SPEC Kit 322: Library User Experience ·  153
Rice University
Establishing fondren@brc
Establishing fondren@brc
Insights from a User Study
Debra Kolah and Lisa Spiro
August 2010
I. Introduction
Rice University’s Bioscience Research Center (BRC) aims to be “a catalyst for new and better
ways for researchers to collaborate, explore, learn and lead.”1 With fondren@brc, its new
library facility in the BRC, Fondren Library can participate in this collaborative effort and support
researchers in producing pioneering new research. Through fondren@brc, the library can
explore how to use a flexible library space that focuses on service instead of content, what
kind of services to offer to a group of scientists who mainly do their research online, and how to
implement embedded librarianship, or the integration of librarians into academic disciplines.
To understand how best to serve the biochemists, bioengineers, and chemists who occupy the
BRC, Debra Kolah and Lisa Spiro interviewed 3 faculty members, 4 graduate students, and a
library liaison (to date; more interviews are planned). We adopted the ethnographic research
methods developed by anthropologist Nancy Foster through her work at the University of
Rochester, methods that we learned by attending a workshop Foster taught for the Council
on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). We conducted half-hour to hour long semi-
structured interviews, examining how researchers do their work, how they use the BRC, and
what services they would like to see the library offer.
II. How Bioscience Researchers Use the Library
Bioscience researchers primarily work in their labs, so they want easy online access to the
research literature. Occasionally, they will walk to the library, but more frequently it is a graduate
student who is tasked with picking up materials at Fondren Library. One researcher commented
on missing the new book shelf, but it is Fondren is too far to go by now.
Researchers primarily use Web of Science, Scopus, and Pubmed. Even though researchers
may say “I don’t really use the library,” they often proceed to acknowledge that they use multiple
online databases. There remains a gap in the perception that it is the library that is providing the
subscriptions to the research database.
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