From digital libraries to digital preservation research: the importance of users and context

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  • Journal of DocumentationFrom digital libraries to digital preservation research: the importance of users andcontextGobinda Chowdhury

    Article information:To cite this document:Gobinda Chowdhury, (2010),"From digital libraries to digital preservation research: the importance of usersand context", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 66 Iss 2 pp. 207 - 223Permanent link to this document:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220411011023625

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    http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220411011023625

  • From digital libraries to digitalpreservation research: the

    importance of users and contextGobinda Chowdhury

    University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

    Abstract

    Purpose The purpose of this paper is to point out the commonalities of research in digital librariesand digital preservation with regard to the issues of users and context of information.

    Design/methodology/approach The papers approach is a review of selected literature andreports of research projects focusing particularly on digital preservation research.

    Findings It is noted that just like the digital library community the digital preservation researchcommunity is also confronted with the challenges of capturing, storing and making use of theinformation related to users and context.

    Practical implications The paper points out some current research in digital preservation thataims to handle the users and context information for building future digital preservation systems. Ithighlights some major challenges in these areas.

    Originality/value The paper reports on the state of the art research in digital preservation.

    Keywords Digital libraries, Information science, Collections management, Information management,User studies

    Paper type Literature review

    IntroductionA review paper on digital library research that appeared in this journal exactly tenyears ago (Chowdhury and Chowdhury, 1999), observed that digital library researchwas then at its infancy but was growing fast. Over the past decade it has come toadulthood, not a very long time compared to the lifespan of library and informationscience research, but a reasonably long time from the perspectives of the rapid changesin the world of the internet and web. During the first few years of its origin anddevelopment the field of digital library research has evolved and changed rapidly, withcontinuing discussions and debates on the definition and connotation of the termdigital library. Gradually with the maturity of the field, and sharing of ideas amongdigital library researchers originating from many different fields such as library andinformation science, computer science, and engineering, psychology, linguistics, etc. anagreement with regard to the definition of digital libraries seems to have been reached.The DELOS Network of Excellence on Digital Libraries (The DELOS Digital LibraryReference Model: Foundations for Digital Libraries, 2007) envisages a digital library as:

    . . . a tool at the centre of intellectual activity having no logical, conceptual, physical, temporalor personal borders or barriers on information.

    It is important to note that a digital library has been considered here as a toolfacilitating intellectual activities across spatial, temporal and personal boundaries. TheDELOS characterization of digital libraries (The DELOS Digital Library Reference

    The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

    www.emeraldinsight.com/0022-0418.htm

    From libraries topreservation

    research

    207

    Received 1 January 2009Revised 10 July 2009

    Accepted 17 July 2009

    Journal of DocumentationVol. 66 No. 2, 2010

    pp. 207-223q Emerald Group Publishing Limited

    0022-0418DOI 10.1108/00220411011023625

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  • Model: Foundations for Digital Libraries, 2007) further states that the field of digitallibrary has:

    . . . moved from a content-centric system that simply organises and provides access toparticular collections of data and information to a person-centric system that aims to provideinteresting, novel, personalised experiences to users, and consequently.

    . . . its main role has shifted from static storage and retrieval of information to facilitation ofcommunication, collaboration and other forms of interaction among scientists, researchers orthe general public on themes that are pertinent to the information stored in the DigitalLibrary.

    Two important points about the nature of emerging digital libraries should be notedhere: first a digital library is becoming a person-centric system as opposed to a genericcollection and service, and second its goal is now to facilitate communication,collaboration and interactions, and not just providing access to digital information.

    So, a modern digital library is a space a centre of intellectual activities withcontent, available in different forms and formats in a distributed network environment,as well as tools and facilities for user-centric access, use, interactions, collaborationsand sharing. Thus, as opposed to the early stages of digital library research the focushas shifted from system and content to the users and interactive use and sharing in anetworked environment. This in a way echoes the conclusion made in the JDOC 1999review paper where the authors concluded that in order to build and live in a truedigital library world, we have to change our generation-long habits and have to getused to our new shoes. This will take some time, because it will involve a paradigmshift in our habits of the creation, distribution and use of information (Chowdhury andChowdhury, 1999).

    So, has there been a paradigm shift in our habits of the creation, distribution anduse of information within the past ten years, since the publication of that work? Theanswer is perhaps both yes and no: yes in the sense that indeed most users havechanged their habits to a great extent in the way they access and use information in thedigital world; and no in the sense that content producers (publishers, database serviceproviders, etc.) perhaps are still following the same paradigm of content creation anddistribution, or are trying to replicate the old practices within the context of the digitalworld, without taking any revolutionary steps and breaking away from the oldpractices of content creation distribution and access.

    Early research studies of digital library users (Greenstein and Thorin, 2002) revealthat:

    . users want seamless access to heterogeneous information resources irrespectiveof where, by whom, or in what format they are managed; and

    . users prefer somewhat personalised service in a networked informationenvironment that meets their specific needs.

    User study has become an integral part of digital library research over the past decadeor so. A recent survey of digital library literature for the past 11 years (1997-2007)reveals that usability and user studies cover over a third of the published literature(34.5 per cent or 199 out of 577), and that major areas covered in those studies include:usability, interface interaction/design, HCI/user interface and accessibility.

    JDOC66,2

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  • The importance of digital library as a workspace, and the importance of userannotations of digital content, has been discussed by some researchers. For example,after studying the user (in this case teachers) behaviour in the National Science DigitalLibrary (NSDL), it was noted that that there i

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