Title: Developing Humanities Collections in the Digital Age: Exploring Humanities Faculty Engagement with Electronic and Print Resources
Authors: Sarah Buck Kachaluba, Jessica Evans Brady, Jessican Critten
Source: Colleges and Research Libraries
Research Question: Do humanities scholars prefer print or digital materials?
Study Design: Librarians from Florida State University examined faculty attitudes and usage statistics from various print and electronic resources located within their library. The study attempted to substantiate, or disprove, the claim that most FSU faculty members in the Humanities Department prefer print materials to their electronic counterparts. Online surveys and in-person interviews were offered to faculty members to improve collection development practices and reevaluate acquisitions procedures. After careful analysis, researchers gained a deeper understanding of faculty material preferences, thus enabling library staff to tailor the collection based on user needs.
Researchers invited 200 faculty members to participate in an online survey about their print and electronic resource preferences. Of the 200 members invited, 102 began the survey, and 101 completed it. The questions focused on why participants favored print or electronic resources, the advantages and disadvantages of each format, and basic faculty demographics. About 30% of participants were female (70% male), 45% were literary scholars, and 55% were historians, archeologists, or philosophers. Researchers also selected 10 faculty members for post-survey interviews to pose follow-up questions on their answers.
Findings: The survey revealed an overwhelming preference for print items when it concerned books, texts, commentaries, and materials with images. Electronic resources were preferred for reference materials, dissertations, and periodicals. The greatest advantage of using electronic resources was the ability to access materials remotely, but 84% of respondents preferred the comfort of reading items in print form. The study was able to discredit the notion that humanists were opposed to electronic materials, revealing that most, in fact, are intrigued by the technology.
Moving Forward: While print materials still rank high in user preferences, electronic resources are slowly climbing the popularity ladder and creating a presence in today’s modern library. Faculty members have started shifting their perception of digital resources, preferring electronic journals and dissertations to their print counterparts. Remote accessibility and article/keyword search functions make these types of materials much more desirable in electronic formats, but for extended reading, textual analysis, and image based materials, print copies still reign supreme.
Image: Max the Brown Tabby Cat with Books 2 by Found Animals Foundation via Flickr.