Spotlight on the digital: how discoverable are your digitised collections?

Over the past few months we’ve been busy setting up Spotlight on the Digital, an eight-month project (Jun 2013-Jan 2014) which Jisc is running in collaboration with RLUK (Research Libraries UK) and SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) as part of the Jisc co-design programme. This is a pilot programme including six projects that was set up to test new approaches to innovation with some of the Jisc key stakeholder organisations.

The need for Spotlight emerged out of the concern that digitised collections are not as “discoverable” as they could be through the channels and devices most commonly accessed by users.

Treasure chest

This represents a missed opportunity for the institutions that have created such collections as it reduces their use, and the potential impact on research and teaching that we know digitised collections can have. Better discoverable digitised collections can also support institutions showcase their assets and increase their profile.

Discoverability is part of the whole challenge of ensuring digitised collections are sustained effectively over time, not a small endeavour. Given this project has a very tight timeframe, we had to be very focused at this initial stage in its aim to:

identify practical solutions that will support Higher Education (HE) institutions enhance the discoverability of their digitised collections for the benefit of their key audiences, in particular researchers, teachers and students.

The solutions will be of two types:
Institutional solutions: these are solutions that can be implemented by individual institutions and are aimed at creators and managers of digitised resources within the HE sector, eg senior librarians and information professionals. They will be delivered through the “Discoverability playbook” (see output #1 below)

National solutions: these are solutions that could be implemented at national level in order to provide more coordinated support and services for institutions. They will be delivered through the “Discoverability national solutions shortlist” and “Discoverability Technical tools specifications” (see output #2 and #3 below)

Spotlight will deliver the following outputs:

1. Discoverability playbook: a decision-making tool which will support creators/managers of digitised resources in identifying the most appropriate discovery tactics to adopt according to the particular context of their collection/s, level of cost, effort and expected impact.

For example, the playbook could contextualise the pros and cons of using a number of discovery tactics (eg Search Engine Optimisation techniques, library discovery services, social media channels…). The playbook will also reference or link to examples of where these tactics have been successful and have made an impact. It is expected that this will be a fairly visual and web-based quick-reference resource.

2. Discoverability national solutions shortlist: a shortlist of possible solutions which if implemented could tackle the discoverability issues identified by this project at a national level. At this stage, the shortlist will be primarily aimed at Jisc and the project’s co-designers for consideration.

3. Discoverability technical tools: these consist of specifications for three technical tools that could be developed in the future to support discovery solutions both at national and/or institutional level. Three innovative, experienced, and tech-savvy HE institutions will be awarded small grants by Jisc (£5000 each) to develop the specifications.

4. Discoverability diagnosis: a web-based assessment, both human and machine-based, of the discoverability of a sample of between 150-200 collections that were digitised in the last 10-15 years. The aim of this output is to “take the pulse” of the current level of discoverability of digitised collections and identify broad patterns, barriers and key “pain points” for discoverability, which will then feed into the identification of appropriate solutions.

We expect the web-based assessment to produce a rich bank of evidence-based data which is likely to answer questions such as: how many collections are still available online? What % of collections performs adequately in relevant searches on the open web or through relevant aggregators? What % of collections displays editorial and technical currency?

Over the next few weeks we’ll be blogging with more information on how we’re running the project, updates, and how people can get involved.

9 replies on “Spotlight on the digital: how discoverable are your digitised collections?”

[…] Spotlight on the Digital is a co-design project which is exploring barriers to the discovery of digitised resources. The starting point is an assessment of a wide range of resources through a Discoverability Diagnosis but equally we need to identify the changing needs of teachers, learners and researchers. To this end we have been drawing up a list of useful literature surrounding these topics. The list is by no means comprehensive and it is not intended to be so. The rather grand title of ‘literature review’ is perhaps overblown, so I will call it a list. Besides informing our musings in general, its primary function is to support the development of use-cases for the following personas: postgraduate researcher, undergraduate student and university lecturer in HEIs. […]

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