We collected ninety print and sixty-nine electronic use surveys during the month-long study period and compiled them in an Access database. All data was analyzed using the Pearson chi-square test to reveal statistically significant relationships. Significance was attributed at a probability ≤ 0.05.
Use by patron category
Surveys asked patrons to identify themselves in one of several categories. illustrates electronic-versus print-journal use by patron category. The proportion of “faculty” and “other” (alumni, nonmedical graduate students, other university students, medical sales representatives, visiting physicians) respondents for the p-use survey was significant (P
< 0.05). The number of “nursing” and “Vanderbilt University (VU) student” e-use respondents was also significant (P
< 0.05). A natural speculation here is that faculty, who are likely older than most nursing or VU students, may be later adopters of newer technologies such as electronic journals. In her survey of electronic journal use, Rogers tested for a correlation between age of respondents (a demographic we did not record in our surveys) and use of electronic journals and other resources. Her data for her study's final year indicated “a tendency for older faculty members to use [electronic] resources less frequently than younger faculty” [19
]. Though Rogers' correlation between age and use of new technology was weak, and our data represent only a small number of respondents, exploring this link in light of library service planning may be a fertile area for study.
Table 1 Print and electronic journal survey respondents by patron category
Comparison of types of uses (how patrons used a journal) by e-use and p-use survey respondents was noteworthy in several instances. We defined types of use as browsing, checking article references, printing (e-use survey) or photocopying (p-use survey), reading X number of articles, reading the entire journal, reading instructions to authors, reading job advertisements, reading the table of contents, and other.
Patrons use journals somewhat differently depending on the format, as seen in . The most commonly reported print journal uses over all patron categories were browsing (72%), photocopying (36%), reading tables of contents (32%), and checking references (22%). The most commonly reported electronic journal uses over all patron categories were printing (58%), checking references (41%), and browsing (39%). The most frequently reported uses for both formats were browsing (58%), printing or photocopying (45%), checking references (30%), and reading tables of contents (21%).
Table 2 How patrons use journals
Respondents' use of print journals for browsing and reading tables of contents over electronic journals was significant. Print use respondents accounted for 71% (P < 0.001) of both print and electronic browsers. Moreover, 72% of all p-use respondents indicated that they browsed print journals compared to 39% of e-use respondents. P-use respondents account for 88% (P < 0.001) of total readers of tables of contents; 32% of all p-use respondents read tables of contents compared to 6% of e-use respondents.
Respondents relied more heavily on electronic journals for checking article references and printing. E-use respondents accounted for 58% (P < 0.05) of all article reference checkers, and 41% of all e-use respondents checked references compared to 22% of p-use respondents. For the purposes of data analysis, we considered printing and photocopying to be equivalent uses of each format. Not surprisingly, because the EBL did not charge for printing but did charge for photocopying, e-use respondents accounted for 56% (P < 0.005) of all printing or photocopying; 58% of all e-use respondents printed compared to 36% of p-use respondents who photocopied.
Few respondents indicated that they used either print or electronic journals to read an entire journal issue; readers printed or photocopied articles at a higher frequency than they read articles on screen. E-use respondents indicated that they read articles 16% of the time but read printed articles 58% of the time. The numbers were less dramatic for p-use respondents, who read articles 20% of the time and photocopied 36% of the time. Overall, respondents preferred print journals for browsing, checking article references, photocopying, reading tables of contents, and reading articles. Electronic journals were also used for browsing, checking article references, reading articles, and printing articles.
There was a noticeable difference in the percentages of p-use respondents and e-use respondents who read the tables of contents (32% vs. 6%, respectively). Few respondents for either format reported high use of journals for reading the complete issue, reading instructions to authors, or reading job advertisements.
Electronic journal use results
As mentioned previously, our e-use surveys asked additional questions pertinent to the electronic format that were not included on the p-use survey. The following section details results from responses to the e-use survey. The total number of e-use respondents was sixty-nine; in several cases, patrons listed themselves in more than one category (e.g., “Vanderbilt University student” and “nursing student”). To streamline results for this analysis, we relegated respondents to the category most germane to medical center patrons (“nursing student”). Patrons who listed themselves as both attendings and faculty were merged into one category, clinical and research faculty, so the population could be represented in the analysis. Fellows who listed themselves as fellows and VUMC staff were designated as fellows. We used cross tabulation to figure percentages.
