Posts Tagged ‘digital collections’

My final project in LIS 5053: Information Users in the Knowledge Society involved the preparation of a detailed critique of the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) web site as an information resource and recommendations for improvement.  By analyzing characteristics of the target audience and the web site’s application of information behavior models, cognitive and learning styles, design principles and environmental factors, I evaluated the ICDL web site’s success in meeting user needs.  This blog represents a summary of my findings.


The ICDL is designed primarily for children approximately ages 3 to 13, but also serves the parents, teachers and librarians who seek to provide reading material for these children.  Individuals of any age who are conducting research in the area of children’s literature or are learning a new language may also benefit from the ICDL’s multilingual resources.  Launched in November 2002, this information product provides an online forum for users to browse, search, read and write reviews for children’s books.  The ICDL web site provides access to 3,887 children’s books in 53 different languages (ICDL Fast Facts).  Over one million unique visitors have viewed the web site since its debut, including users from 166 different countries (ICDL Fast Facts).  The variety of the ICDL collection fosters appreciation for cultural diversity and development of a global perspective.  The multitude of languages and cultures represented in the ICDL collection allows readers of almost any cultural or ethnic background to feel a sense of membership and of sharing a common world (Trace 2008, 1542) with other users of this resource.

Information Behavior Models:

The ICDL web site particularly appeals to users whose information behavior maps to the models described by Marcia Bates, David Ellis, Robert Taylor and Sanda Erdelez.  Berrypicking; Starting, Chaining, Browsing, Differentiating, Monitoring and Extracting; Information Retrieval Filters; and Information Encountering are all evident within the ICDL design.

Learning, Thinking and Cognitive Styles Best Served:

The ICDL makes an exemplary effort of accommodating the variety of its users’ learning and cognitive styles.  The concept of cognitive style refers to “a person’s typical or habitual mode of problem solving, thinking, perceiving and remembering” (Riding and Cheema 1991).  The ICDL best serves visualizers, verbalizers, reflective and impulsive users, convergent and divergent thinkers, holist and serialist thinkers, analytics, abstract sequential learners, abstract random learners, concrete sequential learners, concrete random learners, field dependent and independent users, and all types of thinkers identified by Li-fang Zhang and Robert Sternberg.


The ICDL web site is a fun, vibrant information resource for children and the adults who work with them.  The content, organization and design of the ICDL web site exhibit a remarkable amount of consideration for the needs of diverse users with a wide variety of cognitive and physical preferences and abilities.  Nonetheless, a few improvements could significantly enhance the accessibility and utility of this resource.

1. Provide Audio Format for All Books in the ICDL Collection

Offering an audio version of each book in the ICDL collection would enhance accessibility for users with auditory perceptual modality preferences (Keefe 1987, 8 ) or with visual disabilities.  An audio format for content would reinforce the experience for linguistic learners who learn best by saying, seeing and hearing words (Learning Disabilities Resource Community 2002) and verbal learners who absorb information more easily when it is presented in written and spoken format (Felder and Soloman n.d.).  Users who are learning to read a given language can access information in that language by having it read to them, even when no fluent speakers of that language are physically present to assist them.  An audio component would also assist users with disabilities like dyslexia and aphasia, who often have difficulty reading.  Users could choose to have the book read aloud in its entirety or page by page by clicking an audio button located either on the About This Book page or on the book page-viewing screen.  Including a pictorial representation of an ear or speaker on the button would express the purpose of this feature to visualizers (Riding and Cheema 1991), and listing the words “hear it” beneath would clarify the purpose for users with limited literacy skills.  The ICDL currently offers audio content for only five books.  This burgeoning effort is applauded and should be expanded to include the entire collection.

2. Provide Video Format for All Books in the ICDL Collection

A video component would enhance accessibility for users with visual and interpersonal preferences as well as users with both literacy and auditory limitations.  Making a video recording of a child reading the selected book aloud while another child or adult interprets the words in sign language would allow deaf users with low literacy skills to enjoy the books in the ICDL collection.  The visual stimulus of seeing other people engaged in reading books from the collection will also appeal to users with external or interpersonal learning styles, who are only minimally served through this resource at present.  If the user clicks the video icon, a small video window would appear in the bottom corner of the screen while the remainder of the screen would display the page currently being read.  Additionally, highlighting each word as it is read or signed would help children identify the sound of or sign for the word with its textual representation.  Currently the web site only provides four video clips about the creation and design of the ICDL.   

