Timothy W. Cole
Mathematics Librarian and Elaine & Allen Avner Professor in Interdisciplinary Research
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Assistant professor, The iSchool/College of Information Studies
University of Maryland, College Park
Associate University Librarian for Digital Scholarship and Technology Services
Washington University in St. Louis
How do scholars today engage with digitized special collections? Can the use of Linked Open Data (LOD) methods and models facilitate and/or encourage user engagement? As libraries work to implement new cataloging and metadata workflows that make use of emerging LOD-friendly ontologies like BIBFrame and schema.org, user research spanning a range of contexts is needed to help answer these and related questions. This briefing looks at two case studies undertaken to better understand how users engage with digitized special collections hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Collection search interfaces were enhanced to take advantage of LOD-based services and resources. The first study looked at Emblematica Online, a web resource providing integrated discovery of and access to items in six major collections of digitized emblem books from libraries in the US and Europe. Results highlight the importance of user engagement, and suggest that the diverse and complex ways that scholars want to use such collections will require libraries to expand the capabilities of their digital collection platforms and enhance the connectedness of their content. The second study looked at experimental LOD-based enhancements to the Motley Collection of Theater and Costume Design and the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research. This study focused on initial user response to experimental LOD features added to search interfaces. Results suggest that scholars are intrigued by some affordances offered by LOD, but that libraries will need to iteratively engage potential users to optimize the ways that LOD helps connect content and facilitate engagement in varying use contexts. In addition to reflecting on user research they have done to date, presenters will speculate on how libraries can more effectively engage users and gather evidence to inform the evolution of systems that provide access to digitized special collections.