User-based evaluation of academic digital libraries : case studies, Social Science Information Gateway, Art, Design Architecture & Media Gateway and the Electronic Journals Service of the University of Patras, Greece
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of academic digital libraries from a user-oriented approach. For this purpose, end-users were invited to describe how they perceive and make use of academic digital libraries. The study was focused on Subject Based Information Gateways (SBIGs) and Electronic Journals Services. Specifically, two gateways were examined: the Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG) and the Art, Design, Architecture and Media (ADAM) gateway, and an electronic journals service: the Electronic Journals Service of the Library and Information Service (LIS), the University of Patras, Greece. The target group was the academic community: academic staff, research staff and students (undergraduate and postgraduate). The research methods used were online questionnaires, face-to-face interviews and transaction logs analysis (TLA). Concerning the perception of academic digital libraries, users were invited: to provide the advantages and/ or disadvantages of electronic information over print, to compare the electronic and print version of a piece of information, to evaluate services or features as very important, important, or not important and to specify factors that would discourage them from accessing a digital library. Regarding the use of academic digital libraries, users were asked to specify: how frequently they use digital libraries, what reasons they use digital libraries for, what place they gain access from, what their preferred method of searching for information is, what their preferred method of storing and reading electronic information is, whether they use the support services provided, what types of information they want to be provided with and what the role of communication in a digital library is. The study concluded that end-users seem to appreciate the implementation of academic digital libraries. However, there are still some disadvantages that might prevent them from accessing them. A typical user would access them from their office or home for a variety of reasons, such as: for writing up a term paper/project or a thesis/dissertation, writing up a paper for publication, e. g. journal article or conference/workshop paper, keeping up with progress in the relevant subject area, supporting a lecture or for personal reasons. Concerning their search behaviour, they would adopt a relatively unsophisticated, simplistic approach to searching and limited use of Boolean operators or other commands. Notwithstanding their low search abilities, they would be reluctant to consult the online help function that could support their searches. Sometimes, they prefer to ask a person rather than attempt to use the online help. When they have identified information and want to read it, they print it out. But, when they want to store information for the future, they either print it out, or save it on disk. This information might differ in its formats, including electronic journals, reports and papers, digitised books, scholarly mailing lists and archives and educational software. Finally, some users would appreciate the opportunity to communicate with information scientists, authors, or other users who share the same interests with them. Some others emphasized the importance of the communication between users and digital library systems.