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Why My Library Should Invest in Overhauling Its Online Presence

How is it that, in today’s technological atmosphere, where users expect to be able to access virtually everything online (no pun intended, but a good one nonetheless, haha…) it is such a struggle to get the administration to realize the importance of our website? Why am I practically begging for them to at least provide me some support in my effort to streamline and enhance our digital presence, and to see our website as a branch of the library, offering all services the physical branch offers?

My justification to them for such an expense? Here goes…

First and foremost, the library’s website is long overdue for an update, ideally including a redesign. Although the redesign of any website inherently carries some risks, probably the most notable of which is making major changes to a resource that is already familiar to its users, the ever-evolving nature of the internet and the emergence of web 2.0[1] concepts makes an update desirable, if not necessary. Website success can often be traced back to several important concepts, including simplicity in design, logical organization and navigation, media richness, and interactivity[2]. In that vein, the new site should be more intuitive to navigate, and organized to facilitate ease of finding information for all levels of user experience. There should be a focus on technologies enabling communication and interactivity throughout the site, and access to resources and services should be seamless[3].

The chief goals of the new site would be:

– Optimize space on homepage
– Improve navigation
– Integrate web 2.0 technology (interactability)
– Clean up content
– Improve access to resources and services

These changes would make the site more intuitive to navigate, and support users of varying levels of expertise:

– Guided navigation for new users (on homepage only)
– Logical hierarchical navigation for normal users (on left-hand side of each page)
Quicklinks – direct to resources – for expert users (on top right of every page)

The site would also make better use of web 2.0 technology, featuring a news blog to relay important information about the library and information resources in general. The blog would be updated regularly and be featured on the library’s homepage.

A library blog can be a very useful tool for reaching all of the academic community, not just regular library users. It can be used to draw attention to information about library services and resources that might otherwise be buried in the library’s regular website content. It will also act as a witness to how active and necessary the library is, and can promote the role of the library as an information source and guide even to those not currently using “traditional” library services, by also focusing on general web resources, services and applications. In other words, the blog will seek to make the library visible to faculty and students who have “forgotten” about it.

To better reach the students, care must be taken to keep current on what technologies they are currently using, and to integrate those technologies into library services. For example, instant messaging (IM) could be for reference, and social networking software (such as Facebook and Myspace) can be used for outreach and promotion.

Some guiding questions for integrating technology into library services:

– What technologies are the students and professors already using? Let’s bring the library to them (without investing in new technology just because it’s “new and cool”)…
– Can we find a way for professors to create course/subject pages with important links, or a way for professors to contribute to our “resources by discipline” (since they are the subject-specialists)
– Is there some way to allow users in general to identify relevant resources?

Another important issue is online access to library resources and services. The library currently uses a proxy server to authenticate off-campus users, and users also have to register with the library (with their student ID number) to receive a PIN to access certain services. Ideally, they could log in with their username and password and that would provide seamless access to all library resources and services.

[1] McFedries, P. (2006). The Web, Take Two. IEEE Spectrum, 43(6), 68-68. Retrieved April 2007 from the IEEE database.

[2] Palmer, J. (2002). Web Site Usability, Design, and Performance Metrics. Information Systems Research, 13(2), 151-167. Retrieved April 2007 from the Business Source Premier database.

[3] See ACRLog: Formula for Academic Library Success (http://acrlblog.org/2007/05/14/formula-for-academic-library-success/academic-library-success/academic-library-success/)

For my super-awesome powerpoint presentation for this proposal click here.

This entry was posted in academic libraries, blogging, Facebook, information access, information searching, interfaces, library 2.0, library technology, library websites, Myspace, web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

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