Usability of digital libraries

Sueli Mara Ferreira (School of Communication and Art, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)
Denise Nunes Pithan (School of Communication and Art, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)

OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives

ISSN: 1065-075X

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The conception, planning and implementation of digital libraries, in any area of knowledge, demand innumerable studies in order to verify and guarantee their adequacy to the users' necessities. Such studies find methodological, conceptual and theoretical support in some areas of knowledge, such as human‐computer‐interaction (HCI) (usability studies, in particular) and information science (IS) (especially studies about users' necessities and behavior in information search and use). This research, therefore, intends to integrate concepts and techniques from these two areas, that is, to analyze the usability of the InfoHab digital library, having as theoretical base the constructivist model of user study proposed by Carol Kuhlthau and the criteria of usability established by Jacob Nielsen.


In order to do so, a qualitative study with six users with different levels of academic formation and experience in the use of recovery systems was developed. Data were collected through personal interviews, prototype of the library, direct observation, image and sound records. The variables of this study included the following criteria: learnability, efficiency and effectiveness of the digital library, management of errors, memorability and the user's satisfaction from the perspective of cognitive and affective aspects and the actions taken by the users during the information search process.


The aspects identified in the collected data are discussed and the results are evidence of the possible synergy between the HCI and IS fields.


The authors expect to contribute conceptually for a discussion about a model of usability study that can be more inclusive and incorporate the aspects pointed by the constructivist model.



Mara Ferreira, S. and Nunes Pithan, D. (2005), "Usability of digital libraries", OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 311-323.

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