The purpose of this paper is to elaborate the long tail of topical search queries, including the influence of current events, posed to a large, urban public library discovery system.
Search queries from the months of June, July, August and September 2014 (1,488,339 total queries) were collected from the Edmonton Public Library’s BiblioCommons database using Google Analytics and exported to Excel. The data were then analyzed using descriptive statistics, frequency counts and textual analysis to explicate the long tail of search, (including the most popular searches) and to explore the relationship between topical search queries and current events.
The findings support the long tail theory, as the aggregate tail of topical search queries comprised the vast majority of the total searches and current events exert some influence on the nature and frequency of topical searches.
Data collection was limited to four months of the year; thus, comparisons across the year cannot be made. There are practical implications for public libraries in terms of marketing and collections, as well as for improving catalogue functionality, to support user search behaviour.
Not much research attention has been focused on the nature of topical search queries in public libraries compared to academic libraries and the Web. The findings contribute to developing insight into the divergent interests of intergenerational public library users and the topics of materials they are searching for.
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