During the second
half of autumn quarter, the halls of Mary Gates were abuzz as first
year MLIS students feverishly put the final touches on their group projects
for their Information Behavior classes. The atmosphere was rife with
excitement and apprehension, owing in part to the fact that the presentation
was worth 40 percent of the class grade.
for the class was as follows: Working in groups of three or four, students
studied the information behavior of various user groups and then presented
their findings to the class in 45-minute presentations. Each group picked
a key article for the rest of the class to read, conducted interviews
with people in their user groups, performed an extensive review of the
literature in the field and developed an experiential component that
actively involved students in the presentation.
jitters aside, students were intrigued by the results of their research.
Sarah Zabel, who studied the information behavior of artists, said that
she was surprised by the lack of user studies about that group. This
seemed odd in light of the fact that there are more full-time artists
than lawyers in the United States, yet there are far more user studies
of lawyers than there are of artists. Sarah noticed that artists tended
to browse a wide variety of books-not necessarily about art-for inspiration.
who studied the information behavior of nurses, found just the opposite-there
were an overwhelming number of user studies that focused on nurses.
He pointed out that nurses' searching behavior was widely studied in
order to avoid "negative patient outcomes" as a result of
yielded interesting and sometimes surprising results. Pete's group interviewed
a nurse who is also a student. When asked if she used databases such
as Medline to find information, the interviewee answered that she only
did so when she was working on a school assignment. While she was working,
the nurse used whatever database came up first on the computer-even
if it wasn't the best source of information-because she was in such
a hurry. Pete thought that this was a relatively easy problem to solve-just
preset all of the computers to automatically display a particular database.
unique experiential components-from handing out a simple questionnaire
to pitting classmates against each other in a lively "Family Feud"
style game show. This part of the presentation almost always involved
some type of treat, such as candy or cupcakes, to raise blood sugar
levels and encourage maximum class participation. (These treats were
in no way considered a "bribe.")
One of the most
impressive experiential components presented in the "A" section
of 510 was a video game designed by the scientists group. The game,
"Where on Campus is Carmen San Diego," featured a dastardly
thief who went to different science labs around campus and stole substances
with long scientific names. When students finished the game, they had
to figure out what it was that Carmen was trying to make with the illicit
ingredients (the answer was ice cream). The exercise illustrated the
difficulty that scientists have in communicating with one another within
the scientific community.
All in all, students
were proud of their work and looked forward to giving their presentations-and
to having them over with. Sarah Zabel's group was one of the last to
present in front of the class. Before the presentation, we asked her
how she thought it was going to turn out. She laughed and replied: "It's
either going to be really fun, or it could get really out of hand-that
could be fun too."