Beyond reading in reading rooms : an ethnographic approach to user behaviour in reference spaces
Tan, Fiona Lu Pin
Date of Issue2016
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
National Archives of Singapore
In light of widespread internet access to archival materials, reading rooms are increasingly sidelined and viewed as non-essential spaces. If the material can be viewed online, is there still a need for maintaining a physical space? This dissertation seeks to address the question of relevance of reading rooms by understanding how researchers use the reading room space in the National Archives of Singapore via a non-participant observational study. The fieldwork was conducted over the period of a month between April 2015 and May 2015, totalling 31 hours and 15 minutes of fieldwork and was broken down into 17 observational sessions ranging between a minimum of one hour to a maximum of two and a half hours. The observations yielded insights on the users’ entrance behaviour, their browsing behaviour, their contributions and responses to surrounding noise, their social interactions with other researchers and with staff. Collectively, these observations provide a starting point for further qualitative studies of user behaviour within the archival reading spaces. Additionally, the findings of the study also indicate that the reading room facilitates much more than simply reading and the value of an ethnographic method in studying user behaviour in the reading room.
DRNTU::Library and information science::Archives and records management
Nanyang Technological University