The purpose of this paper is to describe the findings of a survey promoted and financed by Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale about users' perceptions of digital libraries in Italy. The primary objective of the survey was to obtain feedback from users on their perceptions of digital library services and to give them an opportunity to make suggestions. A secondary objective was to establish and test a collaborative methodology with which to evaluate best practice for digital libraries.
Questionnaires and interviews were used to gather the data. A questionnaire was also distributed to the managers of those cultural institutions involved.
The results of the survey indicated that users have different perceptions with regard to digital libraries and that they tend to use the services of more than one cultural institution. Overall, there is a positive attitude towards digital libraries, but the survey also underlines that users often do not know how to use the libraries and are unaware of all of the services offered. The accessibility of the interface was considered important, but as it becomes more sophisticated offering more services more staff assistance will be required.
The survey has had limitations of time and resources available. The focus was on on‐site users at the cultural institutions and not remote users and non‐users.
The results of the survey have identified user priorities, but users are rarely involved in the design of digital libraries. The Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale aim was to stimulate a culture of excellence in the different cultural institutions involved, focusing on users' expectations.
The survey served to test experimental quality indicators and inquiry methodologies that focused on library users. This paper considers the implications of these results for digital libraries in general, and the value of a cooperative approach to the identification and evaluation of digital library users in particular.
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