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The emergence of digital services in the Scottish public library sector: a survey

McMenemy, D. and Buchanan, S. (2010) The emergence of digital services in the Scottish public library sector: a survey. In: Internet Librarian 2010, 2010-10-14 - 2010-10-15. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In an era of unprecedented technological innovation and evolving user expectations and information seeking behaviour (Leong, 2008; Parry, 2008), a review of emerging public library (PL) digital services is important and timely. We are now an online society, with digital services increasingly common and increasingly preferred (Tonta, 2008). As a trusted source of public information, PLs are in an advantageous position to respond. However, evidence suggests that many PL websites are little more than 'digitised leaflets' or directory listings within parent local authority (LA) websites (Harden, 2007; McMenemy, 2007), and a recent UK report found that while overall visitor numbers to such LA websites increased by 21.7% in 2009, user satisfaction dropped by 18% (Socitm, 2010). An associated issue is how to present digital information to the public 'without confusion, duplication of effort and in a user friendly way' (Atherton, 2002), particularly common services with shared goals such as lifelong learning, community development, and health & wellbeing. Challenges include limited definition of digital services and PL role, the nascent state of digital service design (Williams et al, 2008), and limited empirical evidence of digital collaboration, or broader evaluations of PL Internet services (Aitta, 2007). We believe this to be the first extensive survey of its kind, which comprehensively identifies and reports on emerging PL digital services across a devolved jurisdiction of the UK, encompassing 32 PLs. Extent and range of digital services is identified, including emergent trends, and the role of the PL as either content provider or access provider.