An ethnographic study of music information seeking: implications for the design of a musical digital library

Cunningham, S. J., Reeves, N., Britland, M. (2003) C. C. Marshall, G. Henry and L. Delcambre (eds), Proc Third ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL’03), Houston, Texas, 5-17. IEEE Computer Society, Los Alamitos, California.

At present, music digital library systems are being developed based on anecdotal evidence of user needs, intuitive feelings for user information seeking behavior, and a priori assumptions of typical usage scenarios. Emphasis has been placed on basic research into music document representation, efficient searching, and audio-based searching, rather than on exploring the music information needs or information behavior of a target user group. This paper focuses on eliciting the ’native’ music information strategies employed by people searching for popular music (that is, music sought for recreational or enjoyment purposes rather than to support a ’serious’ or scientific exploration of some aspect of music). To this end, we conducted an ethnographic study of the searching/browsing techniques employed by people in the researchers’ local communities, as they use two common sources of music: the public library and music stores. We argue that the insights provided by this type of study can inform the development of searching/browsing support for music digital libraries.