Usability testing in libraries: methods, limitations, and implications

Jennifer Emanuel (Main Library, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA)

OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives

ISSN: 1065-075X

Publication date: 28 October 2013



Usability studies are a form of library evaluation that are often passed off as research. However, at its core, usability is an evaluation method, not a research method. The goal is to make an argument that usability studies can be a valid form of scholarly research if certain limitations inherent in usability studies are addressed in the research design.


Through evaluating literature in the social sciences, this paper makes an argument for usability as a research method if certain limitations inherent within usability testing are addressed.


Usability is not only an evaluation method, but when limitations are addressed; it can be considered an important research tool within libraries.


No other article in the library and information sciences literature talks about methodologies for usability. Most usability articles do not address methodologies utilized in a way that would be considered research in a broader social sciences context. This article bridges the gap from when usability is considered evaluation to when it is considered research within library science.



Emanuel, J. (2013), "Usability testing in libraries: methods, limitations, and implications", OCLC Systems & Services: International digital library perspectives, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 204-217.

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