Public libraries in NSW provide there communities with an ever growing collection of digital resources: databases, eBooks and eAudio content. But are these collections a hidden treasure to many of our clients; as the fabled city El dorado and the gold within remained hidden to the conquistadores. And if so, how do we place the proverbial X on our websites to guide our users to these collections.
What is best practice web-design for improving database usage and how do we move from a cumbersome end user experience to one that is intuitive
As digital collections grow, are we placing greater emphasis and resources into the design of our websites? Do we consider the website end user experience in the same manner that we consider the needs of those that enter our physical premises? Are we offering online services via our websites, or merely online brochures directing clients to services within our physical premises? What would happen if on a busy desk shift you referred a client to an online database. Could they find it of their own accord? Could they access it on their mobile phone? And how easy is it for a client to access your digital collections remotely?
Today I will focus on simple solutions for maximising the accessibility and usage of online content. Specifically looking at: Website Design (and simple strategies for improving visibility of digital content) Discovery tools (the use of widgets and federated search) Simplifying remote access to eContent (by considering the end user experience and the issue of authentication) the importance of marketing and training (and some exciting new NSW.net initiatives) the need to consider Smartphone users when developing websites And finally, is it time to contemplate the transition to the digital branch, where the website becomes a service branch in its on right. Providing direct access to econtent, staff expertise and offering a platform for communities to engage. In essence: a dynamic microcosm of the greater library service.
As you would be aware, NSW.net provides the PLN with free access to 10 databases, (listed on the screen). This represents a significant collection of valuable information and a saving to you of in the order of between 10K-40k a year. This core set allows many of you to supplement this collection with your own econtent purchases as demonstrated in this graph
In 2011 78% of libraries purchased additional databases to supplement those provided by NSW.net, 28% of libraries are purchasing anywhere between 10-40 additional eContent products. This represents a significant expenditure on your part and is an indication of the growing importance of eContent in some public library collections. Over the last 3 years we have finally witnessed the emergence of eBooks as an increasingly desirable format for our users along with eAudio, music files and streaming multimedia. We are witnessing the beginning of a major shift towards the digital distribution of content through license agreements instead of the physical material that we have purchased thus far. This shift has already occurred in Academic libraries, At the recent Libraries future forum Meredith Graham from Macquarie University indicated that 70% of the collection budget is dedicated to the purchase of digital content. If public libraries are moving in this direction, we need to ask the question: how are our existing econtent collections performing, and how do we improve usage?
If we look at the State-wide database over the past three years we see a steady increase in the usage of these resources. This is fantastic news!!! However, on closer inspection there are a number of interesting things occurring. The graph on the right shows that 25 public library services are accounting for 68% of the total NSW.net State-wide database usage. 15 of the top 25 libraries are located in Sydney and 10 in regional NSW. Futhermore: we noticed that there is a lot of variability in database usage even between neighbouring library services. So the discrepancy is unlikely to be related to purely demographic considerations. This prompted me to undertake a review of all PL websites; to identify any correlations between the layout and design of library websites and usage statistics. Keeping in mind that the website is only one of a number of factors that influences database usage however; it is a factor whereby simple changes can have a big impact.
So what did I find? Well, there were a number of key design elements exhibited in the top 25 library websites which included: The use of a dedicated library website, separate from the standard council site. Intuitive Navigation and layout Simple explanatory definitions and descriptions for eContent resources And the use of Discovery tools and Widgets I should point out that not all libraries necessarily utilised all of the above design elements but they general have 3 out of the 4.
A dedicated website provides a library service with a number of significant benefits You can create a distinctive and unique brand for your service, as opposed to sharing the standard corporate colours of your organisation. You can use the entire website to logically arrange your content, there is no competition with other departments for prime webpage space. You will benefit from full control of your home page as opposed to fighting the uphill battle to have your latest library news or a database search box widget promoted to the front page of the council website. You will also have greater latitude to leverage of the various social 2.0 tools and to continually evolve your site to your clients needs. A dedicated library website will require a dedicated Library staff member with the appropriate skill set. This reflects the continual evolution of providing a modern library service.
So here we have a typical looking council webpage from Liverpool. The site search box, presents on everypage, I wonder how many catalogue searches are entered into this? It’s not a great design feature, in a library zone. But it is typical of many council websites. If you click on the mylibrary link . This takes you through the dedicated liverpool library website.
As you can see, there is a vast stylistic difference. It has a dynamic menu, although it’s not possible to see that in the powerpint It has a simple but engaging design and branding There is dynamic news feeds, which automatically refreshes promoting various online services and eResources
The My search section of the site, is uncluttered with catalogue and databases links prominently displayed.