Although all of the respondents completed the e-use survey distributed to patrons using the library's public computers, 17% of the total e-use respondents indicated they preferred to use print journals. Thirty-three percent of the total e-use respondents had no preference or said it depended on why they were using the journal. Patron categories with four or more respondents—fellows (70%); medical students (63%); VU students (63%); other (60%), which included visitors and alumni; and residents (57%)—showed the highest preference for electronic journals (). Faculty were evenly represented across format preferences. High percentages of the other category (40%) and nursing students (46%) reported no preference.
Table 3 Electronic use (e-use) respondents' format preferences
Respondents also answered an open-ended question about the reasons they preferred a format. In many cases, different respondents preferred different formats for the same reasons. The most-cited reasons for preferring electronic journals included ease of access, ease of printing, and ease of searching. Respondents provided many testimonials to the convenience and breadth of access of electronic journals. Respondents also valued access from home and fast, free printing. Though it would be reasonable that patrons would prefer to print an article at no cost rather than locate and photocopy an article at a fee, respondents preferred electronic journals for a variety of other reasons, including some of those discussed by Stewart and Olsen as features necessary for electronic journals—namely, the ability to browse text and graphics to estimate the utility of an article [20
Respondents favored print journals for aesthetic reasons—the higher quality of photos, graphics, and tables. Similar to the preferences cited for electronic journals, the most-cited reasons for preferring print included that the format was easier to read with better graphic quality, easier to browse, and easier to access. One user stated that with print, one was “not distracted by the process; with electronic [there are] too many loose ends, false trails, lack of ability to focus,” and another felt “unfamiliar and uncertain when retrieving electronic articles.” Similarly, some of Stewart's respondents noted that electronic journals constrained their free generation of ideas [21
It was curious that users declared their allegiance to each format for similar reasons. Both groups had members who found a format easier to read, more easily accessible, and preferable when printed. Unexpectedly, given anecdotal evidence as well as the printing and photocopying data from our surveys, most users did not read electronic journals on the computer screen but tended to print articles. A high number of e-use respondents nevertheless indicated they preferred electronic journals for browsing.
Why patrons use electronic journals
The e-use survey also attempted to discern why patrons used an electronic journal. Among the answer choices included on the survey were: retrieved article or articles through search of databases (via Ovid™, PubMed, Internet Grateful Med, or other), retrieved articles through search of journal home page, knew articles existed and went directly to them, noticed articles while browsing through journal, preferred to access electronic versions of journals when available, found the print journal was not on the shelf and found a sign with instructions to use electronic version, regularly read articles from or browsed this journal, and other (). We asked respondents to specify their reasons for using an electronic journal if they selected the “other” option. The few respondents who defined “other” use indicated “no print available,” working on a “paper,” “convenience,” “needed for a class,” and “easier and I thought it might be faster.”
Table 4 Why patrons access electronic journals
Of the 88% of respondents who cited database searching as their method for discovering an electronic journal, 58% took advantage of full-text access while searching databases available via the Ovid system and 26% while searching PubMed or Internet Grateful Med. Forty-three percent of e-use respondents indicated that they would rather use an electronic journal when given the choice of format, which confirmed the additional finding that 46% of all e-use respondents preferred electronic journals.
Signs we had placed in journals' usual locations on the shelves to indicate that the journals were available either online or at the circulation desk led 10% of e-use respondents to seek the electronic versions. Of these 10% who sought print versions of a journal, it appeared that only two were regular readers of the print versions. In fact, there were just seven respondents who indicated that they always read a particular journal; the remainder of respondents availed themselves of electronic journals for other reasons. Some patrons knew a particular article existed in electronic format (17%), others (13%) found articles while searching an electronic journal's home page, and the last group (9%) had other reasons, largely related to their convenience, for accessing electronic journals.
How respondents discovered electronic journals
The e-use survey also asked how patrons discovered electronic journals. As indicates, more than 40% of users indicated they followed full-text links from database searches. Twenty-eight percent of respondents discovered electronic journals via searches of the online catalog. Library staff members also proved a significant point of contact, introducing 40% of patrons to electronic journals. Word-of-mouth was a successful means for alerting EBL patrons of the presence of e-journals as well; colleagues accounted for 26% of e-use respondents' discovery of electronic journals.
Table 5 How respondents discovered electronic journals
E-use respondents did not frequently cite formal advertising methods, such as articles in the library's online newsletter and links on the EBL's home page, as means to discovering electronic journals. No e-use respondents indicated that they learned about electronic journals via AskELIS, the Eskind Library Information Specialist (ELIS) asynchronous assistance service for questions about library technology and access issues. ELIS was initiated in 1999, at the time this study was conducted. In our second iteration of this study, we intend to gauge ELIS's penetration as an assistance tool for the VUMC community; we hope that the number of respondents citing ELIS as a discovery vehicle will increase substantially.