John Dove’s article in the eContent Quarterly December 2013 issue “Online Reference Systems: Putting the User at the Center of Design” includes the list of resources below, for which he shares credit with Terry Winograd, Erin McKean, Jodi Wing, and Josh Orum. Though compiled with reference systems in mind, the list includes resources helpful for any Web interface.(Subscribe to eContent Quarterly in the ALA Store. )
Classics of Reference Content and Reference Librarianship
Green, Samuel. 1876. “Personal Relations between Librarians and Readers.” Library Journal 1 (October 1876): 74–81.
Green’s article never really mentions the word “reference,” but it clearly visualizes a set of a dozen or more library patrons and identifies the right service interaction to have with each. In some cases, these imagined patrons learn a skill for future self-service at the library; in others, it’s about quickly pointing out the one book in the library that will delight them or be useful in their research.
Janes, Joseph. 2003. Introduction to Reference Work in the Digital Age. New York: Neal-Schuman.
Before describing the challenges and opportunities that the digital world offers to implementation of good reference services, Janes provides an extensive survey of the history and theory of reference and user services. Especially valuable for the design of online reference systems is his description of the work of Robert Taylor from the 1960s, identifying five elements of context surrounding the reference interview. These are just as relevant to today as they were in the predigital age.
McArthur, Tom. 1988. Worlds of Reference. Boston: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
This book covers the history of reference content over the past 2,000 years. Ever wonder who came up with the importance of multiple learning styles and applied those principles to a reference book in the mid 1600s? Ever wonder why people at the pinnacle of their careers often put their great effort into writing a subject encyclopedia that ends up being a seminal work for the next couple of generations of researchers in that field? McArthur’s vision of the future comes from the vantage point of 1988, so it is not distracted by the specifics of Second Life or other fads. Instead, it is based on human principles relevant at any age.
Ranganathan, S. R. 1961. Reference Services. London: Asia Publishing House.
Ranganathan is most famous for his Five Laws of Library Science and is featured in the first chapter of almost any introduction to library science textbooks. After all, he apparently coined the term “Library Science.” Worldwide he is most recognized for his unique classification scheme based on facets. This scheme has had a rebirth of importance since it is the same approach that underlies most “faceted-based” search models of many modern websites and online tools. In this book, Ranganathan says that as he looked forward in his career he knew his success required three things: coming up with a new classification system, implementing such a scheme in a real library, and creating a library with an effective set of reference services. Reference Services was so important to him that he purposely hid it from view in his first several budgets so he wouldn’t have to advocate for it before stakeholders had experienced first-hand how important it was in the functioning of the library.
Classics of User-Experience and User-Centered Design
Cooper, Alan. 2004. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How To Restore the Sanity, 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: SAMS.
This classic shows why it takes an organizational commitment right from the top of the organization to effectively embrace user-centered approaches to design.
Kelley, Tom, and Jonathan Littman. 2005. The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization. New York: Currency/Doubleday.
Kelley is one of the top industrial designers in our time, who previously authored the bestselling The Art of Innovation. Here he shows that design is a team effort bringing together a diversity of talents (e.g., the “anthropologist”).
Krug, Steve. 2005. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
If you read and truly implement what Krug suggests in chapter 9 (“Usability Testing on 10 Cents a Day”) of this book, you will make a big difference in the user-centered development process at your organization—and with very little cost. According to Krug, “User testing—done simply enough—is the cure for all your site’s ills.”
Moore, Geoffrey A., and Regis McKenna. 2006. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers. New York, NY: Collins Business Essentials.
This book shows that many innovative products fail to make it into the mainstream because they don’t embrace solving 100 percent of their users’ needs. Moore’s section on Scenarios, aka “Target Customer Characterization,” shows how taking on “whole product management” requires looking at factors beyond the software, including wrapping the tools inside a set of services so that the buyer gets their problem solved.
Morville, Peter. 2005. Ambient Findability. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Morville, the author of the influential Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, here addresses what has to be a concern of anyone building an online reference resource today: how is a prospective user going to find your wonderful resource? Those who blindly follow the hope of “if we build it, they will come” are almost always cruelly disappointed.
Norman, Donald A. 2002. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.
This classic in designing products that have the user in mind has enduring value. Using metaphors like “the handle and the blade,” Norman’s principles are memorable. Readers will be continually amazed to learn from this book that apparently those who have designed such things as a TV remote and many other gadgets in our lives have never read a book on product design.
