Web Systems Librarian Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries
Objectives: To determine which ebook platform features are valued by health sciences students, in order to inform the decision-making process for ebook firm orders.
Methods: A 45-minute focus group session (n=6) was jointly conducted by the Health Sciences Librarian and Web Systems Librarian with a health sciences library’s student advisory committee, comprised of students from four out of five schools on the health sciences campus of a public research university. Applying user experience methodology, students noted how often they used ebooks in a provided worksheet, and then were given independent time to explore and take notes on various platforms, using example texts chosen for their discipline. Each platform exploration was followed by a guided discussion on that platform. After reviewing and discussing three different ebook platforms, the students completed a final survey on how important various features were to them, and how they would rank each platform in order of preference.
Results: Focus group participants appeared to prefer print page formatting with the conveniences of having an ebook available online, such as having the Table of Contents on the side or being able to click and immediately access a bibliographic citation. Desktop/laptop access and highlighting were important as well.
Conclusions: The discussion and survey results provided the health sciences collection librarian with information on the value of ebook platform features to students, and has assisted her with ebook platform selections for firm orders. Because the findings of this study are specific to the VCU health sciences student community, it is strongly recommended that other collections librarians consider conducting similar focus group sessions at their own institutions to learn which platform features their user groups prefer.