Of course, audio and video enhancements may be cost prohibitive.  Perhaps students working towards a degree in deaf education or an interpreter’s license could be recruited for video production with the incentive of receiving credit towards their degrees.  Audio and video applications should not be designed to play automatically as this would slow the time required for pages to load.  Users should be able to select these features by clicking a button or opt to not use these applications.  ICDL could utilize plug-ins such as RealPlayer or Windows Media Player to provide these features.

3. Provide Textual Content for All Books in More Languages

While the ICDL makes an exemplary effort to provide some information services in a wide array of languages, many books in the ICDL collection are only available in one language.  The ICDL’s presence on the Internet makes it internationally accessible to users, most of which only speak one or two languages fluently.  Offering all ICDL books in multiple languages would expand access to users not comfortable or fluent in a book’s original language of publication.  However, translating each book would require ICDL staff to secure permission from each author and/or publisher, which may be difficult if not impossible in some instances.  The ICDL currently has several books with text available in more than one language, although the majority of books are only available in one language.  While current progress is commendable, efforts should be continued to provide all web site and collection content in as many languages as possible.

4. Provide Search Box in Consistent Location on All Web Site Pages

The ICDL does not provide a search box on all web site pages.  The search box tool is very familiar to users with even a basic level of Internet experience.  Keyword searching will appeal to verbalizers and help to orient them within an exceedingly image-rich web site.  Providing access to this tool on every page within the ICDL web site will enhance site navigation and searching capabilities.  The search box provides another means by which users can recover from navigational errors and allows users to locate desired content regardless of memorability issues.  Placing the search box in one consistent location on each page will enhance the learnability of the web site.


Bates, Marcia J. 1989. The design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface. Online Review 13 (5): 407-24.

Ellis, David. 1989. A behavioural approach to information retrieval system design. Journal of Documentation 45 (September): 171-212.

——. 2005. Ellis’s model of information-seeking behavior. In Theories of information behavior, ed. Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez, and Lynne McKechnie, 138-42. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Erdelez, Sanda. 2005. Information encountering. In Theories of information behavior, ed. Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez, and Lynne McKechnie, 179-84. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Felder, Richard M. and Barbara A. Soloman. (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies. http://www.4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm.

Keefe, James W. 1987. Learning style: An overview.  In Learning style: Theory and practice, 3-15. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Krug, Steve. 2006. Don’t make me think: A common sense approach to Web usability. 2nd ed. Berkeley: New Riders Publishing.

Learning Disabilities Resource Community. 2002. Multiple intelligence inventory. http://www.ldrc.ca/projects/miinventory/miinventory.php?eightstyles=1.

Nielsen, Jakob. 2003a. Homepage real estate allocation. Alertbox 10 February.

——. 2003b. Usability 101: Introduction to usability. Alertbox 25 August.

North Carolina State University. College of Design. Center for Universal Design. 2008. About UD: Universal design principles. http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/udprincipleshtmlformat.html#top

Rayner, Stephen and Richard Riding. 1997. Toward a categorization of cognitive styles and learning styles. Educational Psychology 17 (1/2): 1-24.

Riding, Richard and Indra Cheema. 1991. Cognitive styles- An overview and integration. Educational Psychology 11 (3/4): 193-215.

Sadler-Smith, Eugene. 1997. Learning style: Frameworks and instruments. Educational Psychology 17 (1/2): 51-63.

Taylor, Robert S. 1968. Question-negotiation and information seeking in libraries. College and Research Libraries 29 (May): 178-94.

Trace, Ciaran B. 2008. Resistance and the underlife: Informal written literacies and their relationship to human information behavior. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59 (August): 1540-54.

Wooldridge, Blue. 1995. Increasing the effectiveness of university/college instruction: Integrating the results of learning style research into course design and delivery. In The importance of learning styles, ed. Ronald R. Sims and Sebrenia J. Sims, 49-67. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Zhang, Li-fang and Robert J. Sternberg. 2005. A threefold model of intellectual styles. Educational Psychology Review 17 (March): 1-53.

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Here is a digital collection for EveryMan: a place of preservation and dissemination of the images, stories and humor of rural farm life in Ohio.

The digitial divide still exists, but the point of crossing over–where analog culture first embraces the digital–is a facinating place.

