Building an effective library website: Some things you need to consider…

December 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm (Libraries, Library 2.0, Web Design) (, , , )

Here are several things that you need to consider when planning a new – or updating a old – library website.

1. Have easy to use navigation panels and links displayed throughout the website for the user’s convenience.  This includes horizontal navigation bars, sidebar navigation panels and breadcrumb links.

2. Place a keyword search feature into the template design so that it shows on every page displayed. This will assist users in locating the resources and collections available to them with minimum effort on their part.

The final application and use of criterion 1 and 2 within the web design and template should be determined by the age and mental ability of the intended audience. See criteria 5 for more information.

3. Make sure every page is clear and uncluttered to promote the easy location of user relevant and sought materials.

4. Use dynamic content to draw the user’s eye and attention to current or new items of interest.

5. Use different template designs for different audience types or age groups. For example; the children web pages should be brightly coloured with large, easy to use icons and limited text. Whereas the design for adults should display less images and colour but use more dynamically driven content – promoting new collection additions or library services and information.

6. Ensure the design is suitable for display on multiple devices such as a desktop PC, laptops and netbooks and mobile devices.

7. Always include usability testing in the design process. Usability testing is essential for identifying and resolving any user issues and negative experiences with the website design or navigation before full public access is made available.

8. Incorporate several ways for users to contact library staff.  Use free or low costing applications, tools and widgets to provide online reference services, contact us and web/video conferencing communication avenues which allow and promote open communication channels.

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Five things needed to be ‘Library 2.0’ savvy

December 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm (Communication, Libraries, Library 2.0, Social Media, Social Network, Web 2.0 Tools and Apps) (, , , , )

Ok, so here are five things libraries need to know and become to consider themselves ‘Library 2.0’ savvy;

1. Be active.

If the library is not constantly active within the social networks chosen interest will fade from those that are following them. Users have little or no hesitation in going elsewhere to find the information they seek. So using all chosen social networks on a regular basis is a must do to keep users interested in the library’s posts.

2. Provide valuable and user relevant content.

Libraries need to contribute relevant and/or valuable content. For example, establishing a series of topic, genre or age relevant blogs such as ‘Good Reads’, ‘Crime @ the library’ or ‘Kid’s Corner’ which offer reviews of current materials is a solid attempt at achieving this. However, libraries must enforce a regular posting schedule, say two posts per week, to keep content fresh.

Also, the creation of a Facebook fan page and/or a twitter feed to promote events, activities and new books is a good avenue for instigating two way communication channel between the library and the online community.

3. Define a social network future direction.

Don’t just jump in with two feet and see where you land. Take the time to sit back and plan the direction the library wants to take and what it wants to achieve with its social networking activities. This planning stage will give the library a good basis for choosing the best social networking tools and applications which best suit their needs and also the needs of their online community.

4. Get staff involved.

Don’t think that this is a one person operation because it’s not. Involvement and understanding towards the use of social networks through to the appropriate language and online social mannerisms used by all staff members involved is another must do. Online users expect to interact in real time, and in a friendly, personalised and informal manner so ensure all staff members are ready and confident to do this.

5. Be interesting.

This is possibly one of the most important factors to remember when using social networks. All content – no matter the method of communication or online tool used – should be of interest to the audience. Keep in mind that social networks are built primarily on user- shared and generated information. Without users willing sharing the information posted by the library, the library’s social networking presence will not be as effective or even seen by the masses.

The information provided by the letters A, C, D, H and I within the following blog post was used as the basis of this post:

Social Networking Librarian: A to Z of Social Networking for Libraries

http://socialnetworkinglibrarian.com/2010/01/22/a-to-z-of-social-networking-for-libraries/

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Quick review of Web 2.0 tools @ ASU

December 27, 2010 at 11:13 am (Communication, Libraries, Online Communication, Social Media, Web 2.0 Tools and Apps) (, , , , , )

Arizona State University (ASU) library uses a range of Web 2.0 tools to both promote and advertise their services through the online environment. The most prominent is their use of YouTube and the creation of The Library Minute video series, but they also include the use of a blog as their Library Channel home page as well as Twitter (@LibraryChannel) as a joint announcement and student interaction channel, along with a few others of note such as Flickr, Vimeo and iTunes.

