Category Archives: Library Web Sites

Hire awesome people, make rad stuff (by TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke)

Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale. I had a few thoughts. First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person. Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field. Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:

Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at: http://ninermac.net/breaking-up-with-libraries#sthash.F7Wn43FP.dpu

I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens. My thoughts with that product were:

1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.

The outcome? I did not buy that product.

It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.

The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.
The calender over at chattlibrary.org. Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.

Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out. But don’t think about that. You can always try again. But what if the investment in awesome people works out? You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.

Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.
Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.

A good example is the website you see above, teens.chattlibrary.org. About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site. We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it. Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it. Dan and Mary built teens.chattlibrary.org to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page. All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team. The best part? It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site. Another great part? If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.

Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams? To me, that’s the way forward. Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community. A win in every area.

(please note: This post originally appeared over at justinthelibrarian.com)

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

Talking Social Media in Libraries on Bibliotech Podcast from TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Bibliotech Podcast. We talked about social media in libraries, library website design, libraries as loosely coupled systems and other topics.

Social Media in Libraries
(here’s a link to the show notes: Bibliotech 26 show notes)

swansonphoto
Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Announcing PREFAB – Library Website Service

prefabAre you struggling with an unfriendly or dated library Website? Not have the staff or big budget to do a lengthy overhaul? Look no further than PREFAB. Do not miss this incredible offering from Aaron Schmidt and Amanada Etches, aka INFLUX:

http://weareinflux.com/prefab

PREFAB
THE LIBRARY WEBSITE SERVICE

Prefab is a ready-to-launch website designed for libraries.

Based on years of library user research, our template gives you everything you need to create a fantastic library website.

With Prefab, you won’t even need to worry about hosting.

We’ve designed an amazing library website so you don’t have to.

THIS IS PREFAB and it is really great
WORKS ON ALL DEVICES
Your Prefab site will look great at any size: mobile, tablet, or desktop.

PERSONALIZE YOUR PREFAB

Six color options
Easily integrate your contact, location, and ILS details
Use your library logo
Upload your own CSS

Take a look at the demo: http://helloprefab.com

Take a look at the links above for the demo and more information. I am very impressed with this service offered by folks who truly understand libraries and user research. AND they get usability and UX design like no others. Other features include: Hosting, Domain setup help, Backend training, Events calendar, Logo & identity development, Custom color palette and IA & content work.

Note from Michael: TTW is not a clearinghouse for vendor ads and will never have ads or any sort of monetization. I wholeheartedly believe in the work of INFLUX and also recognize a service such as this can fill a need of many libraries.

Library Usability Studies By TTW Contributor Dr. Troy Swanson

If you are involved with managing a library website or social media, usability studies should be vitally important to you. My library has conducted several usability tests over the past decade, which provided input for major website redesigns. I thought it might be useful for those new to usability testing to post my library’s documentation for our most recent usability study, MVCC Library Usability Study Documents. If you follow this link, you will find a PDF that includes:

  • Study Goals
  • Procedure Outline
  • Calendar
  • Testing the Test
  • Test Materials
  • Web sites Reviewed
  • Participant Forms
  • Moderator Script
  • Study Questions

 

I always approach usability testing as an idea-generating mechanism. It follows a qualitative approach that (hopefully) provides insight into how visitors interpret a website. I have written about this in several places including chapter 6 of my recent book and on this blog back in May of 2011, Seduced by Google – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson.

For additional information about usabilty studies take a look at this post from Stephen Abram, Stephen’s Lighthouse: “18 Usability Resources for Librarians”.

 

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Web 2.0 & Libraries Parts 1 & 2 Available Free on Hyperlinked Library Site

I am happy to announce the full text of both of my ALA Library Technology Reports are available now at the new TTW companion site The Hyperlinked Library.

The rest of the site is currently under construction, but for now you’ll find:

Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software (2006) - http://thehyperlinkedlibrary.org/libtechreport1/

Web 2.0 & Libraries: Trends & Technologies (2007) - http://thehyperlinkedlibrary.org/libtechreport2/

Special thanks to my SJSU SLIS grad assistant Patrick Siebold who worked very hard the past few weeks inputting the content. I know the examples from ’06 and ’07 may seem out of date and quaint in some ways, but I’m very proud of the framework we used for the works back then. Conversations, Community, Connections, Collaborations – all those great C words Jenny Levine and I used throughout our early social software roadshows in 2005 & 2006 provide a useful context for looking at Web 2.0. I hope these works are still useful to some of you. Comments are open for adding more to the chapters and I plan on doing some types of updating as time permits.

The site will also serve my course Web sites and other items related to my teaching. 

“Why the QR Code is Failing”

http://www.walkingpaper.org/4229/

Aaron Schmidt shares a quote http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_full.aspx?id=30267 by way of John Gruber:

People will not adopt a technical solution that serves to replace a manual task, if that solution is less efficient than the manual task it replaces. How could we think that QR codes for marketing would work any better than CueCat? Did we not learn the first time?