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My friend Cat is working on her Scientific Illustration degree at the University of California Extension in Santa Cruz, and she recently sent me a link about the Orphan Works Act of 2008 (H.R.5889), introduced April 24, 2008.  According to the Illustrators’ Partnership of America (IPA), this Act defines the term orphan work to mean:

“any copyrighted work whose author any infringer says he is unable to locate with what the infringer himself decides has been a ‘reasonably diligent search.'”  

The IPA says:

“the bill has a disproportionate impact on visual artists because it is common for an artist’s work to be published without credit lines or because credit lines can be removed by others…”

Digital editing software makes this easy to do with any images available online.  (Unless perhaps an application like copyright monkey can protect the image from being copied and edited?)

This Act will force visual artists to subsidize registries using image recognition technology, and register all of the images they wish to protect as their intellectual property, at considerable cost to the visual artist.  According to the IPA:

“These databases would become one-stop shopping centers for infringers to search for royalty-free art. Any images not found in the registries could be considered orphans.”

Here is the U.S. Copyright Office’s information on Orphan Works.  On the one hand, defining orphan works and allowing works to be declared “orphans” after performing due dilligence toward locating the creator will allow libraries, museums and archives to create digital copies of works to which access must otherwise be extremely limited–works that may be disintegrating and require digital preservation, or works that could be extremely valuable to globally dispersed information seekers, but cannot be digitized due to unknown intellectual property rights.  My instinct is to support legislation that will facilitate preservation and increased access to valuable resources that are stuck in a legal limbo.  But it appears that the legislation, as it stands, could create some significant problems for visual artists.  Illustrators of children’s books are just one of the groups potentially impacted by this bill–a population in which I have some interest as a children’s-librarian-in-training.

The Illustrators’ Partnership of America has a blog about the Orphan Works issue here.  I’m grateful to Cat for directing my attention to this angle of the issue.

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Today I spent five and a half hours sifting through photographs with my mother and grandparents, selecting content and collecting metadata for my digital collection.  I think I ended up with about 25 photographs taken by my grandfather or a deceased family member.  I couldn’t believe how many albums and boxes of photographs my grandparents have!  I’m really developing an appreciation for the meticulousness of this kind of genealogical data collection.

After reading this blogpost and exchanging collection plans with my classmate Vernell, I’m finding my understanding of copyright to still be a little fuzzy in some areas.  If a photograph is taken by a professional photographer, do the rights to that photograph pass into the public domain 70 years after the creator’s death, or do the rights to the photograph belong to the studio indefinitely?  If the photography studio no longer exists, do the rights belong to the inheritors of the studio for longer than the 70-years-after-creator’s-death time period?  I found professional wedding photos of my great grandparents, circa 1910, and while I’m certain that the photographer has been dead for 70 years or very close to it, I’m not certain if the rights to these photos still belong to a studio or not.

Another interesting case: I found a newspaper article published circa 1950, including a photo that belongs to my great grandmother.  The photo is of my great grandmother and her classmates outside their school house, taken in 1900 or 1901, according to the newspaper article.  I did not find the original photograph in my searching, just the newspaper copy.  So I wonder, can I include this article and photo copy in my collection, since the original photograph would be in the public domain?  Or would this be an infringement, since the newspaper article may still be under copyright?  I will post these questions on our class website to see if any of my clever classmates can help me answer them.

I will have to set another date to collect audio recordings of family members’ oral history.  I figured out how to use my new digital recording device (despite the fact it came with no instructions! Ha!), and I managed to install the Audacity audio file editing software on my computer, along with the required LAME code needed to convert files into mp3 format.  As clueless as I feel about so many technological applications, I’m very proud of myself today!

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After further discussion with Doc Martens, I have more confidence in my digital collections project.  My plan is to create a collection of photographs and sound recordings of my maternal relatives, along with a family tree going back to my great-great grandparents (if possible), to capture genealogical information and some of the oral history of my family.  For a while I was afraid I would be unable to use some of my grandparents’ most interesting photographs, such as my grandfather and his classmates standing in front of their one-room Pennsylvania school house, circa 1925.  According to Copyright.gov, all works created prior to 1979 are under copyright until 70 years after the creator’s death.  Since we don’t know who took some of my grandparents’ pictures, or when the photographer died, I was afraid they would be unusable.  But Doc Martens said that orphan works created by someone most certainly dead would be acceptable to include in my collection.