Tufte, Edward R. 1990. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
———. 1997. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
———. 2001. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd ed. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
———. 2006. Beautiful Evidence. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.
Tufte is a towering figure in the field of graphical display of information. His examples transcend media. All four of these books need to be on your shelf and referred to frequently if you are in the business of designing reference products for libraries. Tufte’s one-day course, offered every year or so on the east and west coasts, is also well worth the time and money— and these four books are provided to every attendee.
Winograd, Terry. 1996. Bringing Design to Software. Boston: Addison-Wesley / New York, NY: ACM Press.
This compendium has essays by many of the early leaders in applying principles of design to software including, among others, David Kelley, Don Norman, Sarah Kuhn, Paul Saffo, John Seely Brown, and Mitch Kapor.
Modern Textbooks on User-Centered Design
Goodman, Elizabeth, et al. 2012. Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research, 2nd ed. Waltham, MA: Morgan Kaufmann.
Looking for research to back up the principles of design for usability? This is the bible on the subject.
Klein, Laura. 2013. UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Klein, an experienced engineer and designer, focuses on helping startups learn more about their customers, providing an introductory overview of user experience (UX) and discussing ways in which to design an easy-touse, effective product.
Preece, Jenny, et al. 2011. Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
This is the standard text Terry Winograd uses in the introduction to his popular user-centered design course.
Saffer, Dan. 2009. Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
Offering perspectives from an expert on the subject of interaction design, this book shows how to use design research to understand behaviors and motivations and create a design strategy that makes a product stand out.
———. 2013. Microinteractions: Designing with Details. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Saffer shows readers how to design effective microinteractions (the small details that exist inside features), learn the triggers that initiative a microinteraction, and help users understand the rules with feedback by using graphics and sounds.
Hot Studio: http://www.hotstudio.com/thoughts/experience-design
Creative Good: http://creativegood.com/blog
37 Signals: http://37signals.com/svn
NN Group: http://www.nngroup.com/articles
A List Apart: http://alistapart.com/topics/user-experience
Smashing Magazine: http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com
From the RMG press release
RMG Town Hall 2: Discovery, e-Books, Demand-Driven Acquisitions at RMG’s Annual Presidents' Seminar: The View from the Top
Friday January 24, 2014, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
ALA Midwinter Conference, Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Convention Center Room PCC-117
Leading library industry companies/executives expected at RMG's 2014 Town Hall 2 to address a Vision for an emerging “Library Content Services Model” fulfilled by cross-industry interoperability among
- Library Management Services platforms and other ILSs
- Content Providers
- Discovery Services
to help libraries — especially public libraries — adapt and leverage new models for improved ROI on content, technology, and HR. Expected panelists include:
Auto-Graphics (Paul Cope), Baker&Taylor (George Coe), BiblioCommons (Patrick Kennedy), BiblioLabs (Mitchell Davis), Bilbary (Tim Coates), EBSCO (Brian Duncan), Ex Libris, Infor (Ann Melaerts), Ingram (Joyce Kokut), Innovative Interfaces (Satyadeep Prasanna), OCLC (Robin Murray), Overdrive (Steve Potash), Polaris (Bill Schickling), ProQuest (Kevin Sayar), LibLime (Patrick Jones), SirsiDynix (Bill Davison), The Library Corporation (Gar Sydnor), 3M Cloud Library (Matt Tempelis), Random House (Skip Dye), VTLS (Vinod Chachra).
Skip Dye, Random House's Vice President of Library and Academic Marketing, will make kick-off comments on Town Hall themes.
NYPL’s James English will explain "Library Simplified" — an ILMS-funded project involving 10 U.S.public library systems that "… will use its grant to collect and analyze data on user experiences; identify opportunities for improvements; and design, test, and employ new tools, which will be made available to other libraries."
Continuing last year's RMG 2013 Town Hall focus on the transformational impact of e-Books on libraries, RMG once again announces a roundup of key ILS, Discovery, and e-Book vendors from the global library industry for a big tent discussion on the urgent need for libraries to provide customers with easier, simpler, and satisfying user experiences to find and use licensed and open e- and p- content.
See more, including a vision statement and extensive list of ebook strategy questions for public libraries on the RMG website.
Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts profiling library websites developed on the WordPress platform, excerpted from The Comparative Guide to WordPress in Libraries, a forthcoming LITA Guide to be published this week. Goodman, along with Polly-Alida Farrington, will be teaching the ecourse "WordPress to Build Library Websites" in February.
Madison Library Local History
Community archives consist of materials that are of local historical significance. The Prairienet article "Community Archives Approach" discusses how they represent underserved populations and serve as the
collective memory of the community. Materials may already be within the
library's collection in the case of academic libraries, or the library
may actively solicit the community for new items. Digital archives
produced by academic libraries often rely on expensive software such as
CONTENTdm. Using Wordpress, however,
you can build an attractive and useful community archive when you lack a
budget for specialized archival software, as the Madison Library Local
History Project proves.
With limited resources but a rich local history collection, the Madison Library Local History Project was built in house as a community digital archive. The project consists of high-quality
images, downloadable yearbooks, oral history transcripts, and local
written materials. Each record item has metadata attached to its entry.
WordPress's native category and tagging system is used for the site's
information architecture. Access to the collection is through top-level
categories based on material type. The items can also be browsed by
decade or descriptive tags. Nonimage files can be viewed via links to
the resource. The archive's strengths lie in its clear navigation and
easy access to the materials.
Mary Cronin, director of the Madison Library located in Madison, New Hampshire, answered the survey about her library's usage of WordPress.
The Library and Its Users
The Madison Library is a rural public library located on the eastern side of New Hampshire. The library has a service population of 2,500 people. While patrons have access to broadband, many prefer to
use their mobile devices. Popular mobile activities include accessing
e-mail and using social media. As far as technical skills, the patrons
have a range of abilities and interest from the early adopters to those
who have yet to use a computer. In Cronin's assessment, the diversity of
technical knowledge is spread throughout the population. The residents
voiced support when the library discussed displaying their local history
online. As well, the library trustees and historical society also backed
the archive initiative.
Why They Chose WordPress
The purpose of the Madison Library Local History Project was to create an accessible site that could display Madison's unique historical items. After receiving a Moose Plate Conservation Grant in
2007, a specialist from the Northeast Document Conversation Center
visited the Madison Library. While looking through the library's vault,
Cronin writes, staff realized "that Madison's 20th century history was
not being collected in any organized way, but was quickly being lost as
longtime residents passed away and their heirs cleaned out houses and
barns that had been in the same family for generations." The library
held public meetings to gain support for the initiative.
Cronin viewed other New Hampshire archives such as Beyond Brown Paper, another WordPress website, for guidance and inspiration. WordPress's intuitive interface and Cronin's previous experience in building the
library's website in WordPress were the reasons she chose it as her CMS
over Joomla and Omeka. Cronin's educational background in using
WordPress was developed through attending a state library workshop on
WordPress led by Bobbi Slosser, the NH State Library's technology
resources librarian. Slosser and the NH WordPress Users Google Group
have offered Cronin support in overcoming technical challenges.
Building with WordPress
The library had wanted to create an online archive for years but lacked the staff and funding to do so. Therefore, once the project was approved by stakeholders, Cronin built the website by
working unpaid hours on the weekends and in the evenings. Cronin's
background in graphic and book design helped her design the attractive
website. The project is hosted on a subdomain of the library's website;
the WordPress software is installed on the library's own server.
The launch of the project marked the end of a two year process. The first major milestone of the project was obtaining a grant to purchase ABBYY FineReader software, an optical character recognition
program. This software allows text in PDFs to be searched, which assists
the accessibility of the document as a whole. Cronin notes that ABBYY
FineReader can even read "some of the unusual typefaces found in
100-year old booklets." The next milestone was launching the website in
the summer of 2012. Before going live with the site, Cronin spent months
experimenting with different content management platforms, themes, and
plugins, and setting up the navigational scheme. (Slosser gave Cronin
the idea to make the content browsable by decade.)
Site maintenance is done by Cronin. Content is digitized by three volunteers, who submit it to Cronin to be uploaded to the website. Backups of the website and digital files are saved onto two
large 2 terabyte (TB) hard drives. The hard drives which were obtained
through a local history grant.
