Tuesday, April 13, 2010

User Friendly Library Stats

I love this quick 2-page document of public library statistics that OCLC put out: How Libraries Stack Up 2010. My library could definitely benefit from putting out a short, colorful document like this - for administrators, for the Board of Trustees, etc. Even if we only used it to compare ourselves to past statistics or made general comments in relation to number of students on campus.

For example, last year our stats showed that there were nearly 160,000 visitors to the library. If I estimate the campus population at 2000 (it's somewhere around there), that's basically like saying everyone visited the library 80 times.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Reference Librarian is a "Secret Weapon"

What a great article from the Washington Post's "Campus Overload" blog about reference librarians being a student's "secret weapon" when working on a research paper.

I would also add that we are great at lowering stress levels. By the time students come to us, they are often so stressed out about the information they need to find. Many have already tried, and some have even become convinced there's nothing on their topic. However, we're willing and able to help, and we won't stop until we find them something.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Redoing a library website

For many years, my library has been maintaining a number of websites with various degrees of success. IT recently redid the public university website, but before they did so there was an extensive library website available on it. We hardly ever touched it. It was viewed as mostly information for potential students, and there were no live links to databases and other resources. Thus, some of the information available on this site was rather out of date and perhaps even inaccurate.

As a second website, I maintain our subject guides via an external wiki. I update these quite frequently. This is the only site that we have the ability to update at present.

Finally, the main library website is located behind an intranet. This has been a source of frustration for a number of reasons. We are constrained within the restrictive parameters of a content management system. I recognize that most universities use content management systems for their websites, but the one used for our intranet has been particularly difficult in the past. To be fair to IT, I think it isn't quite as restrictive as it seems. However, we currently do not have the ability to make modifications on our own. This then means we have to bug IT every time we add a new database, remove one, need to update a description, etc. This would certainly become a lot of work for IT if we wanted to get much fancier with our design. A final source of frustration with the intranet is that we cannot link anyone directly to a page within it. They will just be bumped out to the main login screen. Once they login, they are taken to the first page as usual, instead of the one you hoped to link them to. This results in a lot of "click on blank, then blank, then blank" ad nauseum.

Thus, we decided it was high time to redo the website in such a way that we will have control over updating the content. We also want to have only one main library website to update instead of two. And, of course, we want a website on the public side of things so that we can link users directly to the information they need. After going through the proper channels and obtaining permission, we were able to start working towards a website that meets all these requirements. The subject guides will continue in their present form.

In order to make a website that will be helpful to everyone, we are doing a variety of testing. Thus far, we have conducted several focus groups (to be discussed further in a future post). We hope to do individual usability testing soon on the prototype of the new site. If usability testing reveals a variety of problems, we'll resort to other techniques, such as card sort.

I hope to continue posting as we move through this process. I am also very hopeful that all this testing will result in a highly user-friendly website for our patrons.