Lindsay Roberts

Connecting people with information

User Needs Assessments–Woohoo!

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I really enjoyed 2 of this week’s articles in particular, “Designing a music digital library: discovering what people really want” and “The people in digital libraries: multifaceted approaches to assessing needs and impact.” I like that both articles had a practical, real-world focus when examining prototypes of digital libraries and trying to analyze what users are really looking for.

By examining a popular music forum website and comparing it to the Meldex digital music library, the authors of the first article discovered elements of the user component that the Meldex digital library didn’t offer: interaction and information exchanges with other music fans. I thought it was especially interesting that the Meldex system offered a search-by-humming feature that users were not taking advantage of, and that the authors found many users preferred to browse or ask other people when trying to track down a particular song.

In the second article, the needs assessments for the three prototype digital libraries also revealed some interesting themes. The second case study featured, the Baltimore Learning Community, revealed that teachers really didn’t have the time to invest in creating and sustaining the digital library. The third case discussing user needs assessments for the National Digital Library project also showed gaps between what media-specialists and teachers thought would be most useful for them. I think this just goes to show that while DL designers and creators may think they are filling a need for a particular user group, confirming this with a wide variety of potential users in the community can save a lot of time and money!

I loved the quote from the “People in digital libraries” article, “An inherent limitation in directly assessing the human needs for an innovation is the fact that potential users must imagine what the innovation can and will do for them. This is very difficult to do and innovators often justify adopting a “build it and they will come” policy based on their own imaginations of needs and applications” (Marchioni, et al).

My takeaway from these two articles was that DL designers need to balance “build it and they will come” with a thorough understanding of what users really say they need and want.

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