Digital libraries’ support for the user’s ‘information journey’

Adams, A., & Blandford, A. (2005). Digital libraries’ support for the user’s ‘information journey’. In Proceedings of the 5th ACM/IEEE-CS joint conference on Digital libraries, JCDL ’05 (pp. 160–169). New York, NY, USA: ACM. doi:10.1145/1065385.1065424

“The temporal elements of users’ information requirements are a continually confounding aspect of digital library design. No sooner have users’ needs been identified and supported than they change. This paper evaluates the changing information requirements of users through their ‘information journey’ in two different domains (health and academia). In-depth analysis of findings from interviews, focus groups and observations of 150 users have identified three stages to this journey: information initiation, facilitation (or gathering) and interpretation. The study shows that, although digital libraries are supporting aspects of users’ information facilitation, there are still requirements for them to better support users’ overall information work in context.
Users are poorly supported in the initiation phase, as they recognize their information needs, especially with regard to resource awareness; in this context, interactive press-alerts are discussed. Some users (especially clinicians and patients) also require support in the interpretation of information, both satisfying themselves that the information is trustworthy and understanding what it means for a particular individual.”

Digital libraries, in order to be more than just ‘passive warehouses’ of resources, need to provide tools that support a user’s information journey. As described in Bates’ berrypicking, users move through an information seeking session taking bits and pieces of information from various places, and formulating and reformulating their searches. Along the way users interpret what they find to serve future goals. In this article a three stage model of the search is proposed, and issues with interpretation and the temporal nature of information are discussed.

Studied 150 users in academic and medical domains over 4 years. Used focus groups and interviews to gather feedback from users of digital libraries.

The information journey was identified, with 3 stages:
– initiation: some event initiates the search
– facilitation: someone or some system provides support for the search
– interpretation: someone or some system supports context and interpretation or modification

Digitial libraries are most often useful in the facilitation stage of the journey. They might be more useful for users if they supported the interpretation phase, through discussions, ratings, or debates.

Users are not always aware of the various digital libraries that exist. The profile of digital libraries could be raised within a community. The temporal nature of digital information is an issue. As new work is published, can it be collated with previous works and forwarded to a researcher with a known interest in the topic. Thus, the researcher does not have to continually revisit the digital library.

Future work:
Serendipity and scanning are common information behaviors, can digital libraries support these behaviors through visualization techniques?
Temporal quality of information: Collect works as they are published that relate to a user’s saved information need, and send them updates on the topic.

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