Moving along, here we have the Lake Macquarie library service dedicated website There is no confusing site search, just a catalogue search box. They also have dynamic library news feeds promoting services And under the heading Research is listed eResources All top 25 library sites have a link to their eContent on the home page. If you bury the link to eContent on a 2nd or 3rd level page you are drastically reducing the likelihood of this content being found and used.
With regards to the terminology utilized to describe digital collections: Online Resources was the most common term, followed by eResources and online databases . I wonder if anyone has surveyed their community to see what econtent description has the greatest resonance? Should we strive for consistency and endeavour to create a ubiquitous term for eContent? Would this help our marketing strategies in promoting eContent resources throughout the state? Something to think about!
With regards to dedicated library websites I would also recommend that you look at the Richmond Tweed, Warringah, Wollondilly and the brand new A.C.T. Library Site. The feature I particularly like in the ACT site is the eResources menu and the use of the two headings: About electronic resources and about eBooks and eAudio . It doesn’t assume you that you understand this terminology, it invites you to find out.
Ok, now whilst a dedicated library website has many advantages, you can still achieve great results on a shared platform, as you can see from the Wollongong example. This site utilises dynamic new widgets, an embedded catalogue search and a prominent menu option for online content. When you move your mouse over the Online Resources link the following drop down menu appears:
This menu like the ACT example clearly displays the types of online content available and utilises a brief descriptions to assist clients determine what may be of interest to them. The descriptive text for Databases and eBooks reads: “ A great place to find newspapers and magazine articles as well as up to date information on all subjects”. Anyone should be able to understand that!!! We should not expect end users to be fully acquainted with the library terminology that we take for granted. We must always think of the end user experience and test our websites on clients. Simply sit down with a handful of clients from different demographics and ask them to navigate to resources. Use this feedback to improve the accessibility of your site. Do this every year !
Now on the topic of navigation it is advisable to include persistent menu links throughout relevant sections of your website directing clients to your digital content.
Another simple initiative that can easily be implemented on a website is a subject directory. It provides an intuitive way in which a client can easily identify which database may provide relevant content for their needs. As your digital collection expands a subject directory becomes a mandatory feature of a user friendly library site.
It is also recommended that you provide a description of each database and the associated subject coverage. A title with no description is after all meaningless to a first time database user Also, indicate if the resource can be accessed from home and how you do this?
The use of branding graphics can make a page listing eContent resources more appealing to the eye than a purely text based page. These are provided for free by the vendors, or contact me.
An interesting marketing idea is a featured database of the month, you could tie this into a relevant event. City of Sydney also use an embedded search box widget for Workd Book encyclopedia. Most vendors provide free search box widget code. You to place a search box anywhere on your site and they are very effective for driving database usage.
The EBSCO Cross search widget is free and will search across all EBSCOhost state-wide databases simultaneously. The implementation of the search box at Inverell increased their database usage by over 1000% Please contact me for further information.
Beyond a search box is the use of a federated search solution or in the case of Warringah a web scale discovery tool. This allows a library to integrate all eContent resources and your library catalogue into a single search portal. With a discovery tool the client does not need to know the subject matter of each individual database. The best performing libraries all use a discovery layer tool. NSW.net is currently in the process of negotiating a subsidised offer for the EBSOHost integrated Search Solution. It’s not too late to request a quote for this service. This Friday will be the cut off.
As libraries expand their digital collections the issue of remote access increases in importance. Our clients generally use their library membership card number for authentication. However if a client is looking at multiple databases from home, every time they enter a database they must authenticate again This is far from a great end user experience. There is a solution to this dilemma, you can use a referring url or a solution such as Ezyproxy which provides a one off authentication for your eContent per session. EZproxy costs around $1000.00 and is hosted on your server. EZProxy coupled with a federated search solution provides your end users with the best possible search experience. EZproxy is also the easiest method to provide trove end users access to your databases in the proposed NLA Open Boarders Project.
I am sure that many of you would have seen this, iphone add promoting eBooks and the iBook store. This will drive interest in eBooks and many libraries have already purchased eBook platforms or are in the process of doing so. But there is a broader question to be answered: is your website mobile friendly is your catalogue mobile friendly? Have you tried to access your website with a smartphone? The number of people using their smartphone as a primary tool for accessing the internet is growing daily. In 2010 Web capable Smartphones out sold PC’s for the first time. Google now creates mobile versions of their applications before considering the desktop version. Do you have a mobile version of your catalogue, if not a service called library anywhere can provide one for $350. Mobile Optimisation of your website and eContent should be one of your top priorities.
Did you know that there is a free Mobile app for the EBSCOhost databases? Sutherland library has made this available to their end users For more information please contact me.
