UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

The Library Web Site of the Future

Posted by sarahw9 on 23 February, 2009

dwilson212508-105_0001Steven Bell’s article The Library Web Site of the Future Inside Higher Ed was published at a timely moment for us here at Leicester, where the digital library strategy is up for discussion. 

In short he says libraries should stop thinking that they will attract users by providing lists of resources or search boxes or portals.  Most users have their own one or two favourites and they have already got their own ‘backdoor’ route there.   Long lists don’t tempt people in to look for more, they just confuse people.  Also they are increasingly disinclined to go out and visit an external website or potal. 

Rather than attempting to mimic search engines academic librarians should aim to differentiate their Web sites. They should devote the most eye-catching space to information that promotes the people who work at the library, the services they provide and the community activities that anchor the library’s place as the social, cultural and intellectual center of campus. That shifts the focus from content to service and from information to people. Academic libraries must promote their human side. The library portal experience should emphasize the value of and invite stronger relationships with faculty and students. That means going beyond offering a commodity that, by and large, the user community can well access without the Web site. The next generation academic library Web site must leverage what academic librarians can do to help faculty and students improve their productivity and achieve success.

 Even more interestingly….

Academic libraries are already moving in new directions that may provide the answers, and it suggests the library portal no longer needs to compete to be the one-stop portal where faculty and their students begin their research. These pioneering libraries distribute the content across the institution’s network and beyond. They are putting the links where faculty and students can find them easily. It changes the library website paradigm from “you must visit our portal” to “we’ll be where you are.”

In the broadest sense (forget websites for a minute) this is certainly how I envisage we should be working by providing routes to tailored resources with course tutors and departments.  Providing generic lists of databases and search engines, which mostly look all the same to people is not going to help anyone.  We have to get deeper into modules.  Academic staff need a basic understanding of what tools we can use, whether thats a Custom Search Engine, or nifty tool that makes academic journals easier for their undergraduates, a Netvibes page of resources for a module, setting up an RSS feed into the course module on Blackboard or similar via Delicious.  Thats before we have even started looking at information literacy, evaluating resources and where we want to go. 

Still I’m not sure that we should abandon our portals or search boxes entirely though; perhaps we need both.

One Response to “The Library Web Site of the Future”

  1. The “visit where you live” ethos is rather goes back to what I was talking about here as well. But whilst it is nice to imagine that depts and students are crying out for our involvement, in my experience getting our foot in the door let alone getting embedded within organisational culture is extremely hard. There’s a resistance, and for websources this is in part due to people finding their own backdoors in.

    In short the librarian/library of the future isn’t going to come about until we see some major changes in organisational and individuals’ cultures.

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