Impact of Interface Characteristics on Digital Libraries Usage

The fundamental reason for building digital libraries is belief that it will provide better delivery of  information than was not possible in the past. The major advantages of digital libraries over traditional libraries include:

  1. Digital libraries bring the libraries closer to the users: Information are brought to the users, either at home or work, making it more accessible, and increases its usage. This is very much different that traditional libraries where the users have to physically go to the library.
  2. Computer technology is used for searching and browsing: Computer systems are better than manual methods for finding information. It is useful for reference work that involves repeated leaps from one source of information to another.
  3. Information can be shared: Placing digital information on a network makes it available to everyone. Many digital libraries are maintained at a single central site.This is a vast improvement over expensive physical duplication of little used material, or the inconvenience of unique material that is inaccessible without traveling to the location where it is stored.
  4. Information is always available: The digital library’s doors will never close; usage of digital libraries’ collections can be done at hours when the library buildings are closed. Materials are never checked-out, missed-shelve, or stolen. In traditional libraries, information is much more likely to be available when and where the user wants it.
  5. New forms of information become possible: A database may be the best way to record and disseminate information. Whereas conventional libraries are printed on paper, yet print is not always the best way to record and disseminate information.

Digital libraries would definitely facilitate research work and this should be accepted mainly by those involved in the field of research. However, recent studies showed that people still prefer to read from paper despite the progress in technology. Today with many people searching for new knowledge and information, the Internet is expected to take on board the role of the human intermediary. There is also an expectation that people are digitally literate. On the other hand, some end-users do not always have the literacy to search the Internet effectively for information. The problem is compounded by the fact the Internet as a whole is not well organized and information retrieval is inevitably a difficult and time consuming process.

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