Digital Natives and Specialised Digital Libraries: A Study of Europeana Users
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The alignment of user needs with the technical capabilities of modern digital libraries is an area attracting the interest of researchers and practitioners. Europeana, conceived with the intention of offering a single access point to European cultural heritage, has been developed in recent years with a continuous effort to identify and respond to the needs of a range of users. This paper presents a study of two user communities – young people and the general public. The study, conducted between October 2009 and January 2010, comprised a series of focus groups and media labs in Bulgaria, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. A distinctive aspect of this study is that it combines questionnaire-based and verbal feedback gathered from users with evidence of user actions whilst undertaking a well-defined task. The paper presents the context and the methodology of the study, and some of the data gathered within the study which helps to understand better the attitude of digital natives towards specialised digital libraries. The data analysis supports several conclusions: specialised digital libraries require strong advocacy to target the “digital natives”1 generation which tends to prefer general purpose search engines to specialised resources; young users are confident that they know how to use advanced search yet there is little evidence of their applying these skills in contrast to general public users; the perception of digital libraries differs in groups from different countries. The study contributes to the better understanding of some behavioural characteristics of users of digital libraries.