A Practical Guide for Building a User-Focused Digital Library Collection: By Working through the Various Processes of Digital Content and Collection, You Will Be Better Equipped to Work with Your Library's Digital Content

By Zhu, Qin; Guevara, Sophia | Computers in Libraries, April 2009 | Go to article overview

A Practical Guide for Building a User-Focused Digital Library Collection: By Working through the Various Processes of Digital Content and Collection, You Will Be Better Equipped to Work with Your Library's Digital Content


Zhu, Qin, Guevara, Sophia, Computers in Libraries


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With changing user expectations, many libraries are moving toward digital content. Accessible from anywhere at any time, digital content provides users with efficient, on-demand information experiences. Accordingly, librarians are presented with challenges and opportunities to build, manage, and implement outreach strategies that promote their digital library collections. Qin Zhu, information developer and technical analyst at the HP Labs Research Library, and Sophia Guevara, research librarian at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have both experienced these challenges and opportunities. They discovered that there are a lot of articles and papers in library and information management literature on how to manage digital resources, but not many address the building of a user-focused digital library collection. They also realized that when it comes to collection development and management, libraries need to keep their users' needs a priority.

Determine What Digital Content You Will Provide

Understanding your users' information needs, information-seeking behavior, information preferences, and information consumption capabilities will help you to effectively build library collections and provide the right resources in the right format and, in the end, serve your users better. To determine what digital content will answer your users' needs, try the following steps:

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1. Connect to your users. The process for discovering your users' information needs can be performed physically and digitally. First, talk to your users. Ask them what their information needs are and what resources they would like to have added to the library's digital collection. Have your embedded librarians talk to their associated groups. Also think about using various technologies to help you connect with your users and get their input. Try using email, online chatting, and a web feedback form. Leverage your library blog or wiki site. Furthermore, use social sites such as MySpace and Facebook to meet your users on their own turf and collect their valuable input.

2. Scan your environment. Find out what is happening in your community. Getting to know the curricula of the local academic environments will give you direction regarding what to add to align with those environments and support education. Knowing your educational organizations' strategies and agendas will help you enhance your collection to support their goals. Nowadays, almost every organization has a website. So go to the websites and get to know them better!

3. Mine your usage logs. Examine your library usage data, as this could give you valuable information about where your users' interests lie. Review information inquiries, as they may indicate the type of information your users are looking for, as well as from what sources. Mining your library circulation and document delivery logs will help you better identify your users' interests. Check your website search log for user search behavior. This will reveal your users' information-seeking behavior (and it will help you later to deploy your digital collection as well).

Identifying the information needs of your special user groups can help you improve those subject-specific areas within your collection. Understanding your users' characteristics and information preferences will help you provide resources in the right format. For example, you may try alternatives such as e-audiobooks for those that may prefer content in an audio format.

Implement the Digital Content Life Cycle

Digital content can be complicated and challenging. It goes through various processes. The life cycle of digital content usually includes the following stages: discovery, trial, analysis, selection, acquisition, deployment, promotion, usage study, continuation, and adjustment. At each stage, keep in mind users' information needs and preferences. …

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