Digital image library development in academic environment: designing and testing usability

Claudia Roda (American University of Paris, Paris, France)
Ann Murphy Borel (American University of Paris, Paris, France)
Eugeni Gentchev (American University of Paris, Paris, France)
Julie Thomas (American University of Paris, Paris, France)

OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives

ISSN: 1065-075X

Publication date: 1 December 2005



By reporting the experience gained in the development of a digital image library in the academic environment, this paper aims at providing perspective developers with insights on the main usability issues raised by this type of project.


The paper addresses three common needs in academia with respect to image collections: preservation, access, and reuse. In the framework of the specific project experience, it discusses how usability issues have been tackled at design time, highlights the usability problems revealed by tests on the first implemented prototype, and advances proposals on how these problems may be addressed.


Team formation and high turn‐over impact usability design; collection management functionalities effect final product usability; usability and resource reuse levels are severely reduced if the services are limited to those of classic digital libraries.

Research limitations/implications

All usability issues are discussed with respect to the specific project characterized by a small, in‐house development team with high turn‐over; a participatory design approach; a fairly small, accessible, and heterogeneous user (and stakeholder) population; very limited financial resources but also limited time constraints.

Practical implications

A usability guide for future developers of digital image libraries in academia.


Addressing usability issues related specifically to the design of digital image libraries rather than text‐based digital libraries. Addressing the objectives of image reuse and of widespread adoption. Discussing usability design by a team of students with heterogeneous background in academic environment.



Roda, C., Murphy Borel, A., Gentchev, E. and Thomas, J. (2005), "Digital image library development in academic environment: designing and testing usability", OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 264-284.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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