UPDATE: Public Library Web Designers Look to the Future!

The group assembled for the first presentation of the Public Libraries and Technology Track at Internet Librarian 2005 totally rock. If you are attending the conference, don’t miss this one because hot trends in web design apply to all types of libraries!

In addition, the topic of web redesign is HOT right now. This press release points out some fascinating statistics.

In planning for the presentation, I emailed the panelists a question. Because Michael Casey’s Library Crunch (add him to your aggregator now, I’ll wait) is one of my favorite reads these days, I asked the panelists this question:

What does the Library 2.0 Web site look like?

Glenn Peterson, Hennepin County Public Library

“Hi Michael, (I just heard Stephen Abram talk at our library so I may be WWUI (writing while under the influence):

Next generation library websites will meet users’ increasingly complex information needs by developing tools that allow users to refine their information seeking in ways that produce highly relevant search results. Libraries will develop more sophisticated federated search tools that highlight the resources in their physical and virtual collections. They will develop online pathfinders on high-interest topics (e.g. how do I start a new business?) And they will find ways for librarians to continue to support users in the virtual information-seeking environment.”

David King, Kansas City Public Library, & Dave’s Blog

The next generation public library website should be considered a destination, just like the physical library building is currently a destination. As a destination, the website should:

– provide original content (ebooks, articles, encyclopedia entries, local history content)
– provide support content (database and catalog tipsheets, calendar of events, library news, phone numbers)
– provide community content (community calendar types of things)
– provide staff/customer interaction (comments area, question area, ask a reference area) uisng chat, IM,
email, phone, and mailing address
– provide customer/customer interaction (online blook clubs, customer-based reader’s advisory [Amazon.com model]
– provide traditional library services like library catalog and databases
– Do all this for specific customer target areas (Seniors, Adults, Kids, Teens, etc)

Sarah Houghton, Marin County Public Library, & Librarian in Black

The next generation small public library website will be moving up to the same level the larger public library websites are at now: blogs, RSS feeds, dynamic reading/watching/listening lists, lots of online forms, with links to some user-friendly and computer-friendly lightweight virtual reference options (like instant messaging).

John Blyberg, Ann Arbor District Library

The others really gave a good summation of the type of content we can expect to be available on library websites. What we provide is really going to depend on where the chips fall after the RIAA and MPAA finish going through their withdrawals and settle on a business model that works for them. Laser-etched plastic is not the future, but audio/visual content is what patron’s demand.

In the meantime, good public library sites are going to be the ones that do two things well. First, they need to generate content that is attributed to the library. Second, they need to pull together existing information in new and interesting ways in a manner that makes the web site itself an extention of the library’s information store. That way, the website is only a component of a library’s offerings.