"Reject Perfection": The Impact of User Studies on Born-Digital Collections Access in Libraries, Archives, and Museums (LAMs)
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Within the last five years, innovative technologies, standards, and resources have advanced borndigital access scholarship and practices in libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs). An emerging archival theory of practice, Participatory Archival Research and Development (PAR&D) frames an optimal practitioner participatory research environment needed to continue these advancements, especially for conducting essential born-digital access user studies in collecting institutions. The Digital Library Federation (DLF) Born-Digital Access Working Group (BDAWG) provides an inclusive, academic space to which ‘Reject Perfection’ is the first core value. Library and archive professionals have embraced this philosophical paradigm, incorporating user experience assessments into born-digital access workflows to understand and improve user experiences. Have these studies improved access practices and user experiences? Are there barriers to access that the studies identify? This paper investigates four user studies conducted between 2015-2020 to benchmark the current born-digital collections access landscape through both practitioner and researcher user experiences. Ten LAM professionals, who participated in open-ended interviews, assist in recommending improvements to access and provide strategies for creating a cultural mindset that values user studies. Through shared communities of practice and cross-disciplinary collaborations, especially with museums, the commitment to LAM convergence will actively steward the scholarship needed to develop and sustain ‘best’ or ‘good enough’ born-digital access practices and implementation of user studies.