Click through and read Sean X Cummings full article – he offers some interesting ideas for making QR codes useful.

My question – has any library or information organization actually researched successful use and adoption?

When “Library” Is Not an Action but an Old Building – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson


 I have heard reports of the demise of libraries and librarians since I first entered library school over thirteen years ago. I tend to not pay much attention to them, but in the last few months a couple articles followed by personal experiences have caused me a bit of concern. The first was Rick Anderson’s guest editorial in the Journal of Academic Librarianship (July 2011, 37:4) where he argued that we have valuable services, but students and faculty don’t really care. Second, was the blog post by Mike Shatzkin (http://www.idealog.com/blog/it-will-be-hard-to-find-a-public-library-15-years-from-now) where he argues that big picture trends are going to push libraries and librarians out of existance. I do not necessarily buy his entire argument, but after that I was shocked to read that there are one third less librarians today than there were in 1990 (An analysis using 120 years of census data by Sydney Beveridge, Susan Weber and Andrew A. Beveridge, http://blog.oup.com/2011/06/librarian-census/). I was astounded by this. But, the icing on the cake was the conversations I had with a few friends.

The first conversation was with my former roommate’s father-in-law. We were in Oak Park (Illinois) celebrating the third birthday of my roommate’s son. It was a warm July day, and the father-in-law and I were hiding in the shade with cold drinks. He is a researcher at a medical school at a major research university in the Chicago-area. Even though he and I are in very different parts of higher education, we always enjoy talking shop—budgets, grants, students, publications, research—always interesting conversation.

Naturally, our conversation turned to libraries, and I have to say I was a bit surprised when he asked, “So, will there even be a need for libraries in the future?” He asked it in a way that assumed there would not be. My shock must have shown, because he fumbled a bit and tried to say something reassuring.

I asked him if he used his library, and he said to me that he couldn’t remember the last time he had actually been in a library on campus. I asked him if he had used the library’s website. He said, “Oh, yeah. All the time. I search it constantly. Probably once a week at least.” For him, it seemed that the building was something different than the website, which were both something different from librarians.

To answer his question, I assured him that libraries were stronger than ever, virtually and physically. I told him that the articles he accesses in his office did not just magically appear out of the ether, but that there were people who had to make tough decisions about what to purchase. I also promised him that there were absolutely librarians on his campus who were dying to give him more help than he could possibly imagine. One phone call, one email, one visit and he would find the best research partners imaginable. I told him that he just needed to take the Pepsi challenge and give his librarians a call. He chuckled at this, and I am sure that he has not contacted anyone from his campus libraries.

I have thought much about this conversation over the last month. I have played it back in my head.  I am struck by the apparent disconnect in his mind between physical space, website, and library services. To me, these things are all critically intertwined into an essential service at the heart of the academic machine. To him, these are loosely connected entities, most of which he did not need since he had the convenience of the PC in his office. He did admit to me that he preferred to research in his office as opposed to home because “things just seemed to run smoother on the campus network.”

A few weeks later, my family went camping with some friends. Two of whom are researchers. One is an economist fighting his way through the tenure process at a major research university in the St. Louis-area, and the other is an atmospheric chemist who is an independent contractor that works closely with several university researchers. I asked them about their library use. They both agreed that the information they access regularly is not available for free on the web and that libraries were absolutely vital to their work. In fact, the chemist sheepishly admitted to me that he gets campus log in information from friends so that he can still get to expensive databases for free. However, they both agreed that they hadn’t spoken with a librarian (besides me) since they first entered graduate school. They assumed that librarians were on campus to work with undergraduates. I told then that was only part of our work.

Now, I am sure that libraries are not going to close up shop anytime soon, but I do think that there is cause for concern by those of us who hope to work in this profession for the coming decades. This concern was captured by Rick Anderson in his editorial when he said, “Eventually the term ‘library’ becomes an honorific attached to a building, rather than a meaningful designation for what happens inside it” (p. 290) For us, we offer services that we believe complement each other and provide a range of support for researchers. But, our patrons do not necessarily see it this way. As Anderson also said, “Value that is not valued is not valuable” (p. 289). Obviously, it is on our shoulders to continue to advocate and reinvent libraries to better serve our users. But, frankly, that’s what I feel like I’ve been doing for the last decade.

————
(By the way, you can read Gary Price’s response to Mike Shtzkin here, http://infodocket.com/2011/04/07/the-globe-and-mail-mike-shatzkin-in-montreal-libraries-dont-make-sense-anymore/.)

 

Troy A. Swanson is Teaching &Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Don’t Miss: Using WordPress as a Library Content Management System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am thoroughly enjoying this issue of  Library Technology Reports by Kyle M. L. Jones and Polly Alida-Farrington. Read the first chapter here to get a taste of the useful, practical and engaging work. Kenley Neufeld and I have an interview in the issue concerning WordPress as an LMS for course management. There’s also an extended version here and a TechSource post about the early stages of the project here.

The guest sections include an excellent article on utilizing WP to enhance the user experience by Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches-Johnson.