The purpose of this paper is to investigate the mediating role different information sources (or cues) play in forming users' mental representation of a work in an academic library setting. Of particular interest is discerning how these information sources influence borrowing decisions.
A large‐scale user survey featuring two‐part questionnaires was utilized in an academic library setting. The questionnaires were designed to ascertain those information sources exerting a formative influence on users' information‐seeking behavior, especially the routes by which users came to know of a title and the sources by which they infer its content.
Evidently users adaptively make use of a variety of cues to help them fulfil their information needs. These cues significantly reduced the uncertainty faced by users making a borrowing decision, even after their sense of domain familiarity was controlled for. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for library services. It is suggested that libraries could provide a more “cue‐rich” environment that supports users' decision making and facilitates exploration of their collection.
The research questions were framed in the language of decision‐making theory, which, as the research demonstrates, sheds light on the dynamics between “cue validity” and judgment uncertainty. It also demonstrates the applicability of the “accuracy‐cost” framework in the study of human information‐seeking behavior.
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