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MADDLAIN - Highlights of the Study Day Inside the User’s Mind

On 22 February 2017, the conference room in the Royal Library in Brussels was packed. Some 200 amateur and professional researchers, in charge of digitization in a heritage institution, archivists or curators of collections, were present to hear the results of the MADDLAIN research project which was carried out for two years by CegeSoma (OD4 – State Archives), the State Archives and the Royal Library. The goal? A better understanding of the practices and digital needs of their different audiences and users with the aim of developing new strategies.

Innovative Instruments to Determine the Needs of the Users

Florence Gillet (CegeSoma), director of the MADDLAIN research.
Florence Gillet (CegeSoma), director of the MADDLAIN research.
The first phase of MADDLAIN was to develop the scientific approach and the methods of analysis. To understand the cognitive behaviour of the users, the researchers of the MADDLAIN team used specific practices and instruments of ICT, sociology or marketing, adjusting them to the context of archive centers and libraries. First, Martin Vanbrabant explained how he implemented the necessary tools for navigational data collection in the different catalogues and websites of the institutions..

Anne Chardonnens
Anne Chardonnens
Anne Chardonnens then tackled her method to use these data by looking at the standard practices of web analytics and in particular the goals, i.e. the evaluation of the creation of the goals set by a website, mostly used by the commercial sector. Jill Hungenaert talked about the methodology used for the creation of qualitative surveys (interviews with personnel of the institutions, online general public surveys) that have resulted in a rich set of data.

Jill Hungenaert
Jill Hungenaert

At the end of these two years of research, several methods were tested to try and determine the trajectory of the users of the concerned institutes' catalogues and websites; their methods of finding information, and also their frustrations and appreciation with regard to the present digital services.

 

 

The MADDLAIN team is eager to exchange these practices with institutions abroad, and therefore seized the opportunity to invite researchers involved in similar projects, in particular St John's College of University of Cambridge and the ministerial service of the Archives de France, that also conducted surveys about the needs of their users.


Professional Method Versus User Method

 Besides the contributions about methods, the MADDLAIN project also paid attention to the practices and needs of the users with regard to digital access to information. First of all, the researchers demonstrated that the methods used by professionals are not necessarily user-friendly. The question remains whether the professionals must adapt themselves to the users or the other way round. It is difficult to give any definitive answer to this question. The MADDLAIN project however, has underlined a few important points: the need to offer online search tools to facilitate users' access to the search engines and catalogues; the urgent need to improve the usability of the search engines while observing simple research methods such as Google (full text, keywords, filters, etc.), and most of all the need to communicate in a clear and transparent manner on the contents of the collections (for example: what we have - what we don't have - what's online - what's not online).


In a world of constant changes, how can one be certain to really respond to the needs of the users? The professionals are too often convinced of the efficiency of their tools and do not listen enough to the users. Professionals should continually test and improve their products and most of all, remember the phrase by Norbert Losseau, 'The success of the library is not measured by when the librarians clap, but when the users do'.


Téléchargez ici toutes les présentations (en version pdf) du colloque.

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