Usability Engineering and Technology Integration in Libraries

By Anthony Chow and Tim Bucknall.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Usability can be defined as how effective, efficient, and satisfying a service, product, or system is in meeting the goals of users (Jordan, 2000). Usability engineering is the process of identifying a performance goal or problem and systematically designing a system to solve or address that problem in a usable fashion. Libraries have traditionally served as the intellectual foundation for the communities and patrons they serve and given the proliferation of the Internet, online resources, and the emergence of monolithic for-profit book stores, usability and customer service have become a larger priority. Negotiating how best to assess, analyze, and deliver resources and services in a usable fashion, however, is difficult.

The academic library for a mid-sized public university in the southeastern United States has used a number of different methods to determine the needs of users and the challenge of meeting those needs in a rapidly changing environment. The library has a strategic plan that is frequently updated and identifies clear goals and metrics of performance for each department and the library as a whole. Methods for assessing overall performance and collecting data include annual user surveys, focus groups, analysis of usage statistics, and statistical benchmarking with similar sized libraries and universities.

The effective integration of technology is one of the more significant factors behind a library’s ability to meet the information needs of its users in an effective, efficient, and satisfying manner. The overall usability of these technology services is paramount for the library to attain its overall goals. Our presentation will provide a comprehensive literature review and recommend a process model for delivering and integrating technology in libraries to ensure its services meet the needs of its diverse population and contribute to the overall goal of impacting broader society.

Keywords: Information Science, Usability Engineering, Technology Integration, Library Technology and Automation

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.81-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.704MB).

Dr. Anthony Chow

Assistant Professor, Library and Information Studies Department, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA

Dr. Chow is an Assistant Professor of Information Science in the Department of Library and Information Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His educational background includes a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems (systems design) and MS in Educational Psychology (learning and cognition) and a BS in Developmental Psychology (Philosophy minor) from San Francisco State University. He also served for six years on the information technology faculty at FSU’s College of Information. Dr. Chow’s relevant non-academic professional experience involves serving as an educational consultant specializing in designing and developing online information and evaluation systems, directing the IT for a large academic unit, managing training and quality assurance for an Internet company, overseeing computer based instruction training for a government agency, and Marine Corps officer candidate school. His dissertation was recently published as a book entitled “Systems Thinking and 21st Century Education.”

Tim Bucknall

Assistant Dean, University Libraries, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA

Tim Bucknall is Assistant Dean of Libraries and Head of Electronic Resources and Information Technologies for the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He holds both an M.A. (Art History) and an MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tim is responsible for many significant library innovations, including the first OpenURL link resolver to go into production, and the first large virtual library consortium. He was recently named by Library Journal as one the United States’ leading “Movers and Shakers” within librarianship, and has published and spoken extensively on library information technology, IT management, and effective evaluation of electronic resources and services within libraries.