or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


A New Overdrive Interface is Coming, Are You Ready?

   October 3rd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Overdrive's Next Generation Digital Library - See Book Read BookI think I'm a little behind the curve on this, but since there were so many great comments on how to improve the Overdrive interface, I thought this would be worth talking about.

It looks like the new Overdrive interface really is coming, scheduled to hit libraries during the holidays - perhaps the worst time for staff to be learning a new interface, but if it's progress, it's worth it.

I haven't seen Overdrive's Webinar on the new interface, but I do plan to watch it as soon as I find a spare 60 minutes.

However, other librarians in my consortium have watched it, and it looks like there's some good stuff in there. Most interesting to me is the "one-click download" requiring no software installation or activation. That's huge. Apparently that component isn't quite ready yet, but should make our patrons lives (and therefore our lives) much, much, much easier.

But one of the new features did bother me. The new interface apparently includes a "Buy It Now" button, which will be located directly under the "Add to Cart" button. The Boston Public Library has been demo'ing the new interface for most of this year, and here's what it looks like (click for bigger):

Overdrive "Buy it now" screenshot

When someone clicks that green "Buy It Now," a windows pops up with a list of stores (click for bigger):

Overdrive "Buy it now" popup window

Pardon my French, but I fucking hate this. There's been conflicting reports about whether this "Buy It Now" button is optional or not, but I sincerely hope it can be turned off.

Certainly there's an argument to be made for it: if publishers know libraries are going to directly be driving customers to them, they might be more inclined to actually deal with libraries. There's also the convenience to the patrons who don't want to wait for the library's copy to be returned, and can afford to just go buy it themselves.

This seems wrong to me. It makes libraries Overdrive's bitches, because now we're drumming up retail business by preying on immediate gratification. Which is absolutely idiotic, because technologically there is no reason anyone should ever have to wait for an ebook. Implementing this feature just encourages the backward-thinking currently gripping the ebook world as they try to cling to past revenue models.

What would be awesome is if the patrons were given the option of buying a copy for the library. They get it first, then they can donate it to the library for others to use, if they want.

There's also the line that libraries will be getting a kickback from such sales, in the form of Overdrive credit. This is a complete non-starter for me, so I won't even address the idea of libraries profiting from our shortcomings.

But speaking of revenue streams, it looks like the new Overdrive interface also prominently features banner ads - here's the BPL's advanced search page (click for bigger):

Overdrive featuring banner ads

Notice the two "Advertisement" right under the black menu bar? Sigh.

But I don't want to be all doom and gloom. In all fairness, I haven't seen the webinar and don't know a lot of the facts - this is just all from using BPL's site. When I called BPL, they were much more positive than I felt. The "Buy It Now" button was initially a little jarring for them, but they've had no problems or complaints, and do see credits quarterly, which shows patrons have no qualms about using it.

I am also not sure what other new features are included in the new interface, but since Mike Lovett of Overdrive was so encouraging in his comments last time, I'm hopeful the good outweighs the bad (or better yet, all of the "bad" is opt-in).

So, I encourage everyone to check out the Overdrive Next Generation Digital Library webinar. And as always, keep a running list of "how to make this better" to send to Overdrive to incorporate into the next iteration.

And for further reading on ebook topics, here's a few recent things to check out:



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How Would You Improve The Overdrive Interface?

   July 11th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Over the weekend, Stephanie tweeted:

Stephanie's tweet

I thought she was right on (sadly), so I retweeted it. The next day, @OverDriveLibs replied:

OverDriveLibs' tweet

Good on them for paying attention and being open to ideas. Since they're listening, I put together the following list that I think would improve the Overdrive experience.

Granted, I know their web interface is somewhat customizable, so different libraries have different looks and slightly different experiences. And, I know they have a mobile interface, which I'm going to ignore for now. I also won't even talk about Overdrive Advantage, because I don't know how much just seems overly complicated to me due to my library being part of a consortium.

