the usable library website poster

Amanda Etches-Johnson and I presented a poster about library website usability at the 2009 Information Architecture Summit last week. What fun!


The poster was interactive. It asked readers to list things they’d like to see on library websites and nudged people toward thinking about fun, whimsical things. It wasn’t a surprise that a bunch of IAs had things to say about websites, but I was a bit surprised about how many library enthusiasts we came across.

We’re going to synthesize the suggestions that people gave us, but off the bat I can tell you that the *vast* majority of people we talked with equated library websites with OPACs. I’d like to explore this more formally.

Side note
Librarians seem to be *much better* about agreeing upon and sticking with official conference tags. I saw #ia09, #ia2009, #iasummit09, #iasummit2009, #ias09, #ias2009 on twitter. This from a bunch of people dedicated to labeling information! Fixing this is a small way in which librarians can contribute to the specialized areas of IA and User eXperience.

10 thoughts on “the usable library website poster”

  1. This is why I think library websites are upside down right now. The library website is the OPAC, so the OPAC should be the library website. I just worked on building a new catalogue and it’s become clear to me this is what we have to do. Give people intelligent search across all library resources in one place, starting from the OPAC (but also making those resources harvested by search engines or meta-collaborative OPACs) and that is how they will discover what else we have to offer – when it is in context and relevant to a search.

  2. Same at sxsw last week – I said library, and people asked me – and these were the “smart” people building websites – “can you check out books online yet?”

    Then I told them what I do, and they went ” … cool …”

    My guess – we need to get more of these people hip to the library!

  3. One thing I’ve found in my own library research is that the things we think people want from a library – blogs, interaction, online community – falls into a “nice to have but not what we want from you” category. The trick is to take these things that we understand as so vital to building sticky, satisfying, and usable online experiences and translate them into tools/functions that add value to the library website experience. It’s a challenge I’m facing in a current project.

    I’m not sure why, but building satisfying user experiences seemed much easier in corporate spaces than in library spaces.

    David: I’m thinking of proposing a panel for SXSW next year that is largely a recruiting/advocacy effort to get more of the regular SXSW attendees thinking about work in the non-profit sector, libraries in particular. If I were to do it, might you be interested in appearing on such a panel? What about you, Aaron?

  4. I’m looking forward to your findings. I had a blast with your poster (sorry for hijacking some of your audience — i just get so excited!)!

    What i thought was interesting, beyond folks equating the library web site with OPACs was how many folks actually referred to the catalog as an OPAC! definitely an interesting insider/outsider take on things (folks who are familiar with libraries and technology, but don’t actually work on library sites).

    Good to see you in Memphis!

  5. The idea of an interactive poster session is sooo appealing. What an excellent way of engage your audience while at the same time gathering really valuable information. If you don’t mind I would like to pick your brain on how to set up the interactive components. We disseminate health information and go to health fairs and this has given me an idea for learning what our audience would like to see on a website we are building.


  6. Aaron – I really hope you do follow up on your intention to explore the tendency of patrons to equate a library’s website with its OPAC. When we got a new OPAC a year ago we got a lot of comments that were either ” I hate your new website” or “I love your new website” when the website hadn’t changed a bit. We are in the process of a re-design of our site, so this would be a great time to figure out how to attract attention beyond the OPAC component of the site.

  7. Having just gone through an OPAC upgrade, and doing interviews at libraries with staff, everyone thinks the OPAC is the website and vice versa.

    Is more info posted on your poster session? I’d love to learn a little more… especially since you’re going to all the cons I wanna be at 🙂

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