Investigations of the library usage and information needs of clinical medicine and related disciplines
The relationships between medical libraries and the main users of medical information in the teaching hospitals and University departments in Oxford is examined. Systems ideas are used to define the sort of model or picture of the users that a library manager needs in order to provide the appropriate services, and to provide a formal means of incorporating users and their information needs into a management control system. Data were gathered by several methods and combined into a rich picture of the users and their information-seeking behaviour. The systems methodology developed by Checkland at the University of Lancaster was used to test this rich picture and link it with monitoring for library effective- ness. Application of the Checkland methodology was a crucial step which shifted the emphasis of the project from quantitative to conceptual modelling. The methods of data collection and the results are described as the User Survey. The following techniques were used: questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, direct observation, feedback forms (a critical incident technique), a reference tracing experiment and analysis of existing library records. The data gathered by those methods presented a consistent picture in which the nature of the users' work, ie research or clinical practice, was the dominant influence on information-seeking patterns. Application of the Checkland methodology and the conceptual models derived from it are described as the Systems Study. This revealed that the formal processes for monitoring and control expected by the conceptual models did not appear in identifiable form in the real world. Further examination showed that a detailed description of the library function was necessary and that this statement could be used to generate performance criteria. In addition, the rich picture from the User Survey was found to be a fair representation of reality. Conclusions for systems thinking, user studies, library managers and medical librarianship are presented.