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




CIL2011: Building Great Websites

   March 21st, 2011 Brian Herzog

Amanda Etches-Johnson and Aaron SchmidtAmanda Etches-Johnson, Head, Discovery & User Access, Univ. of Guelph
Aaron Schmidt, Consultant, Influx Library User Experience

Two areas of websites we don't have easy control over

  • Catalog
  • Databases

Websites must be three things:

Useful

Our Content Strategy (planning the creation, deliver and conveyance of UUD content) must address this question: What do people want to do on our site?

  • Identify your critical tasks
  • Spend a few minutes each day just asking people what they want to do, and whether or not you're meeting their needs
  • Perform a content audit - not just pages, but the images and information on each page (cataloger, being detailed oriented, are good at this). Is each page: accurate, usefulness, used, web-written, on message, last updated. Rate each piece on a scale of 0-2 to identify areas to keep, remove or improve.

 

Usable

  • Smaller is better
  • Websites should not be junk drawers - "just in case" is not the right approach
  • Design your website around your FAQs - if it's on an FAQ, it doesn't get on the site
  • Write for the Web - we keep hearing that people generally don't read on the web (though this might be changing with tablets and larger mobile devices). What people do is Function Reading - skim to find what's important to them
    • Write with a conversation and friendly tone, not like a policy document
    • Put the most important stuff at the top of the page
    • Use bolded headlines, bullets, and white space - it is easier to scan - be sure to use white space correctly to group related headlines/content
    • Use simple urls: http://library.org/kids vs. http://library.org/kids/pages/content.php?p=423
    • One idea per sentence (fragments okay), not too big, bot too small, never all-caps, use active voice, correct contrast
    • Refer to library as "we" and patrons as "you" or "I" - good example "How do I reset my PIN?"
    • Never use "click here" - make the link text meaningful ("Search Catalog" instead of "Click here to search the catalog")
  • Do usability testing - You can find this out by simply watching people use the website - walk out, ask a patron if they have a minute, give them a task ("use our website to find a receipe" or "can you find out our branch's Tuesday closing time on Tuesday") and then watch them
    • Use Google Optimizer to test multiple versions of pages with the same content, to see what content is important and which design works best

It's also important to have a mobile version of your website. Visit Influx.us/onepage - a library website template that puts this idea into practice - works on mobile devices

 

Desirable

  • Choose a good color palette - use a professional, use a free website color matcher, etc
  • Don't use clipart
  • Use common conventions, grid layout, pre-made themes from the community
  • Make content interesting - example: transmissions between NASA control and space flights presented in back-and-forth Twitter-like conversation
  • Make it convenient - definitely a mobile-friendly version
  • Marketing: put your stuff out there, and keep at it

 

Four Stages of Library Website Development

One builds on the other, and you can't move up until you finish the lower levels (like Maslov's Hierarchy)

Basic
Necessary information, relevant functionality, no major usability issues

Destination (a "destination website")
Librarian-created content, basic interactivity

Participatory
Serious user generated content, patrons creating culture - library acts as the aggregator, and patrons have reason to do this here, instead of somewhere else
example: Hennapin County bookspace

Community Portal
Library website as community platform, the website becomes a community knowledge bank (tool like this is Kete)

 

Take-away goal

Reduce your site by half - it doesn't mean you have bad content, but people cant find it because there is too much to look through - bit.ly/smallsites



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Librarian Holiday Gift Guide

   December 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Festivus PoleDo you know what I enjoy more than telling people where the bathroom is? Shopping.

In case anyone is pestering you for gift ideas, they could read How To Get Good Gifts for Librarians, or use the links below to find something for the librarian in their life.

And finally, the Washington Post's fiction critic picks special gifts for the book lover (via LISNews):



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Ich bin ein Bibliotecario

   November 4th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Babel Fish from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyLanguage is fascinating to me. I'm particularly interested in the idea that our brains are shaped by the language we use to interpret our environments and communicate - and therefore, people of different cultures do perceive the world differently.

So, apropos of absolutely nothing, here are the translations for a few library-related words, according to the Babel Fish translator.

English library librarian book reading information reference
Dutch bibliotheek bibliothecaris boek lezing informatie verwijzing
French bibliothèque bibliothécaire livre lecture l'information référence
German Bibliothek Bibliothekar Buch Messwert Informationen Hinweis
Greek βιβλιοθήκη βιβλιοθηκάριος βιβλίο ανάγνωση πληροφορίες αναφορά
Italian biblioteca bibliotecario libro lettura informazioni riferimento
Portuguese biblioteca bibliotecário livro leitura informação referência
Russian архив библиотекарь книга чтение информация справка
Spanish biblioteca bibliotecario libro lectura información referencia

Something else neat is that other language can be clever sources of product names - who among us wouldn't buy into a chat reference product called "Referencia?" But my favorite is the word for librarian - "bibliotecario" - I think I might change my business cards.



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Library Blog Search

   August 31st, 2010 Brian Herzog

LISZENSometimes when I am working on a post, I wonder if another library blogger has already covered it - an am afraid I'll look kind of dumb rehashing something.

So I thought, wouldn't it be great to set up a Google custom search engine to search all library-related blogs? Before I did, I checked if anyone already created one, and it turned out Library Zen had - four years ago (I'm even further behind than I thought).

LISZEN Search searches over 500 library blogs, and has an accompanying wiki to keep track. If you write about the library world, add yourself.

Something related that would also be nice is a custom search of just library websites - so it would be easy to quickly see what other library's policies are regarding ebooks, or circulating laptops, or how much they charge for printing, etc. But considering the breadth of libraries and the complexity of maintaining it, just using regular Google might be more realistic.



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Google and Predictive Searching

   December 15th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Google Autocomplete for Swiss Army L...Jessamyn links to an interesting article about Google's switch to personalized searching - really, check it out, because it will impact patrons using public computers.

But it also reminded me of how much more prevalent Google's autocomplete feature has seemed lately. I know it's been around for awhile, but I've noticed it more for some reason, and have also been seeing it in Google's ads on Hulu.com (which I oddly could not find to link to), failblog, YouTube* and elsewhere.

So I got curious about what the Google zeitgeist would say about library-related phrases - here's what I found:

Libraries are

Librarians are

The library is
(a band)

My Librarian is
(a children's book)

Librarians never
(They just check out? They get weeded? They become overdue?)

And I had to try this too:
Brian is
(I think most of these are Family Guy references.)

Update 1/11/10: Using Google suggestions, check out the difference between what girlfriends and boyfriends are thinking.

 


*The one at 2:39 is my favorite. Actually, a lot of them are probably song lyrics, but how often do you come across a Dead Milkmen reference?



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Library in Action

   December 8th, 2009 Brian Herzog

This photo from the Manchester (NH) City Library is almost a year old, but I love it:
Help at Reference Desk



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