ERIC Identifier: ED278416
Publication Date: 1986-12-00
Author: Machovec, George S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.

Administrative Issues in Planning a Library End User Searching Program. ERIC Digest.

End user searching programs have become very popular in all types of libraries. In the 1970s most end user experiments centered around teaching patrons how to use the same online systems as professional intermediaries without modification. However, most end users did not become regular online searchers for many reasons: search protocols can be difficult to learn and retain (systems are frequently changing), high online fees, and difficult access to search equipment. Many of these limitations are being reduced with microcomputer front-end software, intelligent gateways, widespread availability of micocomputers, and innovative pricing strategies by vendors and producers. The successful implementation of a library end user program requires careful planning from an administrative perspective to maximize effectiveness and keep costs reasonable (Des Chene, l985).

The literature reports end user programs in virtually every type of setting: academic, medical, public, and corporate libraries or information centers. A review of the planning, funding, implementation, and evaluation of existing programs will assist managers in developing effective services without reinventing the wheel.


End user programs can be developed in many different ways to accommodate varying needs. Some of the objectives to consider in establishing a new service are to increase awareness of users about online systems and specific databases; to provide training and consulting for patrons who wish to begin searching or to refine their skills; and to assist in maintaining an adequate level of current awareness of new developments in online searching.


Charles B. Lowry suggests six management principles which will facilitate smooth implementation of any type of library automation: become informed (acquire a broad understanding of the technology to be implemented); understand finances (budgeting for capital expenses, personnel and ongoing costs must be considered); select knowledgeable personnel (people offering skills within or outside of an organization must be available); know your organization (cooperation and participation by staff is critical); and manage people wisely (Lowry, l985).

Some of the specific issues which must be considered in an end user searching program are enumerated below.

--Needs Assessment. Some of the factors in this assessment should include examining trends in the field, increasing awareness of users about what databases and systems are available, determining needs of the user population, and integrating with competing or complementary services in the organization (Borgman, l985).

--Hardware. Most end user programs now in operation use microcomputers rather than dumb terminals. Micros offer such advantages as automatic log-on, the possibility of using front-end interfaces, and greater flexibility. Will the library offer its own equipment for this service or will patrons only be trained in the features of searching, which must then be done on their own hardware in the office or home?

--Software. What type of communications software will be obtained for the end user program? Will a good general purpose communications software package be obtained, or will a user-friendly front-end be purchased for use with a particular vendor or group of databases? (Machovec, l985)?

--Training. A great deal of literature has been published describing end user training programs. Some of the issues focus on whether formal classes will be offered, and if so, whether they will be required; what type of point-of-use documentation will be available; and whether there will be assistance for off-site searchers?

--Budgeting. Will the equipment used for the end user program be dedicated for this purpose or will it be shared with hardware used for intermediary searching or other library applications? Will the connect time, communications, and printing charges be paid at all or in part by the patron? If the patron is paying for this service, who will set the rates, who will collect the money, how will the patron's search be terminated if the allocation is used, and who will handle complaints for mistakes made by patrons which cost money but provide no useful results? Some of these questions can be answered by different types of services now available, such as billing directly to the customer's credit card, prepaying for blocks of searches which can be conveniently billed to patrons, and other solutions (e.g., EasyNet does not charge for no-hits on a search).

--What Systems to Offer. Which online vendors will be offered in the end user program? Different vendors offer varying solutions for user friendly interfaces. DIALOG's Knowledge Index and BRS/After Dark provide low-cost user friendly evening searching; Wilsonline offers its user-friendly Wilsearch software as a microcomputer front-end; and gateways such as EasyNet offer a universal front-end for over 15 vendors which allows simple searching by answering questions.

--Publicity and Marketing. Publicity is a key element in the success of any end user program. Who will be responsible for this function, how will it be funded, and what avenues will be used to reach primary clientele?

--Policies and Procedures. Clearly written guidelines for end user services will assist library staff in implementing the program and help to avoid patron frustration. Some issues to address are: who may use the service, when is it available, are reservations neccessary, how much does it cost, how is payment made, what type of assistance is available, and will consulting be available later? Who will manage this program? In large institutions it can logically fall under the supervision of reference, library instruction, or even the systems librarian.

--Evaluation. How will the success of the program be measured? Will there be a systematic gathering of data by survey or questionnaire? How will criticisms be factored into improving the system?


End user searching is more than just a fad. It represents an important step in allowing patrons to be self-sufficient in meeting their information needs. Libraries need to participate in this phase of the information gathering process or face the possibility of a reduced role in the future.


Borgman, Christine L., Donald O. Case, and Dorothy Ingebretsen. "University Faculty Use of Computerized Databases: An Assessment of Needs and Resources." ONLINE REVIEW 9 (1965): 307-323.

Branden, Shirley and Jeffrey M. Wehmeyer. "Do-It-Yourself Computer Searching: Launching an Educational Program for the End User Searching." MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY 4 (1985): 11-14.

Crooks, James E. "End User Searching at the University of Michigan." SIXTH NATIONAL ONLINE MEETING PROCEEDINGS, 1985, pp. 99-110.

Des Chene, Dorice. "Online Searching by End Users." RQ 25 (1985): 89-95.

Friend, Linda. "Identifying and Informing the Potential End-User: Online Information Seminars." ONLINE 10 (1986): 47-56.

Friend, Linda. "Independence at the Terminal: Training Student End Users to Do Online Literature Searching." JOURNAL OF ACADEMIC LIBRARIANSHIP 11 (1985): 136-141.

Hubbard, Abigail, and Barbara Wilson. "An Integrated information Management Education Program: Defining a New Role for Librarians in Helping End-Users." ONLINE 10 (1986): 15-23.

Kirk, Cheryl L. "End-User Training at the Amoco Research Center." SPECIAL LIBRARIES 77 (1986): 20-27.

Lowry, Charles B. "Technology in Libraries: Six Rules for Management." LIBRARY HI TECH 3 (1985): 27-29.

Machovec, George. "Microcomputer Front-end Software for Bibliographic Information Systems." ONLINE LIBRARIES AND MICROCOMPUTERS 3 (1985): 1-3.

Shelton, Anita L., and Davida Scharf. "Online Database Documentation for End User Training." SIXTH NATIONAL ONLINE MEETING PROCEEDINGS, 1985, pp. 415-419.

Slingluff, Deborah, Yvonne Lev, and Andrew Eisan. "An End User Search Service in an Academic Health Sciences Library." MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY 4 (1985): 11-21.

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