Portals for Undergraduate Subject Searching: Are They Worth It?

In spring 2005, a task force of Oregon State University librarians investigated whether undergraduates would gravitate toward subject portals tentatively named "virtual college libraries." A literature review and Web site inventory shaped our definition of a virtual college library. A preliminary needs assessment consisting of an online survey, focus groups, and a usability study showed how students approach their information needs, what searching methods and technologies they typically use, and whether they use personalization features. The results changed the course of the project. We concluded that subject resources presented at the course level better meet undergraduate needs.