The project launched just two months before the time of this writing, so no historical data on the website usage was available. Cronin notes that
"the site is [already] meeting the goals of providing better access to
Madison's local history." She expects that promotion of the website will
be done primarily through word of mouth—especially in such a small
town! The volunteers have been enthusiastic supporters, with one of the
ladies in particular spreading word about the website and her
contributions to it.
Site traffic is being examined through the use of Google Analytics. Cronin is interested in finding out how people are finding the project (i.e., where site traffic originates from) and which
pages get the most views. By looking at the popularity of the pages, she
is able to judge which items are of the most interest. In the future,
she plans to do a user survey or feedback session to gain insight on
what features need to be improved.
The standout features for this website include the high-quality images, metadata, navigation, and searchable transcripts of scanned files.
First, the yearbook files are scanned in at an archival quality of 600
dpi, making them too large to be uploaded through WordPress's Media
Library. Thus the yearbooks are uploaded to Cronin's own server, and
links to the files are provided on the yearbook's entry on the website.
While these files are very large, the ability to link to files easily
within WordPress makes it easy in turn to keep materials connected to
Next, Cronin admired how Omeka detects, collects, and displays uploaded file data (e.g. file size) automatically. Therefore, for the project, each object's metadata description fields are a
simplified form of Dublin Core,
which is entered manually. The fields currently in use include
information from the file type, a link to the field, a physical item
description, and any identifying information, such as a title page. This
information is entered into each post's body text box. Eventually,
Cronin would like "to develop a simplified version of Omeka's upload
form in WordPress so that people can add their own items to our site and
provide the descriptive elements we need to fit the navigation scheme
and to add searchability."
Cronin makes clever use of WordPress default categories and tags, allowing for further discoverability by material type, decade of creation, and subject. In WordPress's category settings, she set up a
category for each material type and decade pairing. When she adds a new
object, she then selects a category to identify the material type and
date created. In the tag field, keyword terms, such as a person's name,
are added to better describe the item.
Finally, the original handwritten news columns of Alice Ward have provided an in-depth look into Madison's history. However, the paper's fragility has rendered that unsuitable as accessible materials.
Instead the library's volunteers have transcribed the columns. The ABBYY
FineReader software makes the transcripts searchable for residents
seeking information about relatives.
Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of posts profiling library websites developed on the WordPress platform, excerpted from The Comparative Guide to WordPress in Libraries, a forthcoming LITA Guide to be published in December.
Belchertown High School Library
For a school library, the natural target audience is the student body. In research for my book, I visited hundreds of school websites, usually not seeing even a passing nod to the other users of the library—the school’s faculty and staff. At the Belchertown High School Library, however, the librarian has built a website that supports teachers as well. He provides resources about lesson planning, the state’s standards, and more on a link clearly marked "Teachers." While the website also shines for its collection of study guides and encouragement of mobile databases, the attention paid to the whole service population makes this school library website shine.
The library relies on WordPress.com to host their website and currently uses the beautiful Oxygen theme by DevPress. This theme is responsive, which means the website will look great no matter what device is used to access it . Another showstopper of the theme is the featured images that appear on the front page’s slideshow, as seen in the screen shot. The library uses this slideshow to feature new posts, including suggestions for newer technologies such as Google Drive. Content on the home page is always fresh, and the eye-catching images draw interest to these new posts. Navigation runs horizontally across the top and down the side. The top navigation is the website’s pages and include links to the study guides, teacher’s section, library polices, and so on. The left sidebar includes catalog and database links. The sidebar also includes quick links to frequently asked topics such as MLA Citation Help, a calendar, and an RSS feed to the New York Times News. The left sidebar is a widget from Goodreads that displays six covers of books the librarian has recently reviewed. The center content on the home page is the aforementioned slider as well as links to other recent articles. The newer articles have images, while further down the page, the older articles do not display an accompanying picture. In the footer is a statement of who owns the website and who is responsible for the site’s maintenance. Individual posts and pages keep the left and right sidebars but gain a social sharing footer. However, comments are not allowed on the website.
Brennan Murray, library media specialist at the Belchertown High School Library in Massachusetts, answered the survey about his library’s usage of WordPress.
The Library and Its User
Belchertown High School Library is located in Belchertown, Massachusetts, which is just south of the state’s center. The school’s service population consists of approximately 800 students and 70 faculty and staff. Each school’s website provides ways to report bullying incidents, an important concern of schools. Murray notes that student access to Internet at home and tech savviness is mixed. Belchertown is close to Amherst, and the students come from both rural and upper-middle-class demographics, which creates a diverse range of tech access and familiarity across the student body.
