St Andrews HCI Research Group

Systematic Library Search

Uta Hinrichs, Harald Reiterer, Simon Butscher, Jens Müller

Family interacting with the Collection Diver


OPAC interfaces, still the dominant access point to library catalogs, support systematic search but are problematic for open-ended exploration and generally unpopular with visitors. As a result, libraries start subscribing to simplified search paradigms as exemplified by web-search systems. This is a problem considering that systematic search is a crucial skill in the light of today’s abundance of digital information. Inspired by novel approaches to facilitating search, we designed CollectionDiver, an installation for supporting systematic search in public libraries. The CollectionDiver combines tangible and large display direct-touch interaction with a visual representation of search criteria and filters. We conducted an in-situ qualitative study to compare participants’ search approaches on the CollectionDiver with those on the OPAC interface. Our findings show that while both systems support a similar search process, the CollectionDiver (1) makes systematic search more accessible, (2) motivates proactive search approaches by (3) adding transparency to the search process, and (4) facilitates shared search experiences. We discuss the CollectionDiver’s design concepts to stimulate new ideas toward supporting engaging approaches to systematic search in the library context and beyond.


Uta Hinrichs, Simon Butscher, Jens Müller and Harald Reiterer. Diving in at the Deep End: The Value of Alternative In-Situ Approaches for Systematic Library Search. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’16), pp. 4634-4646, 2016. Honourable Mention Award.