Digital Library assessment through multiple measures

Melissa Lamont


Digital libraries of archival historical and cultural resources are expensive to create and maintain.  Thorough assessment of both the service itself and the collections selected for digitization can demonstrate the success of the project as well as the value of the digital library and will aid future funding requests.  As evident in the research literature, while digital libraries are often evaluated on the basis of usability, only rarely are users asked about the value or usefulness of the content of the digital library.  Useful or valued collections will attract additional users, will help inform decision making for future projects and will make evident to funding agencies that resources have been well spent. Usefulness, however, is amorphous and challenging to measure.  A digital library of archival materials developed at a large academic institution was used as the case study.  The goals of this project were to determine how to ask users about usefulness and value of collections in the digital library; and to collect statistical data applicable to the question of usefulness.  Combinations of both qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed, presuming that the multiple perspectives and data points would lead to comprehensive and actionable results.  The data gathering methods included web and database analytics as well as interviews and a survey.  The research resulted in specific suggestions for the improvement of the digital library, results applicable to many digital libraries.


Keywords: Digital Libraries; Evaluation; Assessment; Hybrid Methods, Usefulness



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