“If I Can’t Find It, I Can’t Use It.” Some Practical Solutions to Ensure Your Digital Resources Are Easy to Discover

This presentation will discuss the results of a recent study into the discoverability of digitised collections, Spotlight on the Digital http://digitisation.jiscinvolve.org/wp/category/spotlight/, which was carried out by Jisc in partnership with RLUK (Research Libraries UK) and SCONUL (Society of Colleges, National and University Libraries) during June 2013-Jan 2014.

The project emerged out of the concern that digitised collections are not as easy for users to find as they could be, which inhibits their potential for use by researchers, teachers and learners and limits the impact that collections can have on education and research.

Spotlight sought to:

  1. assess challenges to the discoverability of digitised collections

  2. identify practical solutions that will improve discoverability

The study drew on a number of sources of evidence in an intensive period of research between Jul-Dec 2013. These included the engagement of an Expert group of library managers, curators and academics as ‘critical friends’; a literature review on user discovery behaviours; a web-based assessment of over 200 collections that were digitised over the last 15 years; focus groups; and a library online survey.

Among the key findings of the study was that a number of digitised “collections” become “lost to the web over time (about 20% of the sample examined) and that about 50% of digitised “items” are not discoverable through a Google search by either item name or title.

This is worrying, not only from the point of view of the human and financial resources that have gone into the creation of such resources, but above all because, if they are not be found, they become unavailable to researchers, students and other potential interested parties. This is a particularly pressing issue within the digital humanities, as a lot of digitisation activity in the last decades has taken place in the areas of arts and humanities.

The presentation will also showcase a “nuts and bolts” good practice guide that the project produced, Make your digital resources easier to discover http://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/make-your-digital-resources-easier-to-discover, which contains practical advice on a range of things that can be done to improve discoverability. It will also discuss suggestions for above-campus solutions that could support creators and managers of digital resources, such as a variety of tools and services.

The paper aligns in particular with the conference theme on “best practice and case studies for data creation… sustainability and accessibility”.