Data Collection

The objective of this qualitative study was to gather and interpret user perspectives comparing the accessibility and features of academic and public library websites between desktop computers and mobile devices. As this research project seeked to gather data to understand the participant's point of view, as experienced by them, it corresponds to a phenomenological study (Leedy & Ormond 2010, 146). Phemenological studies purposefully sample 5 to 25 participants in in-depth interviews (Leedy & Ormond 2010, 146).

As this research study solicited human participants for interviews, ethics approval would be required; participants would be chosen over the age of 18 to avoid delay and simply the ethics review process. The study would interview 18+1 or 20+1 participants between the ages of 18 and 55, who owned, used extensively or are very familiar with smartphones. This participant number could approach saturation level of themes, although as participants would be from two types of institutions, a second phase of the study mirroring the first could be launched. Results from the initial participant interview would be used to assess and adjust the interview process as needed for future interviewees.

Candidates for the study would fulfill the following requirements. Participants from the University of Alberta would be registered students or members of faculty and identify themselves as such using official University of Alberta identification, such as a ONE-Card. University of Alberta candidates would be asked if they are library users and have visited the University of Alberta Libraries website or mobile website in the prior six months, and whether they had experience with, or owned, a mobile device (smartphone). Public library candidate participants would be asked to provide proof of Edmonton Public Library membership by showing their library card. In addition, they would be asked if they have used the Edmonton Public Library's website or mobile website in the previous six months. Candidates whom have used either library's mobile website would not be asked to participate in the study, in order to avoid pre-formed biases influencing the results. All participants would be asked their proficiency levels with computers and mobile devices. Participants would have good knowledge of the English language, in order to understand sufficiently content presented in library websites.

Permission to conduct onsite research would be obtained from the University of Alberta and Edmonton Public Library administrations and also for posting flyers in high traffic or designated areas at locations for both institutions (Appendix E and Appendix F). Specific University of Alberta Libraries locations would include Rutherford Humanities and Social Sciences, Cameron (Science & Technology), J.W. Scott Health Sciences and Herbert T. Coutts (Education & Physical Education). Edmonton Public Library locations would include the central location Stanley A. Milner, as well as Sprucewood, Highlands, Londonderry, Jasper Place, Mill Woods, Castle Downs, Lois Hole and Capilano. Flyers would state the title of the study, desired age range of participants, the requirement of either a University of Alberta Libraries or Edmonton Public Library membership, required knowledge of mobile devices, contact information for the researchers and ethics statement (Appendix G). The advertisement would not describe in depth the objectives of the study in order to avoid bias.

At point of initial contact, by telephone or email, the potential participant would be asked at which location they saw the study advertised and whether they have more familiarity with public or academic libraries. Candidates would then be screened to fit the criteria detailed above, including whether they had membership at either type of institution. The goal of the study was to interview half of the participants comparing academic library websites and their mobile versions, and the other half of the participants comparing public library websites and their mobile versions. The interviewer may decline participant interest if half of the participants had already been fulfilled for one of the two parts of the study. Qualifying participants would be given a list of public locations to choose from, which include study rooms at University of Alberta Libraries or public areas at Edmonton Public Library locations, with the qualifier that there should be no overt distractions or noise and the locations will be safe and comfortable for both interviewer and interviewee.

Two-hour semi-structured interviews per participant would be conducted following an additional preliminary 15-minute discussion reviewing the Letter of Information and Letter of Consent, a broader description of the study, description of data collection methods, and instruction in use of the smartphone (an iPhone or iPad) if required. Participants would sign a Letter of Consent and a pseudonym would be assigned to each individual for all other aspects of the study to ensure privacy and confidentiality. The age of the participant would be used for demographic purposes. The Letters of Consent and any interview transcripts would be kept in a locked filing cabinet or drawer for five years and would only be viewed or accessed by the interviewer.

Semi-structured interviews would be the method of data collection, to allow participants freedom in how they would achieve some of the searching, navigating and browsing tasks asked of them and to aid in the participant's comfort level with the interview process. There would be a general list of questions to be asked, although not strictly adhered to (Appendix H). The interviewer would try to achieve a fun and relaxed atmosphere in the interview, to acquire as much perspective and fully expressed opinion from the interviewees as possible. Data would be collected in three ways: using a digital audio recorder or audio recording software on a computer; screen activity recording software to capture the interviewee's activities on library websites and screen capture technology on mobile devices to take images at appropriate intervals in the interview.

In the preliminary discussion, the participant would be informed that the study seeks their perceptions, experiences and opinions about library websites and their mobile counterparts. In the interview, the participant would be asked questions related to specific tasks performed in comparing an academic or public library website using a desktop computer, such as a laptop, and their mobile website counterparts using an iPhone. Tasks would include navigating each website interface to access library and information services, searching for specific resources or content and browsing the interface features of each platform in general. The academic library studied would be the University of Alberta and the public library studied would be Edmonton Public Library. Users' opinions and perspectives of the two points of access of the institution's website, the available services, and the functions provided, would be solicited. Participants would not be asked questions about library websites or websites in general external from the two mentioned above.

An interview guide would be developed using multiple avenues to aid the researcher and research assistant. Initial questions would be formulated extrapolating from current research in the area of study and identifying gaps that exist where further questions can be posed. The preliminary questions would be sent to peers experienced in conducting research studies with semi-structured interviews for review and input. The study would recruit 19 or 21 participants, with the initial participant the assessment of the interview process and appropriateness and pertinence of questions.

Credibility would be supported by researcher first-hand knowledge and familiarity with current themes of research in the field being studied and through acquisition of a comprehensive collection of articles related to the topic of study. The researcher would also follow publications in journals and from conference proceedings to stay current with new research. Good methods used for continual exposure to current topics would include email alerts, newsletters, list serves and RSS feeds.

All interactions with participants would be professional and comfortable. The researcher would ensure the participant has full disclosure of all information contained within the Letter of Information and Letter of Consent as directed by ethical standards. The researcher would seek to put the participant at ease and keep stress to a minimum during all interactions with the participant.

Participants in the study would be from a broad age range. To confirm dependability, the researcher would study variant results in more depth than results that conformed to normal and evaluate conclusions to include aspects of all results. Results of the study would be comprehensive and multi-level.

Transferability of this study could be achieved by conducting similar research studies for teenage and older adult populations, or for those marginalized and especially the visually and physically impaired. Results of the study could be provided to the administrations of the University of Alberta Libraries and Edmonton Public Library with recommendations for improvement or modification of their library websites and mobile library websites.

Confirmability would be assured with close attention to accuracy in transcription of results and attention paid to the organization and storage of the collected data. The research would be using data transcription software to transcribe results, which would be reviewed in final by the research assistant comparing the original digital audio versions to the transcribed versions.

The study could be extended with acquisition of additional resources, interviewing an additional 18 to 20 participants, adjusting for any themes and variations emerging from the results of initial study.