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On Maintaining Extra-Library Websites

   December 15th, 2011

Chelmsford Volunteers logoThere was an article in our local paper this week about a resident's experience volunteering in the community. Nice, but what I especially like is that he cited http://www.chelmsfordvolunteers.org as the way he found his volunteer opportunity.

This stood out to me (and others at the library) because this website was created and maintained by the library - yay us! The article doesn't mention the library at all, but it's still a win because the resident found what he was looking for.

I'll be the first to admit that the Chelmsford Volunteers site isn't a marvel of design. We created it a few years ago to be a centralized listing of organizations in town that have volunteer opportunities, because this is something we get asked about a lot. It's evolved over time, and now a simple WordPress website, with a calendar of upcoming events, and one page for each organization so that it's easy for people to search.

The reason I bring it up here is because I was curious if any other libraries maintain websites under a domain different from the main library's website. My library also maintains the website for our town-wide history project.

Our logic for creating these as separate websites includes:

  • branding: it's easier to remember "chelmsfordvolunteers.org" than "chelmsfordlibrary.org/volunteers" or something else
  • shared resource: the chelmsfordhistory.org is a project involving other organizations in town, and I think having a non-library website makes us all co-owners of the project, instead of the other groups just contributing to a library project
  • focus: the library does a lot of things, but each of these separate websites are very focused on one specific area - having standalone websites lets visitors see only what's relevant to that topic, instead of all the other stuff we do, which might be a distraction
  • it's easy: all our websites are hosted at bluehost.com - creating a new website is a matter of buying a new domain and clicking a button, and it's ready to go

I'd be very curious to hear about other libraries' experiences with maintain websites beyond the primary web presence - how you do it, why, is it successful, etc. If this is something you do, please leave a note in the comments with a link to your website - thanks.

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5 Responses to “On Maintaining Extra-Library Websites”

  1. sharon Says:

    Nice, Brian! What are you using for the calendar plugin?

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @sharon: thank you. The calendar is deifnitely the trickiest part when it comes to WordPress, but I wanted to keep it all self-contained. The plug-in we’re using is My Calendar, which is a little clunky and doesn’t do everything exactly how I’d like, but it seemed the most suitable for our needs and does get the job done.

  3. Cathleen Says:

    Our library built and maintains a very basic directory for our city, the Highland Park Information Gateway (www.highlandpark.org). We should probably think of updating the name, since “Information Gateway” seems very late ’90s, but the librarian who created it did a really fantastic job. Basically, it’s one-stop-shopping for everything related to the city (education, government, restaurants, shopping, etc.) and it really filled a void that was missing at the time.

    We don’t do much to it anymore except to maintain it and even so, it’s still likely out-of-date in many areas, but it’s a lovely resource that I’d hate to get rid of. I haven’t looked at any stats recently, but when you search for “highland park illinois” it’s the third result, so it’s worth something. However, I think peoples’ searches have become more precise, and with that, our site doesn’t often make it it into the top 15 on the results list (e.g., highland park illinois restaurants). We certainly don’t have the kind of contact with organizations/businesses on it that we used to get.

    There’s a small notice in the upper right corner of the site that tells people that the library maintains the site, along with a link to us, so we do get a bit of self-promotion from it.

  4. John Pappas Says:

    We have two extra-library websites overseen by the library and community partners.

    The first is an ereader guide http://www.rapidcitylibraryebooks.weebly.com that we maintain. The reason behind it was to create a library website that met an emerging patron need (ebooks) but with complete control over the content, updates and SEO. A weebly site fit nicely. We have other library systems linking to it and get plenty of search engine traffic. Overall, it has been a success.

    The other is blackhillknowledgenetwork.com The Black Hills Knowledge Network is an Internet-based, library information service that empowers people by connecting them to relevant and credible local information. By aggregating and organizing content generated by a variety of entities including local media, government, non-profit organizations, businesses, service clubs and community members. It is run by the Black Hills Community Foundation and the Rapid City Public Library and incorporates information from a variety of community partners.

    With the ongoing success of these two projects we are looking at other options for the future as well. Wonderful post! It is nice to hear of similar success.

    Rapid City Public Library

  5. laura Says:

    I used to maintain both parkcountylibrary.org and bibliobistro.com, which was a very basic website for the library’s cafe.