Impact of research cultures on the use of digital library resources

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Abstract

Currently, there exists little evidence concerning how various characteristics of research cultures are associated with patterns of use of electronic library resources. The present study addresses this gap by exploring how research-group membership, across-fields scattering of literature, and degree of establishment of research area are related to patterns of digital library use. The analytic dimensions are derived from Richard Whitley's (1984) theory of the social and intellectual organization of academic fields. The article represents a first attempt to operationalize Whitley's concepts in a large-scale study of e-resources use. The data used in the study were gathered in 2004 by the Finnish Electronic Library (FinElib) through a nationwide Web-based user questionnaire (N = 900). Membership in a research group significantly increased searching in journal databases, the importance of colleagues as sources of information about electronic articles and journals, and the use of alert services. A significant interaction effect was found between degree of across-fields scattering of relevant resources and degree of establishment of research fields. A high degree of across-fields scattering of relevant literature increased the number of journal databases used mainly in less established research areas whereas it influenced the use of journal databases less in established fields. This research contributes to our picture concerning the complex set of interacting factors influencing patterns of use of e-resources.

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