D-Lib Magazine
January 1997

ISSN 1082-9873

Clips and Pointers

Workshop Summary: UCLA-NSF Workshop on Social Aspects of Digital Libraries

Christine L. Borgman, University of California, Los Angeles

This National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded workshop brought together 32 scholars, researchers, and practitioners from the emerging community concerned with social aspects of digital libraries, plus the 8 UCLA investigators (Marcia J. Bates, Christine L. Borgman, Michele V. Cloonan, Efthimis N. Efthimiadis, Anne J. Gilliland-Swetland, Yasmin B. Kafai, Gregory H. Leazer, and Anthony B. Maddox). Our goals were to assess existing knowledge that might inform research in this area and to propose a research agenda that would pose new questions.

We organized the workshop content and selected the participants around two social aspects of digital libraries: information needs, and end-user searching and filtering. In their position papers and in on-site discussions, workshop participants quickly expanded the topical boundaries in several directions. Rather than focusing solely on the individual user who interacts with a digital library, we considered also the group, organization, and community activities and concerns which give rise to information-related behavior. We expanded our interest in information storage and retrieval to include preceding and succeeding phases, incorporating the processes of creating, using, and disposing of information.

Based on the wide-ranging discussions in the workshop, the final report proposes a definition of digital libraries that encompasses two complementary ideas, one emphasizing that they extend and enhance existing information storage and retrieval systems, incorporating digital data and metadata in any form; the other emphasizing that design, policy, and practice should reflect the social context in which they exist. We propose an information life cycle model to illustrate the flow of human activities in creating, searching, and using information and the stages through which information artifacts may pass: activity, inactivity, and disposal.

Research issues raised in the workshop were organized into three foci: human-centered, artifact-centered, and systems-centered. We recommend that research be conducted on these themes, that scholars from multiple disciplines be encouraged to develop joint projects, that scholars and practitioners work together, and that digital libraries be developed and evaluated in operational, as well as experimental, work environments. Only in this way can we build digital libraries to support diverse communities of users in their professional, educational, and recreational activities.

The UCLA-NSF Social Aspects of Digital Libraries Workshop web page includes the final report, the list of attendees, position papers, the UCLA background paper, and links to other sites and materials.


In Print

Goings On