Libraries in the Digital Age 2004

Article excerpt

REPORT FROM THE FIELD

"Human Information Behavior" and "Competences for Digital Libraries" were themes of the sixth Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, held May 24-27 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and May 28-29 in Mljet, Croatia. Conference co-organizer Tatjana Aparac, from Croatia's University of Osijek, opened the event. Eugene Garfield, ISI's founder and chairman emeritus and The Scientist's president and founding editor, was the guest of honor. The conference attracted 156 participants from Croatia and 22 other countries.

Human Information Behavior

Co-organizer Tefko Saracevic, from Rutgers University's School of Communications, said there are "no neat answers" for defining a digital library, only a "set of concepts consisting of digital content, access, users, technical infrastructure, and networks, and an institutional context which includes policies and cooperation. . . . And it is a global phenomenon." While there's now "more use of libraries than ever before," the digital library is changing that use. Saracevic closed by saying: "Research in human behavior in the digital library is still in its infancy and funding is inadequate. But such research is necessary for understanding how to build better digital libraries and services."

Expanding on the "global phenomenon," Ching-chih Chen, from Simmons College in Boston, discussed the transition of her early (1986) interactive videodisc "The First Emperor of China" into the "Chinese Memory Net" and the current "Global Memory Net," under U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsorship. Her project incorporates innovative retrieval features using images and image metadata and has expanded to include Italian art.

Denise Troll Covey, from Carnegie Mellon University Libraries in Pittsburgh, led a session titled "The Million-Book Project: Removing Obstacles to Use, Satisfaction, and Success." The project, based on human-factors research at Carnegie Mellon Libraries, concluded that users are interested in quality of information, convenience, speed of use, and remote access to full text and out-of-print books.

In response, Carnegie Mellon, with support from the NSF, OCLC, and the Internet Archive, began the process of digitizing and offering open access to a million books. Links will be provided in library catalogs and eventually through Google. Copyright release is being pursued for out-of-print items, with 57 percent of publishers already authorizing release. The project will be completed in 2007.

In her session "User Behavior in an Academic Library's Digital Reference Environment: Implications for Service Development," Jo Kibbee, from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, discussed access (40 percent by library Web site), who uses the services (88 percent are institutional affiliates), why they use the service (convenience and because the library is too far), what they ask (about the library rather than facts), and how they ask (chat or e-mail). Kibbee mentioned the humorous case of a student who asked his questions by chat rather than walking a few steps to her desk. She said that fee-based (expert) research services have "successfully colonized the digital information environment."

Paul Sturges, of the U.K.'s Loughborough University, examined alternatives to the conventional "monastic mode of study" typical of most libraries in the digital age. To illustrate the flexibility possible in digital libraries, he drew the analogy of a prisoner in a cell and a student in a room. The main difference is computer and cell-phone access.

In their session "Barriers to E-Learning for Health Professionals and Students: Identifying Solutions Based on Evidence," Graham Walton, Susan Childs, and Amanda Hall from the U.K.'s Northumbria University identified digital library barriers within health education as organizational, economic, hardware- and software-based, pedagogical, psychological, and skills-based.

In his session "Use of Electronic Information Resources Among the Croatian Scientists in the Field of Social Sciences in a Pre-Digital Library Environment: Obstacles and Opportunities," Radovan Vrana, from the University of Zagreb, presented research on building digital libraries in Croatia. …