applying the knowledge gained through the process.

In this first post Helen Young, Academic Services Manager, University of Loughborough Library, talks about her involvement in the UX Project and her experiences of working with post graduate researchers to manage their online research.


1. What is your current role at Loughborough University, what are the main priorities in your job?

I am one of the Academic Services Managers in the University Library. With my job share partner, I lead the team that liaises with academic schools and departments to advocate use of Library services, skilled exploitation of resources and the development of printed and electronic collections to meet teaching and research needs. One of my priorities is supporting researchers from PGRs to professors to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with resources and skills in a manageable and timely way.


2. Why did you choose to get involved with the Digital Research Practices UX project and what do you hope to learn?

I chose to become involved as I have led on researcher development in the Library for a number of years and enjoy collaborating with partners on service delivery and research both across the University and beyond. The chance to do a collaborative project with a publisher was a great opportunity to learn more about the research aspects of publishing. The topic of the PGR user experience in the digital library was particularly appealing as I have observed the way that PGRs have developed their information skills in the various workshops that we provide, but have not had the opportunity to learn more about why they work in particular ways or how they feel about locating information - e.g. what works well, what doesn’t and why they choose to use certain products or services. This project will help me gain a deeper understanding about this, which can feed into the services we offer PGRs, the topics we offer support on and how we structure workshops or electronic tutorials.


3. What is your role in this project?

I am a member of the steering group and also a mentor to one of the participants.


4. What is the most fascinating aspect of this project to date? Has anything surprised you in the results so far?

I am very interested in the diary entries that we get each month. It is interesting to see the different approaches that PGRs take to find the information they need for their different tasks. I don’t think I have been very surprised by the range, as I have observed the different approaches PGRs have used in practical workshops, but it is very interesting to see this detailed so carefully.


5. From your perspective as a librarian, what is the value of undertaking research into the user experience?

A positive user experience is essential to the continuation and growth of a Library service and at Loughborough we care deeply about maintaining the quality of our service to all our users and those who perhaps haven’t used us as much as they could do yet. To maintain this quality we need to understand our users’ (and potential users’) requirements, ways of working and perceptions of services and resources. Undertaking research into the user experience helps us to develop this understanding.


6. How does your department help researchers navigate online content?

A positive user experience is essential to the continuation and growth of a Library service and at Loughborough we care deeply about maintaining the quality of our service to all our users and those who perhaps haven’t used us as much as they could do yet. To maintain this quality we need to understand our users’ (and potential users’) requirements, ways of working and perceptions of services and resources. Undertaking research into the user experience helps us to develop this understanding.


7. What tips do you give to researchers managing their research online?

The key aspect is evaluating the quality of what they find online. The quality aspect is so important, as finding information on the web is usually not a problem, but working out if it is of sound academic quality can be time consuming, especially if they are not using specialist databases, where some of the key quality checks have already been made on their behalf. Going to specialist subscription databases can often save time, even if you have to navigate Library webpages to get there, as you can trust what you find and you can do more sophisticated searches to fine tune your search.

I would also suggest talking to a subject specialist librarian about your research topic, as they can suggest the best places to start your online research and this will save you time too. The names of some specialist databases are often not very illuminating!


8. What advice would you give to others running similar projects with PhD students in their institutions?

I think the collaborative nature of this project is particularly helpful, as we can draw on expertise and links from a range of partners internally, as well as with Taylor and Francis. These links help with practical issues like publicity, venues for events and dissemination of outputs in a range of sources but they also provide us all with different perspectives on the PGR experience at University, which can only benefit all of our individual services to PGRs.