Usability testing in libraries: Methods, limitations, and implications

Jennifer Emanuel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Usability studies are a form of library evaluation that are often passed off as research. However, at its core, usability is an evaluation method, not a research method. The goal is to make an argument that usability studies can be a valid form of scholarly research if certain limitations inherent in usability studies are addressed in the research design. Design/methodology/approach: Through evaluating literature in the social sciences, this paper makes an argument for usability as a research method if certain limitations inherent within usability testing are addressed. Findings: Usability is not only an evaluation method, but when limitations are addressed; it can be considered an important research tool within libraries. Originality/value: No other article in the library and information sciences literature talks about methodologies for usability. Most usability articles do not address methodologies utilized in a way that would be considered research in a broader social sciences context. This article bridges the gap from when usability is considered evaluation to when it is considered research within library science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-217
Number of pages14
JournalOCLC Systems and Services
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • Limitations
  • Qualitative research
  • Quantitative research
  • Research methods
  • Usability testing
  • User-centred design
  • Web site evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Education
  • Library and Information Sciences


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