The Library Minute videos offer a series of one minute insights into what services are available both online and within the ASU library and how users can access these services. While most videos stuck to a similar strategy of quickly demonstrating the use of available online services. Some focused on what the topic of the video – or rather the concept highlighted – meant to the individual and not how the library had integrated this concept into its services. This seems to suggest the tailoring of these videos to what questions the library users frequently ask rather than just the offering of what services are available and how to use them online.

The other web 2.0 applications that showed the most promise for uptake by users was the use of a blog format for the ASU’s Library Channel home page. I felt that this feature was demonstrated well as a communication tool to broadcast – and allow comment and discussion – about library exhibits and events, new or updated resources added to the library collections, changes in the services provided amongst a range of other library orientated notifications. It also demonstrated good understand and control by the blogger as most of the posts published where kept to a short length (meaning they are quick and easy for most people to scan rather than read in full).

The ASU’s use of Twitter seems to also follow the ‘short and shiny’ guideline of their home page blog posts. The posts – or tweets – are mostly notifications of changes, events and exhibits that are happening within the library. However, ASU also use their Twitter feed as a personal communication tool with students for fast, effective direct @ replies and retweeting of posts that advertise the library, its services and events.

On the negative side I felt that more information would have been useful in the videos. Some seemed incomplete and lacking for the user to gain full understanding of how the service worked – or they seemed to miss small details such as where to locate the access point/link for the service. These missing details could result in the user experiencing  frustration and choosing not to use the service.

Overall, the ASU library offer an excellent example of how predominantly free Web 2.0 applications and tools can be utilised to promote a library and connect with existing and new users online.

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RSS… How can it be used in a library?

December 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm (Communication, Libraries, Online Communication, RSS Feeds, Social Media) (, , , , , , )

RSS icon The point of this post is to briefly discuss how RSS feeds can be used effectively to deliver relevant information to a library community and enhance information services for users.

The reason behind RSS is to allow for the streaming of information from the source (in this case the library) to the user’s online feed aggregator of choice. This type of information delivery gives the user an hub of multiple online resources which interests them. The end result is information which interests the user arrives through a singular online interface of their choice.

Firstly, the type of information that form the basis – or reason – for an RSS feed’s creation need to be established. Ask yourself and your colleagues questions such as; ‘What do we want to acheive through RSS?’, ‘Do we want to advertise new books, CDs, DVDs, etc?’, ‘Do we want to promote library events and activities?’, ‘Are we seeking to achieve more transparency towards library policies and procedures?’. The answers should give you a good outline and idea as to what content the library wants to provide.

Secondly, there are a number of reasons which could be used to form the content direction for an RSS feed. However whatever the reason is, it should always reflect the information requirements and interests of the library user.  Ask additional questions like; ‘Would the library users be interested in receiving updates about XXX topic?’ or ‘Could this type of content be shared under another RSS feed such as ‘General Updates’?’ and most importantly; ‘What type of information would the user want to receive from the library?’.

In planning this type of service, you may want to ‘start small’ by providing just one or two RSS feeds at first. ‘General Updates’, ‘News and Events’ and ‘What’s new’ are good suggestions for this as they provide user relevant content – or rather information users would be interested in taking the time to read. This point is perhaps one of the most important to keep in mind when providing information via a RSS feed service. If the users are not interested in receiving the type of content you are providing, they simply will not use your RSS feed.

Examples of effective RSS feeds:

The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/syndication

Library of Congress: RSS Feeds and E-mail Subscriptions

http://www.loc.gov/rss/

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