Article: Exploring Usefulness and Usability in the Evaluation of Open Access Digital Libraries

Citation: Tsakonas, G., & Papatheodorou, C. (2008). Exploring usefulness and usability in the evaluation of open access digital libraries. Information Processing and Management, 44: 1234-1250. [url]

This article explores the usability of OA digital libraries (DLs). Unlike many articles which feature the evaluation of scholarly websites, which tend to use accessibility-related tools, the focus of this is on usability, specifically with the Interaction Tryptich Framework (ITF), a model for evaluation which considers systems as interactions across various ‘axes’, defined here as usability, usefulness, and usability, between the system’s elements, which in this case are the DL, its content, and the user (p. 1237).

A chart showing digital libraries as interactions along the axes of usability, usefulness, and performance
the Interaction Tryptich Framework for Digital Libraries

Like most articles which examine accessibility and usability, the authors are interested in one particular digital library: E-LIS, a library science repository running on the eprints system. Unlike accessibility-focused articles, at least, the site was measured not through the use of automated tools or testing, but by means of a questionnaire filled out by the DL’s users. A regression analysis was then carried out on each category to get an idea of the general success of each axis.

The authors give some general conclusions about users’ expectations with regards to the usability and usefuless of E-LIS content, but seem to have no specific insights in regards to how the results might be applied more broadly to designing usable and useful DLs which perform well.

Given that the article is focused on usability, not accessibility as such, its conclusions may be of limited use to those interested in web accessibility. However, the difference of approach and the exploration of the ITF may be of use to researchers looking to apply different paradigms to accessibility evaluation.