Why they Choose WordPress
Murray was hired as the school’s library media specialist in 2009. The website needed a redesign to include better “flexibility and Web 2.0 integration for the site to keep it relevant and timely,” Murray states. He consulted with the school’s technology department to get the all-clear on using WordPress. Once approved, Murray built the site entirely by himself. His experience with WordPress was earned while doing projects in graduate school. He writes that he loves “how user-friendly the platform is, while allowing the users a wide range of powerful options.” During seminars with teachers, he also advocates the ease of creating websites in WordPress for anyone who can write e-mail messages and who is familiar with Microsoft Word.
Building with WordPress
It took Murray only a month to put the site together. His choice for using the hosted WordPress was a decision based upon needing a reliable server. The local school district had run into some server issues, so the library needed a better option. Of course, the ability to put together a website without adding to the library’s finances was a great selling point.
The website is completely managed by Murray. While he trusts WordPress.com’s servers, he does a periodic backup of his website’s database. Murray does not worry about updates, because they are managed by WordPress.com as part of being a hosted website.
As far as the website’s milestones, the successful launch of the new website was the biggest moment. Murray web design philosophy is that the website is “never fully complete, and should always be improved and added to in order to keep content fresh.” So his job is never-ending. (During the writing of my book, he completely revamped the site’s design—further proof that he takes his job as librarian/webmaster very seriously.)
Murray uses statistical analysis and gathers feedback to see how well the library is doing in meeting its goal to “serve the information needs of our student and faculty population.” When he looks over the reports and responses, he then adjusts the website as needed for an improved experience. For example, Murray checks what keywords are being searched for on the website. If the website has no information on that topic, the library will then update the website to add the sought-for content. This attention and analysis also tips the library off on what new resources students are looking for as they choose their research topics. Murray also notes that the site is visited when school is out, which means his library is competitive against big search engines for their local patron base.
Content rules the Belchertown High School Library website. Students have easy access to the project help guides for different teachers. Each guide is a page, which is divided into sections that match the teacher’s needs. Then each resource is a link either to the open Web or a library-provided database. A few of these guides include relevant images. By posting these guides online, the school can save on printing costs (and students pulling a last-minute all-nighter can get the quality resources for their project straight from their library).
Second, the library’s website recognizes that students are using mobile devices to access content. The website’s new theme is attractive and adjusts according to the viewport of the device that is accessing the website. While a visually appealing website may sound minor, a responsive website that adjusts its appearance for the user’s device is an accessibility issue. Pinching and zooming to see a full-sized, desktop-optimized website on a tiny screen can be physically and visually difficult for some users. The library promotes the use of mobile apps to their students by placing the link to mobile apps second in their navigation. Students are encouraged to use apps to easily access the catalog, databases, and Overdrive’s e-books and audiobooks.
On the next episode of American Libraries Live, our expert panel will be discussing tablets and mobile technology and how its impacting the library world. While a lot of the conversation will focus on devices, one of the overlooked aspects of this topic is connectivity and bandwidth. The rise of mobile technology in libraries has created new issues in these areas and new needs for institutions that strive to be as mobile-friendly as possible.
We're very pleased to have Mobile Beacon as our sponsor for this episode and to have their Managing Director Katherine Messier as part of our expert panel. Mobile Beacon is an innovator in this area--they've pioneered a program that allows libraries to lend out connectivity devices to patrons. Please read more about it on this blog post, How one Library is “Loaning out the Internet” using Mobile Technology.
We hope you'll join us for this epsiode of AL Live, which is taking place on Thursday, November 14th at 2:00pm Eastern. Heather Moorefield-Lang, Education and Applied Social Sciences Librarian for Virginia Tech, will lead an expert panel in a discussion on the present and future of tablets.
Joining Heather on the panel:
• Bohyun Kim, digital access librarian at Florida International University Medical Library
• David Lee King, Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
• Katherine Messier, Managing Director at Mobile Beacon
You can register for this 60-minute event, which takes place on Thursday, November 14th at 2pm Eastern at http://goo.gl/6C4aoj, or simply go to www.americanlibrarieslive.org at the time of the event. Pre-registration is not required to attend.