I have three CDs of my grandfather and his cousin Lyle telling stories from their childhood and some experiences from WWII that I want to harvest for my collection.  Since Lyle died several years ago, again I was concerned I couldn’t use his stories for my collection, being unable to ask his permission.  But since I asked my grandfather and Lyle to make the recordings for the purpose of preservation and to collect facts for a book I hoped to write one day, Doc Martens felt using the sound recordings would be admissable.  I couldn’t find any guiding information on the matter on the Oral History Association website, but I’m certain Lyle wouldn’t have minded me using his stories for this purpose.  He shared them with me because he wanted to share them with the world.  This project will allow me to do more towards that end than I have in the last ten years.  I haven’t given up on writing the book, but I’m not sure I have enough material.  All the more reason to encourage my grandfather to record more stories.

I bought a cheap mp3 player with a built-in microphone that will supposedly allow me to record and transfer the audio files to my computer for editing.  I need to break it out and see if I can figure out how it works.

Having played with the collection platform Omeka a bit more, I’m a little disappointed that one can’t apparently view the photograph and the associated metadata in the same screen.  Unless I’m missing something.  I’m not certain that Omeka is going to allow the organization scheme I had envisioned, but I don’t know everything about how it operates yet.  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  If not, I’ll at least learn something from my frustration, I’m sure.

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Reading the article “Digital Collection Management through the Library Catalog,” by Michaela Brenner for my Digital Collections class, I got to wondering if applications like NoveList could be integrated into a public library’s OPAC.  Say a customer pulled up a record for a certain novel in the OPAC, and wanted to search for similar novels.  Instead of having to go looking for NoveList under the “Books and Reading” tab on the TCCL website (assuming the customer knew it was there), and then having to search for the first novel, and then search for similar novels, what if there was a hyperlink on the book’s OPAC record that said something like, “Find similar books with NoveList”? 

Clicking on the hyperlink should probably first notify the customer that they are navigating away from the library OPAC, then ask for the customer’s library card number if not already provided.  Then NoveList should open not on its home page, but on the page listing characteristics of the first book, where the customer can select which characteristics they are looking for in another book.  The hyperlink would provide a shortcut for customers, as well as promote an often overlooked resource by listing it at the bottom of every record for every work of fiction.  I wonder how complicated that would be to set up? 

What would be the drawbacks of such an arrangement?  Would providing a link to NoveList be similar to providing a link to Amazon?  I think it’s different because NoveList is not a vendor like Amazon.  NoveList may suggest books that are not in the local library system, but customers could still request them through interlibrary loan.  Plus it seems many public libraries have already aligned chosen to promote NoveList over other applications by offering NoveList on their websites.  Perhaps because NoveList was developed by librarians.

Subject Switch:  While thinking about my digital collection project, I’ve been looking at the Walter Stanley Campbell collection of Native American photographs in OU’s Western History Collections.  I wish the photogrphs could be viewed larger, and I wish there was more detail about each picture, such as where the photo was taken, who took the photo, and some details about the subject of the photo.  I mean, who was Arapaho sub-chief Yellow Bear?  Maybe this information is available elsewhere, but more detail or a link to additional information might improve accessability.  My goal is to collect as much information as I can about my grandparents’ photographs, but of course, there is much they may not remember.  Guess we’ll see what happens.

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In chapter 5 of Lesk’s Understanding Digital Libraries, Lesk mentions that in cataloging systems such as the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress, each book can be placed in only one catagory “since the shelf location is determined by the class number” (p. 121).  Even if a library has multiple copies of a book, collocation is important because users will be annoyed if they have to look in multiple places for a certain book.

We were talking about collection organization in my Readers Advisory class, as far as the pros and cons of separating or integrating genre fiction from/with the general fiction.  Customers who never browse in certain sections, like the sci-fi/fantasy section, are more likely to expand their reading horizons and check out a previously untried genre when the books are intershelved.  However, other readers who want to browse in a specific genre are frustrated when they have to search for their desired genre among other genres.  Several Tulsa Public Libraries are intershelving westerns with general fiction.  It seems that I read about users being frustrated with this arrangement in another library system–I wonder what Tulsa’s customers think about this intershelving?

It strikes me that a benefit of digital libraries is that one resource can be accessed under a number of subject headings, and the location of the information package online is less likely to hinder access.  A link to a western mystery story can be placed under westerns and under mysteries.  The story is never checked out (unless perhaps it’s an ebook with limited access), so users do not have to look in multiple places; it’s always in both places.  This may seem exceedingly obvious, but it hadn’t occured to me until the Lesk chapter, our Readers Advisory discussion, and the difficulty of my latest library search triangulated in my brain.

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