Research Projects


The goal of the bioinformatics research group is to understand how users seek out bioinformatics knowledge, how they make use of this information, how bioinformatics information and knowledge should best be structured and how to construct user interfaces that best support bioinformatician's information seeking and use.

Principal Investigators: Brad Hemminger

Building the Future of Archival Education and Research

With this grant, the University of California, Los Angeles, along with its partners the University of Maryland; University of Michigan; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas; Simmons College; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will address the shortage of professors in archival science by providing doctoral fellowships in archival-related topics. To strengthen the growing network of archival educators in library and information science programs, this project will also develop three annual, week-long, workshops for students, faculty, and working archivists to address pedagogical techniques, research methodology, and curriculum development, as well as technical and social issues relevant to the field. SILS will host the 2011 summer workshop.

Principle Investigator: Helen Tibbo

Count Your Steps

The “Count Your Steps to Success” project provides public access to health information by offering SILS pedometers and health programs in collaboration with libraries across the state of North Carolina. The campaign sequentially began as a result of Dr. Mary Grace Flaherty’s research project, “Assessing Health Information Resource Use in NC Public Libraries.” In an effort to better understand public access to health information in libraries, Dr. Flaherty visited 60 public libraries in North Carolina and conducted in-person interviews with library directors to determine frequency of health queries; areas covered by those queries; librarian attitudes toward handling health questions; knowledge and interest in skills training and preferences and resources used to answer health questions. The finding of her research sparked a state-wide campaign to help engage the public in healthy habits through local libraries. Learn more of Dr. Flaherty’s research here.

Developing Standardized Metrics: Towards Understanding the Impact of College and University Archives and Special Collections on Scholarship, Teaching, and Learning.

A collaboration of the University of Michigan’s School of Information (Dr. Elizabeth Yakel), the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information (Dr. Wendy Duff), and SILS (Dr. Helen Tibbo) this Andrew Mellon Foundation funded project seeks to promote a culture of assessment in the archival domain by creating standardized user-based evaluation tools and other performance measures. By centralizing the development of these tools we help archivists and records managers overcome impediments to implementing assessment and improvement programs. Some managers, for example, may not undertake evaluation activities because of heavy existing workloads and lack of expertise. Our project has shouldered the research, testing, and coordination part of assessment, allowing archivists and managers to focus on accurate data collection and reporting, analysis of local success and failure, and implementing plans for improvement.

Our user-based evaluation toolkits, are ready-made packages that include validated, tested questionnaires, administration and coding instructions, and sample reports illustrating how to effectively communicate study results to others. Created explicitly for university archives and special collections, these toolkits help repositories assess how well they support teaching, research and learning. Another toolkit, the Repository of Archival Metrics (ROAM), is an effort to standardize the types of statistics and measures college and university archives should collect to understand the volume and character of their use and the quality of their user services. Adoption of these standardized measures will support the movement to allow repositories to compare their performance with others' thereby identifying best practices, and helping all institutions improve their user services.

Principle Investigator: Helen Tibbo

DigCCurr - Preserving Access to Our Digital Future: Building an International Digital Curation Curriculum

This three-year, collaborative project seeks to develop an openly accessible, graduate-level curricular framework, course modules, and experiential and enrichment components and exemplars necessary to prepare students to work in the 21st century environment of trusted digital and data repositories.

Principal Investigator: Helen Tibbo and Cal Lee

DigCCurrII: DigCCurr II: Extending an International Digital Curation Curriculum to Doctoral Students and Practitioners

DigCCurr II seeks to develop an international, doctoral-level curriculum and educational network in the management and preservation of digital materials across their life cycle. This project will prepare future faculty to perform research and teach in this area, as well as provide summer institutes for cultural heritage information professionals already working in this arena.

Principal Investigator: Helen Tibbo and Cal Lee

Digital Libraries Curriculum Development Project

SILS and the Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science (with funding from the National Science Foundation) have been developing a curriculum for teaching digital libraries topics, in both undergraduate and graduate education, in both information and library science (ILS) and computer science (CS) programs. The framework of the proposed curriculum and a number of curricular modules are available at the project website. While the project funding has come to an end, members of the digital library community are invited to contribute to further development of the curriculum at the Wikiversity site, Curriculum on Digital Libraries.

Principal Investigators: Barbara Wildemuth and Jeffrey Pomerantz

Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD)

Our goal is to change from paper to electronic theses and dissertations at UNC, with the result of making UNC research more visible, more accessible and more easily produced. Additionally, changing from paper to ETDs would be at least cost neutral, if not a cost savings. It also provides students with valuable electronic publishing experience.

Principal Investigator: Brad Hemminger


The GovStat Project seeks to create an integrated model of user access to and use of U.S. government statistical information that is rooted in realistic data models and innovative user interfaces.

Our vision of integration ultimately aims to make resident-government interactions in the statistical data realm more of a partnership rather than strictly a one-way dissemination of information.

Principal Investigators: Stephanie W. Haas and Gary Marchionini 

Managing the Digital University Desktop

The mission of the project is to study computer file management practices in academic units and administrative offices at UNC at Chapel Hill, across the 16-campus UNC System and at Duke University.