  1. Remove the bookbag entirely.
    It doesn't seem like a whole lot of people shop for and then check out a bunch of books at once. In my experience, most people look for one book at a time, and then download it. This process becomes overly complicated by having to add that one book to the bookbag, review the bookbag, then proceed to checkout to download it. I think Overdrive would be so, so much easier to use if, instead of the "add to bookbag" link, people clicked a link that would take them right to the download process.

    If you make downloading a book easy enough, and then return people back to where they were after downloading is complete, you don't need a bookbag anyway.

  2. Combine the loan-period selection screen with the download button screen.
    Once someone chooses a book they want to check out, they should be taken to a single screen that lets them choose the loan period AND click a button to download right from that page. Combining these eliminates a step, which would go a long way to making Overdrive easier to use. The whole experience should be:

    1. search for book, then click the link to get the book
    2. choose loan period, click "Download" or "Get for Kindle" button
    3. struggle with DRM software*
    4. enjoy book

    I see no reason why the process couldn't be this streamlined.

  3. Change "add to bookbag" link text.
    With the bookbag gone, the "add to bookbag" link needs to be changed. One problem I've seen patrons have is making sure they choose the right format - because format is specified on the left of the screen, but the link they need to click is on the right.

    Overdrive example

    It seems difficult to make a mistake, but I have watched more than one person do it - especially in this scenario: Someone has a Kindle, and they limit to show only available items. The Kindle item is checked out, but the EPUB line says "add to bookbag" - the person is thinking Kindle, and sees the "add to bookbag" link, so they click it. Likewise, I've also seen people download an ebook thinking they were getting an audiobook.

    My suggestions for better link text is:

    Instead of Replace with
    add to bookbag Download Kindle Ebook
    Download EPUB Ebook
    Download WMA Audiobook
    Download MP3 Audiobook
    place a hold Request Kindle Ebook
    Request EPUB Ebook
    Request WMA Audiobook
    Request MP3 Audiobook

    I actually go back and forth between "Download Kindle Ebook" and "Checkout Kindle Ebook" - Checkout has better library connotations, but Download is more evocative.

  4. If someone limits to a format, show only that format.
    I hate that a patron can limit to see only Kindle books, and yet EPUBs will still display, if we have both formats for the same title. If someone limits to Kindle, then hide the EPUB line from the image above (and same for audiobooks).

    And because format is so important, it should be easier to limit to format - for instance, provide a separate interface for each format that libraries can link to, like, "click here to search for EPUB ebooks." And then, all the patron would see are EPUB ebooks, without them having to further limit to format.

    The advanced search format limiter box should include options for "all Ebooks" and "all Audiobooks" options, since someone with an iPad and a Kindle app can use either format. Also, when someone limits to format in advanced search, this should stick even if they click a "Browse by Genre" link too.

    Patrons should be able to save their preferred format in their account settings, so they don't have to keep limiting every time they return.

  5. Change the search algorithm to AND and not OR.
    If you search my consortium's Overdrive catalog for "vonnegut last" there are 42 results. However, a search for just "vonnegut" gets four results, and a search for just "last" gets 38. 4+38=42, which means there is no overlap between those search terms. Most people searching for more than one word except to find items containing BOTH of those words.

    When our Overdrive catalog was new, and we didn't have a lot of items in the collection, using the OR operator seemed like a cheap trick to make it appear that we had a bigger collection than we did. We're past that now, and clogging up the search results with everything under the sun just adds to why Overdrive is difficult to use.

  6. Keyword searches should search title and author fields
    This refers to the keyword search on the advanced search screen. "Keyword" seems like is should search everything, but it doesn't. Why not? If it's not actually a keyword search (like the basic search box on every page), then call it something else. Or better yet, just replace it with the actual keyword search.
  7. Add a direct link to the software download page.
    The Overdrive Help pages are getting better, but the fact that they periodically change means that library staff even need to refamiliarize themselves with how to help patrons. The most common question that sends me to the Help pages is to download Overdrive Media Console or Adobe Digital Editions. However, none of the options on the Help screen mention downloading software, and I can never remember which one it's hidden behind. Just having a "Download Free Software" option on the Help screen, which leads to a device/OS selection, would be great.
  8. AARRGH!
    I know this is beyond Overdrive, but getting things set up on an iPad can sometimes get trapped in a loop: in order to install the Overdrive app, you need to create an Adobe ID, but one of the Adobe webpages requires flash, which the iPad does not support, so you have to use a computer to actually accomplish everything. This doesn't happen every time, and I don't know why it does sometimes and not others, but I've seen patrons trapped in this loop more than once - and Overdrive gets the blame every time (justified or not), which just sours the patron on using Overdrive in the future.

I sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since Overdrive asked for input, please suggest what improvements you'd like to see in the comments below or tweet them to @OverDriveLibs.

 


*DRM is a much larger issue, and not entirely under Overdrive's control - so I won't even discuss it here, and instead just focus on their interface and things they can improve. But let's all enjoy The Brads Why DRM Doesn't Work comic once again.



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Two Examples of Doing Things Well

   April 25th, 2012 Brian Herzog

I don't post nearly enough instances of Things Done Well (check out Walking Paper for lots of examples), but here are two things I saw recently that deserve attention:

Thing One: Ramp-In-Stairs
What I like about this is that they were designed together, from the start, and not only look nice, but (presumably) work well too. Much better than having a magnificent grand staircase, then a rickety wooden ramp up the side, or worse, a sign saying "ramp access around the back."

stairs with ramp built in

It's similar to deliberately designing websites and catalogs that look good and work well on multiple browsers at multiple screen resolutions. The best approach, I think, is starting from the ground up with responsive web design (à la Canton (MI) Library, à la One-Pager), instead of trying to backward-hack mobile-compatibility in after the fact, or just tacking a mobile-friendly site on in parallel to your main website.

Thing Two: Domino's Engine Noises
So apparently, Domino's delivers pizza via scooter in the Netherlands, but the scooters were so quiet that cyclists couldn't hear them. To help prevent accidents, Domino's added a "motor" sound to the scooters - but instead of just a typical engine noise, they had fun with it:

[video link]

Awesome, because it not only serves the purpose of an audible warning, but it's also extremely well-done audible advertising - it's funny, attention-getting, memorable, and shows an unexpectedly playful side of an otherwise perhaps impersonal company.

When libraries start delivering items to people via scooters, this would be a great thing to try - the engine noise could be "vrrrlibrarylibrarylibrary BOOKS librarylibrarylibrarylibrary DVDs librarylibrary..."



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New San Jose Public Library Website

   November 16th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Whoa - check out the new website for the San Jose Public Library:

San Jose Public Library website

Sarah goes into some detail about the features of the new website and their reasoning behind it, which is worth reading. Here's my two cents too:

  • I love that they've done away with organizing their website along library department lines (Reference, Childrens Teens, etc.)
  • The design is wonderful - so clean and simple, yet colorful, engaging and informative. It's so different it's shocking at first, but once your eyes and mind adjust to the new design, everything is just there
  • Actually, now that I think of it, the homepage reminds me of the app icons on a smartphone - which is an interface that increasing numbers of people are becoming familiar with
  • I like embedding functionality, so two things I'd be curious to try to see if they'd work are:
    • In the New and Events block, instead of a picture to click on, embed a scrollable list of upcoming events to bring that info one step closer to the patron. Also include the link to drill down into the rest of that section
    • In the Locations block, again instead of a picture, it'd be neat to just embed the Google Map right there, and have each of the branch location markers include address, phone, email, and hours. That would put so much information right on the homepage, and of course again include a link to get into the rest of the section
    • But these might be overwhelming, so you'd have to try them to see

My library is planning to redesign our website, ahead of our migration to Evergreen. I'm definitely going to lobby to use SJPL's design as one of our models. Good job guys.



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King County Library System Launches Evergreen Catalog

   September 28th, 2010 Brian Herzog

King County Library System + EvergreenI found out yesterday that the King County (WA) Library System is now live on Evergreen. They did a lot of work to develop the online catalog, and many of their customizations will become part of the core Evergreen code.

