International Journal on Digital Libraries

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 71–81

The unseen and unacceptable face of digital libraries

Regular contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s00799-003-0071-7

Cite this article as:
Adams, A. & Blandford, A. Int J Digit Libr (2004) 4: 71. doi:10.1007/s00799-003-0071-7


The social and organisational aspects of digital libraries (DLs) are often overlooked, but this paper reviews how they can affect users’ awareness and acceptance of DLs. An analysis of research conducted within two contrasting domains (clinical and academic) is presented which highlights issues of user interactions, work practices and organisational social structures. The combined study comprises an analysis of 98 in-depth interviews and focus groups with lecturers, librarians and hospital clinicians. The importance of current and past roles of the library, and how users interacted with it, are revealed. Web-based DLs, while alleviating most library resource and interaction problems, require a change in librarians’ and DL designers’ roles and interaction patterns if they are to be implemented acceptably and effectively. Without this role change, users will at best be unaware of these digital resources and at worst feel threatened by them. The findings of this paper highlight the importance of DL design and implementation of the social context and supporting user communication (i.e., collaboration and consultation) in information searching and usage activities.


Digital libraries User communities Social structures Usability Grounded Theory 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCL Interaction CentreUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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