Designing Digital Library Resources for Users in Sparse, Unbounded Social Networks

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Abstract

Most digital library projects reported in the literature build resources for dense, bounded user groups, such as students or research groups in tertiary education. Having such highly interrelated and well defined user groups allows for digital library developers to use existing design methods to gather and implement requirements from those groups. This paper, however, looks at situations where digital library resources are aimed at much more sparse, ill defined networks of users. We report on a project which explicitly set out to ‘broaden access’ to tertiary education library resources to users not in higher education. In particular we discuss the problem of gathering á priori user requirements when by definition, we did not know who the users would be, we look at how disintermediation plays an even stronger negative role for sparse groups, and how we designed a system to replicate an intermediation role.