This year I had somewhat of a midlife crisis and decided to take up fly fishing. I’m ashamed to say that to save some money I looked at some US sites. Now being a fish out of water, with regards to fly fishing knowledge I required some assistance. I noticed that number of the websites used instant messaging, so it was possible to seek guidance from staff. It was simply fantastic!!! This inspired some research and I discovered that it is possible to embed an instant message client like Meebo into EBSCOhost using one of their widgets and its easy to do. This would allow you to provide point of service assistance to clients searching your databases. You could use this in a federated search portal and in each individual state-wide licensed database. The state library of QLD has used IM for remote assistance for a number of years.
Marketing and training are also important factors for increasing database usage and unfortunately I do not have the time to discuss this today. In the 2 nd half of 2011 NSW.net in conjunction with EBSCO will be running a number of Marketing and Promotion Seminars throughout NSW We are also investigating the creation of a range of online video training podcasts that will provide 24X7 information literacy skills for staff and clients.
El Dorado : is your digital collection an undiscovered treasure? Ross Balharrie
El Dorado: is your digital collection an undiscovered treasure? How to place an X on the Website!!! NSW.net (Reference at the Metcalfe May 2010) P&D-3152-10/2009
Maximising the use of eContent resources <ul><li>How to maximise access and usage of databases via: </li></ul><ul><li>website design </li></ul><ul><li>discovery tools </li></ul><ul><li>simplifying remote authentication </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Training </li></ul><ul><li>Smartphones (iPhones, Blackberries and Android etc) </li></ul><ul><li>Digital Branch: moving from an online brochure to an online services platform </li></ul>
NSW.net State-wide Licensed databases <ul><li>ANZ Reference Center </li></ul><ul><li>Master File Premier </li></ul><ul><li>Academic search Elite </li></ul><ul><li>Consumer Health Complete </li></ul><ul><li>Green File </li></ul><ul><li>Literary Reference Center </li></ul><ul><li>NoveList Plus </li></ul><ul><li>Points of View Reference Center </li></ul><ul><li>Science Reference Center </li></ul><ul><li>Standards Australia Online Public Library Service </li></ul>= <ul><li>Sample of content: </li></ul><ul><li>9656 Cumulative Journals titles </li></ul><ul><li>102,112 Subject Essays </li></ul><ul><li>825 embedded eBooks </li></ul><ul><li>23 Encyclopaedias (Digital) </li></ul><ul><li>512,000 images </li></ul><ul><li>1359 videos </li></ul><ul><li>240 animations </li></ul><ul><li>262,790 Biographies </li></ul><ul><li>675,000 Book Reviews </li></ul><ul><li>340,000 Plot Summaries </li></ul><ul><li>8000+ Australian Standards </li></ul>Approximate market value of state-wide database suite for a: Small library service $20,000+ Medium library $30,000+ Large library $40,000+ NSW.net State-wide License equates to approximately $3000 per library service
Public Library Database Collections, in addition to state-wide databases
Common design elements of high usage sites <ul><li>Dedicated library sites </li></ul><ul><li>Intuitive Navigation and layout </li></ul><ul><li>Simple explanatory definitions and descriptions </li></ul><ul><li>Discovery tools and Widgets </li></ul>
Benefits of a Dedicated Library Website <ul><li>Distinctive branding </li></ul><ul><li>No competition for website real estate (easier to promote activities) </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid confusion in layout </li></ul><ul><li>Greater control to evolve site to client needs </li></ul><ul><li>Web 2.0 integration </li></ul>
Common factors in high usage sites: Dedicated Library Website (mini-site) http://library.lakemac.com.au/ All high database usage library services have a prominent link to eContent on the home page!
Authentication for remote users? <ul><li>How easy is it for your clients to access multiple databases from home? </li></ul><ul><li>EZproxy authentication and access software, simplifies remote access by providing a single log-in experience </li></ul><ul><li>EZproxy will facilitate incorporation of your libraries E-Resources into Trove (Open Boarders Project) </li></ul>
The Smartphone and the Library: are you ready? <ul><li>43% of Australians own a Smartphone (2010 Nielsen) </li></ul><ul><li>42% of Americans own a Smartphone (2009 Pew) </li></ul><ul><li>40% of US adults use a Smartphone to access the internet </li></ul><ul><li>Google’s engineers work on mobile implementation first before versions are optimized for desktops. </li></ul><ul><li>Google CEO Eric Schmidt…”we understand the new rule is mobile first in everything”! </li></ul>In late 2010 smartphone sales surpassed pc sales for the First time (International Data Corporation)
Mobile app for accessing the 9 State-wide licensed databases
Use a widget to embed a chat window into your EBSCOhost database interfaces
Marketing and Training <ul><li>Marketing and Promotion Seminars 2011 </li></ul><ul><li>Online Training video podcast under investigation </li></ul>