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FreePint BlogThinking about end users

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As manager for information services for Key Bank, Kelly McNamara has to manage the needs and expectations of a wide range of end users. She comments on recent products reviewed by FreePint and offers her perspective on the growing trend towards user-focused products and services.


I've been thinking a lot about users lately. Well, it's my job to think about users, but recently I've been talking about end users in a more formalised way. I contributed to a panel discussion about end users and how to get to know them better for a recent FreePint Webinar and also a joint SIIA/SLA forum for content buyers and sellers to talk about their common customer, the end user. When I review my notes from attendance at the SLA annual conference in Chicago, I see that many of the sessions I was interested in had some sort of "user" focus as well (including a continuation of that SIIA/SLA discussion).

The products reviewed by FreePint this month illustrate the broad definition of "end users".

Organisations without a central library or information centre ask their users to fish for themselves. Information professionals in these environments spend a lot of time teaching their audience to fish and look for tools that are easy to teach and learn. 

Organisations that provide information and research services to their employees, students or other stakeholders fish on behalf of their end users.  Although in both instances we're looking for high quality, authoritative information, the tools that deliver it look very and feel very different to one another.

Jan Knight reviewed iSell, a OneSource offering with a focus on locating and targeting the “right prospect at the right time". This pretty much defines what its intended end users (sales or marketing professionals looking to expand or provide better service to clients and prospects) do for a living.

With an intuitive interface that resembles the kind of consumer-oriented web sites most of us are familiar with, the end user requires little or no intervention from an information professional to navigate the resource and produce actionable results. The info pro's expertise is demonstrated when the decision to purchase the tool is made, not when the results are delivered.

The tool, not the person who chose it, has the most impact on the end user.

Scopus, reviewed by Yulia Aspinall, is clearly more appropriate for the kind of environment where information professionals provide mediated deliverables to a sophisticated audience of authors and researchers. The database provides a means to search, evaluate and organise information effectively - exactly what librarians and info pros do (in fact, what a great elevator speech!).

The interface is decidedly user friendly, but the availability of Boolean logic and other advanced searching features as well as sophisticated options to display and analyse results indicate that this is not a tool for amateurs. 

In this case, the info pro's impact is felt when the results are delivered. His or her ability to create searches that produce relevant results are more meaningful than the resource being used. In this case, the end user doesn't need to know anything about the tool in order to appreciate its power. 

End users are always the ultimate consumers of the information provided, whether they fish for themselves or information professionals fish for them. Whether buying content or selling it, what's important is understanding which tools best serve your end users' needs and how you can most effectively deliver the results they want.


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