Information Architecture and Digital Libraries (Part 3)

Information Architecture and Digital Libraries Part 2” discussed the importance of understanding the information environment when delivering an information service in a digital space. Information needs inform the three focus areas – context, content and users – of defining an approach to information architecture design for a digital library.

Information architecture is most concerned with increasing ‘findability’ of content within a shared, information space. (Batley, 2007, p. 3)…….What is findability?

You know what? I can’t define ‘findability’. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a definition. Where ‘findability’ is discussed in the literature, I’ve found only descriptions and discussions about what may make up or determine it. How can I discuss something I cannot define (yet)?

Okay, I’ll take a slight side step and let you in on some feedback I’ve received for my paper. Attempting to identify relationships between key concepts of information architecture into an over arching framework was, in the marker’s words, brave. Certainly brave to do so in under 3000 words. If my framework is it be solid, for lack of a better word, or well developed, I need definitions of key concepts. With this said, I don’t think my thinking around key information architecture concepts are completely lost or illogical. What I’m trying to achieve is to separate the key concepts in a way which defines each of their roles as they contribute to information architecture practice and design. To discuss key concepts separately is definitely a challenge…..and I do love challenges.

So here goes….

Findability

Findability. If I break down the term I would think it to mean that content is able to be found within a system. The focus here then is to provide or enable this ability. An understanding of the information environment will ultimately determine what makes content findable. Measuring or evaluating how findable content is, will be different in each scenario. A definition for findabiity will be dependent on the context in which the library is situated – expectations of the system, technology used and available in the organisation, (in the case of an engineering technical library) operational and regulatory requirements and business objectives – as well as the content the library holds in the collection and how it is managed and maintained (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2007, p. 25). Findability is then firstly achieved with an appropriate response to the library’s information environment. Secondly, findability is achieved with organising, classifying and describing content – effectively, content management practices.

Content management involved in library management and information architecture practices, underpin the entire library system architecture (Batley, 2007, p. 145). Core concepts involved in content management, more like content maintenance, are: –

  • Indexes and indexing
  • Classification
  • Cataloguing
  • User-centred design

(Batley, 2007, p. 4-9).

The diagram below depicts the relationship between understanding the information environment (which informs the focus and approach) and content management practices to achieve findability.

Metadata

Establishing findability requires identifying how each item or document type can be distinguished from another. Findability lies in the ‘groundwork’ of library processes and practices. That is, the library content’s metadata. For an engineering technical (digital) library, appropriate and consistent selection of metadata used to catalogue each technical document increases control and improves management of the collection (Batley, 2007, p. 143). As metadata is usually associated with resource discovery and retrieval, there is no doubt of the direct influence metadata selected for resource description has on the possible ways in which the resource can be searched within the digital library system (Batley, 2007, p. 144).

I can now start to see the concept of findability take some shape….

Focus: resource discovery and retrieval.

Orientation: context and content.

Achieved by: library’s understanding of and response to the information environment, in the form of appropriate content management processes and practices.

Morville, P. & Rosenfeld, L. (2007). Information Architecture for the World Wide Web (3rd ed.). CA, USA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Batley, S. (2007). The I in information architecture: the challenge of content management. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 59(2), 139-151.

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