LITA 2008: Web Site Redesign – Perspectives from the Field, Panel Discussion

Panelists: Robin Leech (Oklahoma State University Libraries), Amelia Brunskill (Dickinson College), Edward M. Corrado (Binghamton University), Elizabeth Black (Ohio State University Libraries), Russell Schelby (Ohio State University Libraries)
Moderator: Mary LaMarca (Dartmouth College Library)

Black & Schelby:

When they began the project two years ago, the website was large and maintained by 100 content submitters, most of whom had limited coding expertise. Selected and implemented a Web Content Management System, and created a team of technical experts with both coding and project management skills. Black consciously focused on team development activities in addition to the projects the team worked on.

The team made a commitment to security, usability, maintainability, and data preservation of the website content. As a part of the data preservation, they were careful to document everything from architecture to passwords.

 

Brunskill:

Four years ago, Academic Technology, Library, and Information Services merged to become one division. The website was initially integrated, but then user feedback caused it to be broken out into separate divisions again. After a few years, the library wanted to make some changes, so they did a usability study, which resulted in some menu and vocabulary changes. Then, they began to plan for a much larger redesign.

To solve the communication problem, they set up a blog, charged unit representatives to report back to their units, and circulated usability data among all library staff. The usability studies also served as a buffer for touchy political situations, since the users are a neutral party.

 

Leech:

Developed two teams. The usability team informed the web redesign team, with only the library webmaster serving on both. Suggested that usability team read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

 

Note: I had to leave early because I could not stop coughing. The hotel HVAC was not playing nicely with my cold.

a library for 2000

Last fall, I spent many hours in the QA stacks weeding the mathematics books. I ran across one 1964 title that caught my eye: Random Essays on Mathematics, Education and Computers by John G. Kemeny, the then chairman of the Mathematics Department at Dartmouth College. Flipping it open, I scanned the table of contents and was surprised to see a chapter entitled “A Library for 2000 A.D.” I turned to the chapter and began reading.

“Since I am about to propose a radical reorganization of university libraries, I must first establish that some such reorganization is inevitable. I shall argue that our university libraries will be obsolete by 2000 A.D.”

Kemeny’s reasoning is that at the rate libraries were acquiring books in the early 1960s, “the cost of building, of purchasing volumes, of cataloguing, and of servicing these monstrous libraries will ruin our richest universities.” (I guess he never considered that administrations would cut library funding long before that became a problem.) He then goes through a very logic/mathematic approach to solving the problem of libraries and providing a solution: a National Research Library that houses the entire body of knowledge and where users could call in and request information from the librarians. With shared catalogs like WorldCat, online repositories of journals and books, and Google, it seems that his vision of libraries in 2000 wasn’t far off the mark, if perhaps in a different form than he could have known.

My initial reaction to his statement about the obsolescence of libraries was a very petty, “neener-neener, you’re wrong!” But, upon further reading I realized it’s not that he thinks libraries would become obsolete, it’s that he thinks that libraries as they were in the 1960s would become obsolete. In many ways, they have, and so will the libraries of 2005 if we aren’t willing to change to make the responsible use of technology to meet the needs of our users.