Hello everyone. I’m grateful to be here today to talk to you about my vision for the future of academic library websites. I’m going to add a bit of context to the topic then address the question directly, then tell you about what I think we need to do going forward.
Does anyone remember this? It’s only 10 years ago that our website looked like this. I see 4 names at the bottom of the page: Susie, Joe, Alex and Diane Sauvé. Now, let me pose a question. Did you at that point have any idea about Facebook, Twitter, ebooks, iPads or smartphones? In 2001, during my undergrad, I was still looking at print indexes. Libraries once had a near-monopoly as information providers. The World Wide Web has changed all that.
Now, here we are 10 years later. We have new things like AJAX in our What’s new section, XML, RSS feeds, consistent look and feel and many, many more web pages. We have a mobile website too.
So, 10 years from now. Where will we be? Will we even have a website? Will it be broken down into parts and integrated like widgets into user-defined interfaces? What will the Webster Library look like then? Imagine the 8-year-olds today and what their information needs will be as students in 10 years.
For my presentation I was given this question: What do we need to consider in designing our websites given that only 2% of university students start their searches for information on a library web site? This statistic comes from an OCLC report from 2005 that measured perceptions of libraries and information resources. 89% of university students are starting with search engines—particularly, Google. Then likely ending up on the first result: Wikipedia!
Well, it’s a dire statistic, but I’m going to give a bit more context so that we can put this statistic in perspective and do something constructive with it.
The statistic comes from a survey of 396 participants. The vast majority of college students surveyed were in the U.S. The survey also showed that 87% of students have been to the library in person and that 57% have visited the web site.
Many of the questions from the OCLC survey were repeated in 2009. The research paper I read about this did not address the question we’re interested in today, but overall, the results in the OCLC study could not be duplicated with the 2009 study. For example, in 2005 70% of students said that books were the main association they had with libraries. Only 43% said this in 2009. In 2005, 12% of students said that building/environment was what they associated with libraries, and in 2009 it was 43%, the top answer.The conclusion of the 2009 study authors was that we need to use local data for local decisions.I agree that we know that students are using Google and Wikipedia all the time (and I have to admit, so do I), but we need to ask some more sophisticated questions to really get at the issue.
For a bit more context, here are our attendance statistics at Concordia Libraries. From May 2010-May 2011, over 2 million people came through our turnstiles.
We also have the same statistics for our website. We’ve made it possible for students to access library resources without ever stepping foot into the library. Our website had an overall increase in page views of approximately 16% between 2009 and 2010.The Help folder pages had the most page views, with the citation guides being the most popular pages (there was a 63% increase from 2009-2010).This shows that the library website is still a significant resource supporting research at Concordia.
So, with all that in mind, let me show you my vision for the future of academic library websites.User testing and needs analysis Competitive intelligenceNew and emerging technologiesCollaboration & strategiesAdvocacy
Why do we have to do user testing and needs analysis? To ensure we’re providing the right service through our website. Is our navigation logical for students or logical for us? Are we missing information that is creating roadblocks for students? How can we create a research experience with an intuitive flow that’s ultimately successful for novices and experts alike?Luigina Vileno recently completed a usability study for her 2 research guides and found that language was a common problem. For example, are we using the same language that students are using? When students are tasked with finding peer-reviewed journal articles and they come to our website, do we indicate anywhere that we have peer-reviewed journal articles? It’s hard for us to know how students will react to our website – we have to ask them.
Also, we need to be aware of new and emerging technologies. We’ve gone mobile and this will evolve as new technologies become available. Will we adopt a discovery interface soon?Google now has indoor maps in Google Maps for Android devices. You can upload a floor plan and Google will help users navigate indoors. Airports are already using it. Also, data is becoming a bigger and bigger topic. How will we address this?What about Web 3.0? Personalization and the ubiquity of social networks. Multimedia will be no longer Flash-based, but HTML5 will let you create multimedia.
There are an infinite number of possibilities, but we need first to keep in line with the library’s vision and strategies. A particularly prescient part of our vision statement is: The Library is dynamic, using our collective expertise to recognize and embrace the changes in learning and research environments and to offer innovative and timely responses.The new CMS project will likely make it easier for reference librarians to edit their online guides, by giving them WYSIWYG editors, making it easier to get information out to students in a quick and easy way. Information literacy goes hand in hand with the web site, and any usability studies will need to address information literacy topics.There is a web component to almost every library department and committee! The web coordinator needs to slice across departments and assist them in achieving their end goals to assist our patrons.