Which is good news for many Massachusetts libraries, as we'll be following in their footsteps in May 2011. But development continues, and we can still customize beyond what KCLS has done - so if anyone has comments or suggestions, please submit them to Kathy Lussier at http://masslnc.cwmars.org.

And for the curious, these introductory videos show and explain a little more:

Yay for open source!



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Library Catalog Wishlist (for a start)

   June 19th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I've been thinking a lot about ILSs and catalog interfaces lately. My library consortium currently uses Horizon, which SirsiDynix announced they will no longer support. So, although not necessarily immediately, we'll eventually have to switch to a new system.

Which I think is great, because Horizon frustrates me on a daily basis. I'm sure most other ILSs would too, in their own way. But, to prepare for evaluating new catalog interfaces, I'm putting together a wishlist of features. This list is mainly concerning the search interface (rather than backend circulation, cataloging, reservation, and other features), and is essentially a list of shortcomings of our current catalog.

Word is that we won't begin to review alternate ILSs for at least a year and a half, so please suggest other features you like about your catalogs, that I can try to get included in whatever software we choose.

  1. Item record pages should have URLs that are easily bookmarked and that do not expire
  2. Search criteria should be carried through on every search (for instance, a patron uses the advanced search now to do a title search for "cooking" limited to books only and Chelmsford. If that patron reviews the results and want to change their keywords, if they do so in the search box at the top of the search results page and click search, they lose the format and location limiters they originally used. Those variables should always be carried through unless a patron changes them themselves)
  3. On both the search results screen and the item record page, local call number should show first, if there are local holdings. If there are no local holdings, then a message such as "No Local Holdings - Request from another Library" should display. Also, on the item record page, all holdings should display, with local holdings first. Basically, get rid of the "Other Locations" button, and just show all of that on the same page as the local holdings. And again, if there are no local holdings, there should be a note that indicates this, rather than just leaving it blank
  4. Additional Info

    Summary:
    This book follows the Stein family as they journey from the Steppes of Russia to...
       Click for more

    Table of Contents:
    i. Introduction
    1. Growing Up
    2. The Long Road
       Click for more

    The enhanced content we pay for needs to be better integrated - I don't know that patrons ever see that information, because it's tucked where no one looks. This information should display prominently in a sidebar (see right), with the first few lines of each section and a "click for more" link. This would also be a logical place to insert the LibraryThing for Libraries data

  5. Each item record page should include an "Email this record" link, so a patron could email the link of this record to someone
  6. Whatever catalog we go with will not be a step forward if it does not include an integrated federated search feature
  7. Multiple rss feeds, for whatever a patron wanted to subscribe to - all new materials, new books, new dvds, fiction books, etc.
  8. Have the search function work smartly, like Google or Amazon, so that it can suggest alternate spellings or just search more places in the records (but, of course, be efficient, too, to prevent every search returning a lot of tenuous results)
  9. Having an opt-in circulation history. Similar to My List, but a patron shouldn't have to maintain it. They just choose that yes, they want the catalog to remember what books they've checked out, and the ILS will track it. Patrons should also be able to delete any individual item from the list at any time without having to opt-out of the list entirely
  10. Better search options - since I do mainly adult reference, it would help me and patrons a lot to be able to limit to just adult non-fiction books, along with books only at Chelmsford. This would get rid of all the fiction and kids books and make the search results a lot cleaner
  11. Also, being able to combine the "browse by..." and "search" would be great - as in, being able to do a keyword search within a call number range. For instance, searching for "low fat" within the call number 641 is a much more efficient way to find low-fat cookbooks than trying to do any kind of just keyword search
  12. When a search is limited to books only, this should also include reference books. Since ref books are excluded from the books only search, and we can't combine searching with "browse by call number beginning with Ref," there is currently no way to search just our reference books

These are just some things I came up with on one day - I'm sure I'll add more to the list, and please suggest anything I missed.

catalog, catalogs, ils, ilss, interface, interfaces, ipac, ipacs, libraries, library, opac, opacs, public libraries, public library



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