Emergent digital services in public libraries: a domain study

David McMenemy (Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Publication date: 16 November 2012



This paper aims to explore the emergence of digital services in the public library domain via an extensive study of the websites of all Scottish public library services.


In a four‐month period all 32 of Scotland's public library authority websites were visited by a researcher. The goal of the researcher was to record the options available from the library homepages in the following way: role of library in providing page content: content provider or access provider; was the page providing a digital service; what was the audience for the page: adult, child, or not specified; description of page content; and any noted usability issues. Each site was only visited to three levels below that of the initial homepage.


The study found a good standard of innovation in digital services around LMS functions, offering users the ability to keep in control of their borrowing and reserving. In addition there was a consistent set of electronic reference resources subscribed to by multiple libraries, offering high‐quality information both within the library and for library members from their home or workplace. Problems were found with regards to guidance on the usage of these resources, as well as confusion and inconsistency in terminology usage across different library services.

Research limitations/implications

The paper only examines Scottish public library sites, and thus can only claim to be representative of that country. It also can only represent the sites at the time they were examined.

Practical implications

The paper should be of interest to public and other librarians interested in patterns across websites in their sector.


This is the first national study of Scottish public library websites and its findings should be of value as a result.



McMenemy, D. (2012), "Emergent digital services in public libraries: a domain study", New Library World, Vol. 113 No. 11/12, pp. 507-527. https://doi.org/10.1108/03074801211282902

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