Friday, 29 February 2008

A study of the information needs of the users of a folk music library and the implications for the design of a digital library system

Charles Inskip, Richard Butterworth and Andrew MacFarlane


A qualitative study of user information needs is reported, based on a purposive sample of users and potential users of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, a small specialist folk music library in North London. The study set out to establish what the users’ (both existing and potential) information needs are, so that the library’s online service may take them into account with its design. The information needs framework proposed by Nicholas [Nicholas, D. (2000) Assessing information needs: tools, techniques and concepts for the internet age. London: ASLIB] is used as an analytical tool to achieve this end. The demographics of the users were examined in order to establish four user groups: Performer, Academic, Professional and Enthusiast. Important information needs were found to be based on social interaction, and key resources of the library were its staff, the concentration of the collection and the library’s social nature. A collection of broad design requirements are proposed based on the analysis and this study also provides some insights into the issue of musical relevance, which are discussed.

Keywords: User information needs; Qualitative interviews; Folk music; Digital library design; Musical relevance

Link to online paper.

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