"'What Users Want?"

What do users want? Neils Bohr says the opposite of a profound truth may very well be another profound truth. Ain't that true?

Main Articles: 'What Users Want: An Academic 'Hybrid' Library Perspective', Ariadne Issue 46: "We must be prepared also to be surprised by such deeper insights, even if they run counter to what we think we already know. Not many years ago, for example, the writer was involved as an external consultant, in two very different academic libraries, with reviews which revealed a number of mutually exclusive expressions of users' wants within both institutions. In both cases, the library authorities and managers were looking for empirical evidence to justify the expansion of networked electronic information. Yet both reviews - using the same in-depth consultations with representative user groups - uncovered some diametrically opposing 'messages'. 'Longer opening hours, please' versus 'Just get it all out on the Web'; 'More multiple loan copies urgently required' versus 'We need more research monographs on the shelves'; 'More print subscriptions, please' versus 'Cancel all the hard copy titles'; 'More librarians to consult' versus 'Spend less on staff and more on stuff' - these were among the contextual 'surprises', some of which the library authorities did not really want to hear. But they all point up one thing: the 'twilight world' of the academic hybrid library requires us to be much more locally sensitive to users' needs - in all their complexity - than we might have thought."

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