E-book and Print Collections at HSLS: A Survey of HSLS User Preferences and Practices

Since 2000, HSLS has built its e-book collection from a small core of medical texts to today’s collection of around 3,000 titles.  In 2009, we surveyed a random sample of our library users to understand how they use HSLS e-books for clinical care, research, administration, teaching and learning.  Results confirm that e-books, accessible 24/7, with full-text search capabilities, support many user activities, especially clinical care and research.

Seventy-five percent of attending physicians and 86% of interns, residents and fellows use e-books to support clinical care.  Fifty-four percent of faculty members and 76.5% of postdocs and fellows use e-books for research purposes.  As one respondent said, “It is an invaluable resource for fellows like me who have both clinical duties, as well as research obligations, to have easy access to electronic versions of journals and books.” Fifty-one percent of students have used e-books to complete assignments, but only 21% of teachers have assigned an e-book class reading, possibly pointing to a need for further investigation.

In keeping with other studies of e-book users, we found that most users want a print book for extended reading tasks.  They can rest assured that the print collection will not disappear. But as other studies have found, we saw that short reading tasks are well supported by e-books. Users who need to locate a small section of information in a large amount of text appreciate that feature of e-books.  The HSLS full-text e-book search tool is used by 66% of respondents and 74% of users rated it as highly as Google Books in usefulness.

Our users don’t have extra time to seek information. They recognize e-books can help:

“Electronic from home is appreciated and preferred.  I have no time to go to Scaife.  My last presentation I used an e-book, and this is critical to me. I printed out graphs, pictures etc., giving proper credit and it made the difference in my presentation and verification of data.  If UPMC is going to be far reaching, its access to data needs to reach all those who may need it.”

Thank you to all survey participants. The results will help us build an even stronger library collection.

~ Barbara Folb