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What Engineers Want: Lessons Learned from Five Years of Studying Engineering Library Users

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

The Human Element of Librarianship

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1721.1 - 26.1721.17



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Paper Authors


Bertha P. Chang North Carolina State University Orcid 16x16

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Bertha Chang is currently a Research Librarian for Engineering at the NCSU Libraries. She holds an M.S. from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and an S.B. and Ph.D. from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Honora N. Eskridge North Carolina State University

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Honora Nerz Eskridge is currently Director, Centennial Campus Research Services with North Carolina State University where she leads library services to the Colleges of Engineering and Textiles. Eskridge has a Master of Library and Information Science from the Catholic University of America and a Bachelor of Engineering from Manhattan College.

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It has long been recognized in the engineering library community that engineering faculty and students are a unique user group. Engineers don’t use libraries the way people in other disciplines do; the reason for this mainly lies in the engineering curriculum and the way engineering students are trained. Various studies over several decades have documented these differences and helped librarians to understand the engineering user and, ultimately, to design useful and responsive services to support this group effectively. It should then be of no surprise that, even as the broader user-experience movement has gained momentum in the library community and libraries have evolved their spaces and services for the 21st century, engineering librarians continue to seek opportunities to learn more about their users.

Over the course of a five-year period from 2009-2014, engineering librarians at North Carolina State University conducted multiple studies of engineering faculty, graduate students and undergraduates to learn their preferences and use patterns with regard to library spaces, services and collections. These studies came about as a part of the planning and opening of a new library building, the James B. Hunt Jr. Library. Early studies were designed to contribute to the planning process for this building, while later ones supported decision-making in the implementation and post-occupancy phases. A variety of approaches were used including: in-depth interviews, focus groups, observational studies, and surveys. Particular emphasis was given to understanding faculty and graduate student needs to inform the design of dedicated spaces for these groups. The use of comparable methodologies before and after the opening of the library building allowed a comparison of these users’ predicted needs with their actual use and behavior. The resulting findings add to prior research on engineering library users and provide insights about this population in new library learning environments that can be applied beyond this institution. This paper will detail the studies conducted, the methodologies utilized in each case and discuss lessons learned about engineers as 21st century library users.

Chang, B. P., & Eskridge, H. N. (2015, June), What Engineers Want: Lessons Learned from Five Years of Studying Engineering Library Users Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25057

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