This research will produce tools that will attempt to help us all manage our computer files and email better and to preserve the universities' digital institutional memory.

Principal Investigators: Helen Tibbo and Timothy Pyatt


NeoRef is an archive for any digital original material including articles, research notes, books, genetic sequences, and concepts, and for derived data including indexing, reviews, claims. Its intent is to show how all scholarly materials can be stored, searched and retrieved conveniently without the need for the traditional framework of publishers and review systems.

Principal Investigator: Brad Hemminger

NHPRC Electronic Records Research Fellowship Program: Advancing the State of Knowledge in Electronic Records

The NHPRC Electronic Records Fellowships Program facilitates both basic and applied research regarding all aspects of electronic records, particularly research that furthers institutional objectives and management of electronic records on a scale feasible for repositories at the local, state, or regional levels. Through the development of research tools, funding, mentoring, and symposia, the program supports broad participation in the research process among archival practitioners and collaboration between archivists and academics. The Fellow's research products as well as the supporting research infrastructure developed and maintained at UNC-CH promise to have national and international impact on electronic records research and practice.

Principle Investigator: Helen Tibbo

Open Video

The purpose of the Open Video Project is to collect and make available a repository of digitized video content for the digital video, multimedia retrieval, digital library, and other research communities.

Principal Investigators: Gary Marchionini and Barbara M. Wildemuth

Policy-based Data Management

The Data Intensive Cyber-Environments group develops data grid technology (the integrated Rule-Oriented Data System) that is used to implement digital libraries, data sharing systems, and preservation environments.  Applications of the technology include the Carolina Digital Repository, the Renci data grid, the lifelong-learning libraries, the NARA Transcontinental Persistent Archive Prototype, the Ocean Observatories Initiative data grid, the French National Library, and the Australian Research Collaboration Data Service.  A wiki with access to the source code is available at

Principal Investigators:  Reagan Moore, Arcot Rajasekar, Richard Marciano  

Recruiting Medical Students into Health Sciences Librarianship: Pursuing the Informationist Concept through a Dual Degree Model

With IMLS support, SILS worked with Duke University School of Medicine to support medical students who are interested in information-related careers. Two cohorts of two students (entering in 2007 and 2008) completed a master's degree at SILS during their research practicum at Duke.

Principal Investigators: Barbara WildemuthClaudia Gollop, Peggy Schaeffer, Patricia Thibodeau (Duke), and Robert James (Duke)

Scholarly Communications

We are interested in studying how the electronic world transforms and provides new paradigms for scholarly communications.  Several projects are active in this area including survey and interview studies of academic researchers, studying the information workflows in scholarly settings, investigating open publishing models, and studying the use of collaborative technologies like wikis and blogs in academic settings. 

Principle Investigators: Brad Hemminger

Systematic Review of Assigned Search Tasks

Many information science researchers are investigating people’s online search behaviors through experimental and quasi-experimental studies. One variable in these studies is the focus of this project: the search tasks that are assigned to the experimental subjects. Through a systematic review of prior research, we hope to gain a better understanding of the types of search tasks that have been imposed in studies of searching behaviors and evaluations of information retrieval (IR) systems, and the potential influence of those search tasks on study/evaluation outcomes. The final products of this project will be twofold: (1) a publication reviewing our findings, and (2) an online database of all the search tasks assigned in all the studies reviewed. It is being conducted collaboratively at three universities: the University of British Columbia and Dalhousie University, as well as UNC-CH.

Principal Investigator:  Barbara Wildemuth 

Usability of Personal Health Records

This project aims to define a procedure for developing a set of usability guidelines for PHR development, use, and sharing. Specifically, the work to date has focused on identifying and codifying the evidence base and conducting four specific user studies: PHR Needs Assessment, Visualizing Medical Test Results, Survey of Use of Personal Medication Health Records by Older Adults, and Interplay of Interactivity and Information Organization on Cognitive, Affective, and Usability Responses to PHR Use.

Principal investigator: Gary Marchionini

VidArch - Preserving Video Objects and Context: A Demonstration Project

The VidArch project builds on earlier work with digital video files and their surrogates, seeking ways in which to preserve a video work's context and highlighting its essence, thus making it more understandable and accessible to future generations.

Principal Investigator: Gary Marchionini and Helen Tibbo, Cal Lee, and Paul Jones


Virtual museums provide ways to capture the content of a real museum in a digital (electronic) form and make this digital form more universally available. Virseum is a novel method involving digitally recording not only individual museum pieces, but entire museum exhibits (consisting of one or more rooms or spaces). The technique digitizes the entire contents of the rooms in an exhibit. The methodology allows anyone with access to the internet or a PC to experience anywhere, anytime, any part of the museum's collection or exhibits (past, present and future). Users can explore the museum exhibits in a virtual reality that is both spatially accurate and visually compelling.

Principal Investigators: Brad Hemminger, Gerard Bolas (Ackland Museum) and Doug Schiff (3rdTech)