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CIL2011: Improve Your Website Now!

   March 21st, 2011

Web Team from Arlington County (VA) Library SystemLaura Solomon, Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN)
Alexandra Zealand, Social Media Coordinator & News Blog Editor;
Stacia Aho, Library Webmaster;
Jonathan Newton, Library Web Programmer, Arlington Public Library


Don't waste your homepage - Laura Solomon

The library homepage is the most important part of your website - here are some tips for the best use of the space

  • Spell it out - patrons don't know library acronyms and jargon. Spell it out, at least the first time you use it
  • Don't be wordy, or use large blocks of text
  • Mission statements are important to libraries and trustees, but not to patrons, so don't put it on your homepage (nor lists of staff or board names)
  • Weed your graphics - graphic loads take time and slow things down and clutter up pages - they need to be meaningful and have a point. And anything you do use, optimize for web
  • Don't use clipart - it undermines your professionalism (even using stock photography is better)
  • Be careful about using widgets and gadgets - people don't come to the library website to check the weather or news feeds
  • Don't use exclamation points!!! They are not professional!!1!
  • Your homepage above the fold is your prime real estate - don't cover it with a welcome mat (if they weren't welcome, it would be password protected)
  • Don't put a picture of your library on the homepage - your building is not your product
  • Put your library's phone number and address on your homepage
  • Label all the links to pdf as [pdf] - don't surprise people with huge downloads


Community Engagement on a Shoestring - Arlington VA Public Library

Case study of how they went from municipal website to library-specific website with integrated content to focus on patron needs and use:

  • First, convince county IT department to let library have a branded header with its own logo
  • Use links on homepage to direct people to library's blog, which looks like real website but is easier to update and control - this keeps the homepage and makes it useful
  • Important static information stays on the static site, in case blogger blog went away
  • Content on blog is basically news and events - things that would have been press releases

Tools used were all free

  • Blogger - easy to use (got for less tech-savvy staff), supports tags, and supports...
  • Yahoo Pipes to create news feeds based on tags - use tags to filter information for each branch, so branches can have their own identity and patrons fell more connected with hyper-local information - feeds sometimes get picked up by local news outlets, which drives a ton of traffic, and some people become regular readers
  • Feedburner to embed feeds into homepage
  • But keep in mind: the tools aren't always enough - you need good practice, staff, content, and integration


  • Huge increase in comments and patron participation
  • Staff better understands patrons' point of view
  • More staff involvement and investment in public image

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2 Responses to “CIL2011: Improve Your Website Now!”

  1. CIL2011: “Community Engagement on a Shoestring” | reading, thinking, writing Says:

    […] fantastic Brian Herzog, aka The Swiss Army Librarian, blogged our session (I wish I’d met him!) and described it thus: Case study of how they went from municipal […]

  2. Does Your Website Have Pull? | Dollar Ringgit Says:

    […] County VA Web Team Image by herzogbr CIL11 presentation on how to Improve Your Website Now! – read my notes, and notes from other sessions on my website Category: Articles Tags: Pull, […]