“Tefko Saracevic pointed out that “users have many difficulties with digital libraries.” As a librarian or a librarian to be, how would you address Saracevic’s concerns?”
While I imagine it’s true that users continue to have difficulties with digital libraries (as referenced in the studies Saracevic points to in his article), I would also guess that DLs today are easier to navigate than they were nine years ago. That being said, this is still a major concern in terms of access and usability in the development of DLs.
As for addressing these concerns, it’s important that we as information professionals are aware of usability issues encountered by our patrons. If we don’t take the time to listen to feedback about what works and what doesn’t, DLs will cease to be relevant to our patrons and their needs. This in turn will ultimately force them to look elsewhere for the information they seek or to give up all together. In terms of addressing user feedback, two useful and straightforward options are to provide short surveys and/or prominent links on web pages that take users to a site to give feedback. This is a direct way for DLs to receive input from users. From there, decisions can be made based on the needs of a DL’s actual audience, and can determine if the issues are technical, design-based, or something else.**
As the articles by other authors this week show us, the evaluation of DLs over the years have been attempted to varying degrees of success. What comes across through all of them, though, is that evaluation and assessment are indeed an important part of establishing a viable DL.
**Quick note aside: I personally believe that a huge issue for DLs is the visual design of sites (full disclosure – my mother is a graphic designer). I don’t think people realize how important design actually is, and I find the field of library/info science tends to ignore it in their mission to provide information/materials to users. Most people don’t recognize good design when they see it because, really, that is what successful design is all about. I realize this issue may be cost-related, but I also think that libraries can often end up with sites that are more user-friendly for librarians than the actual patrons, and I believe there are ways to incorporate good design with ease of use while remaining optimally functional.