Undergraduate students currently enrolled in US universities represent the first generations to grow up with the digital technologies developed and disseminated in the last decades of the 20th century. Having spent their entire lives using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, email, instant messaging, and all the other tools and toys of contemporary technology, they think differently (Prensky, December 2001). As a consequence, today’s students are not the people that the US educational system was designed to teach (Prensky, October 2001). It is also the case that traditional design approaches are insufficient for developing enabling information management and knowledge creation tools in contemporary digital teaching library environments.

Therefore, drawing from human-information interaction (HII) principles and practices (Morville, 2005), librarians at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California created a collaborative design approach involving users in the production of digital library teaching and learning resources and technology-enabled infrastructure. In this paper, we report on a unique approach to user studies and system evaluation as exemplified by student framed, student conducted, and student interpreted research findings which inform disciplinary digital research portal design and development efforts. In addition, we describe research-in-progress which involves students in investigating and reporting results that, in this case, inform the construction and population of a physical and virtual learning commons within the Digital Teaching Library initiative.

Throughout, a wide array of research methodologies, including focus groups, usability studies, rapid prototyping, and survey instruments, have been employed in the spirit of “appreciative design” (Norum, 2001). In addition, an action research orientation ensures real world benefits, even as it promotes the organizational learning and relationship building necessary to allow the organization to respond to challenges and opportunities in an increasingly dynamic digital library environment.


Library and Information Science



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/lib_fac/24