We also need to advocate for ourselves, to represent our unique interests and those of our users. We want to ensure that the CMS project does not diminish our services or our abilities to work. Do we need to do a marketing campaign to let students know about the plethora of resources we have for them – that they pay for?One usability issue that repeatedly came up in my literature review was related to how academic libraries do not have complete control over all the content they offer. We need to push the envelope with vendors, as we have been doing with ProQuest recently.
So, in conclusion, we don’t know what the Concordia library website of 2012 will look like, but we know what to keep in mind when designing our website:Ensure that we’re meeting users’ needs by engaging with them in formal testingKnow what other organizations are doingBe conscious of new technologiesCollaborate, collaborate, collaborate to reach our end goalsCreate strategies to guide usAdvocate for our unique interests
So, there’s my vision for the future of academic library websites. I’m grateful for the opportunity to address my colleagues on this topic. At this point, if you have any questions you’d like me to answer, please ask away!
The future of academic library websites
THE FUTURE OF ACADEMICLIBRARY WEBSITESPAMELA CARSON 1 /18 Word cloud via http://www.wordle.net/
MORE DETAILSOCLC’s data came from a survey of 396 participants“Eighty-seven percent of college students have visited acollege library in person, and more than half (57 percent)have visited an online college library (Web site)”(OCLC, 2005, p. 1-1). 7 /18
2009 REPLICA STUDY“… libraries should not rely on the data presented in CollegeStudents’ Perceptions of Libraries and InformationResources for making decisions in their local environments.Use local data for local decisions” (Sutton, Bazirjian, & Zerwas, 2009, p. 484). 8 /18
THE ANSWERIn today’s context where 2% of students start theirinformation search on a library site and 89% use a searchengine, what do libraries need to consider in designing theirwebsite?1. User Testing and Needs Analysis2. Competitive Intelligence3. New & Emerging Technologies4. Collaboration & Strategies5. Advocacy 11 /18
&USER TESTINGNEEDS ANALYSISGoal: A usable, attractive site that supports our library‟s vision• Where can we add value?• Top tasks?• Jargon?“Two common and often related problems that came uprepeatedly within the literature were user confusion regardingnavigation and professional jargon used on an academic libraryWeb site” (McCann, Ravas, & Zoellner, 2010, p. 393). 12 /18
COMPETITIVEINTELLIGENCE COMPETITORS GOALS Academic libraries Benchmarking Public and private Find out about sectors emerging technologies 13 /18
NEW TECHNOLOGIESMobile Location-based servicesData curationWeb 2.0 Web 3.0PersonalizationSocial networks & media 14 /17
&COLLABORATIONSTRATEGIESLink web changes to overall library vision and strategiesAll library departments and committees have web needsInformation LiteracyCSU and student relationships 15 /17
ADVOCACY• Vendors (Ahem… ProQuest)• University (CMS project)“…it simply is not in the better interests of vendors to facilitate„one stop shopping‟…We encourage academic librariansto push the envelope with vendors (either consortially orindividually)” (Detlor & Lewis, 2006, p. 254). 16 /17
TO SUM IT ALL UPWE DON’T KNOW WHAT IT WILL LOOK LIKE,BUT WE KNOW HOW TO GET THERE.When designing an academic library website, we need to• Be informed of our users‟ needs,• Know what other organizations are doing on the web,• Implement new technologies,• Collaborate with stakeholders,• Create overarching strategies to guide us, and• Advocate for our unique interests. 17 /18
REFERENCESDe Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Hawk, J., & Wilson, A. (2005). College students‟ perceptions of libraries and information resources: A report to the OCLC membership. Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved on November 30, 2011 from http://www.oclc.org/reports/pdfs/studentperceptions.pdfDetlor, B., & Lewis, V. (2006). Academic library web sites: Current practice and future directions. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(3), 251-258.Erdman, J. M. (2009). Library Web ecology: What you need to know as Web design co-ordinator. Oxford: Chandos Publishing.Evans, W. (2009). Building library 3.0: Issues in creating a culture of participation. Oxford, U.K.: Chandos Publishing.Lehman, T., & Nikkel, T. (Eds.). Making library web sites usable: A LITA guide. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.McCann, S., Ravas, T., & Zoellner, K. (2010). The researcher‟s journey: Scholarly navigation of an academic library web site. Journal of Web Librarianship, 4(4), 391-412.Miller, W., & Pellen, R. M. (Eds.). (2005). Libraries and Google. Binghampton, NY: Hawthorn Information Press.Singer Gordon, R. (Ed.). (2007). Information today: Reflections on technology and the future of public and academic libraries. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.Sutton, L., Bazirjian, R., & Zerwas, S. (2009). Library service perceptions: A study of two universities. College & Research Libraries, 70(5), 474-496. 19