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

Web Design for Libraries

   August 23rd, 2007

Unsleved ComicThe Unshelved comic strip is generally pretty good, but this particular strip (and the next few days) really made me laugh.

As a librarian and a web designer, I can certainly relate. But increasingly, based on what I'm hearing at various meetings around the region, the budget itself isn't the real issue - it's staff and time. Either libraries have a staff member who knows how to maintain a website but doesn't have the time to do it, or they have someone willing and able time-wise, but who doesn't have the actual skills necessary to maintain a good website.

What librarians I know keep asking for (in desperation, in some cases), is an easy and quick way to update content on their website.

They don't necessarily want to outsource, don't want to heap all the responsibility onto one staff member, and also don't want to spread around responsibility (because that usually diminishes the quality and coherentness of the site).

CMS tools like Joomla and Drupal keep getting talked about, as do blog software like WordPress. There's a growing buzz about Scriblio too, but no one seems to know enough about it to view it as anything but a distant glimmer. Libraries in my consortium are considering moving from Frontpage to Dreamweaver, which seems to me to be more of a lateral move than an actual improvement.

All of these have a learning curve, plus time and effort to migrate/recreate the existing website. Which I think is acceptable, if the library knew that maintenance, once there, will not require a great deal of knowledge or time.

Library 2.0 tools are great, as they save the patron's time and let them get a better web experience without requiring a lot of web-savviness. But saving patrons effort usually means the library is doing more work, and a lot of us, again, don't have the time or skill to integrate these tools into our websites.

And this is just websites - online catalogs are a whole different story.

Errg. A solution? Anybody?


cms, libraries, library, overdue media, public libraries, public library, unshelved, web design, website, website design, websites

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One Response to “Web Design for Libraries”

  1. Buzzy Says:

    The Oregon State Library (along with a couple of other state libraries, I think) use Plone, an open source CMS, to get help get rural libraries online. From what I’ve heard, it’s relatively easy for tech unsaavy people to use. You can check out the project here: