MultiGrain: A Brick Wall Instead of an Open Door

224 - Brick wallphoto © 2010 Marlon Bunday | more info (via: Wylio)
From The User Expectations Gap – A Brick Wall Instead of an Open Door, part three in a six-part series from Jane Burke, ProQuest, on InfoViews.

“Because library web sites often do not provide a clear and compelling starting place for research, users go with what they know. Whatever else we say about Google, it is a clear and compelling place to start. Simple. Easy. Fast.

“If users are going to learn how to create knowledge for the digital age, they need to use library resources, especially digital resources. To entice them to do that, we need to make our library websites as inviting as our physical spaces. Libraries need a “digital front door,” one that offers a compelling place to start and that offers clear context for research.”  Read entire post online here.

Is the library making it too hard to discover the rich resources on which we spend increasingly scarce dollars?

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3 thoughts on “MultiGrain: A Brick Wall Instead of an Open Door

  1. Jane’s comments about a digital front door particularly resonant. My library is currently in the midst of a initiative to redesign our website and we have been carefully considering the best online environment for users. For example, this morning I was in a 2 hour meeting discussing how best to construct a search widget on our homepage (including what widget tabs to include, what the tabs should say, and what resources each tab should search).

    Anyway, in her post, Jane writes positively of Google for its clarity and simplicity. I see a lot of libraries that seem to be emulating Google by having homepages with a prominently located search box (usually performing some sort of cross-database search) and a relatively small number of additional links so as to have clean, clutter free, Google-like feel. I personally like the approach but another element that Jane emphasizes is context. Context can be tricky, particularly if you want a clean, simple page. The challenge is balancing the two.

  2. DennisBrunning March 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm -

    Okay, Jane, I’ll bite. To deliver in the 21rst century, academic libraries need to design and build simple, easy, and intuitive web gateways. The portal approach, the standard approach, seems so old Internet; we’ve moved on from AOL and Yahoo. What do you suggest? I’m guessing it’s Summon, your discovery service.
    Our library, Arizona State University, has used Summon for a couple of years. It is a real plus to our library service but doesn’t substitute. We give it prime home page real estate and it’s used.
    But our other key resources are also used. Proquest, Ebscohost, Gale—all have great name recognition. All of our 700 e resources get used.
    Are you suggesting the simplicity of one search box powered by Summon—or any other discovery service? If yes, what multiple of use warrants adding discovery in such a KISS way?

  3. Response to Dennis Brunning from Jane Burke –

    Thanks, Dennis. You are, of course, anticipating my next couple of blog posts. I do think that today’s library needs a discovery service – a “digital front door”. But your point, I think, is that users don’t use that front door every time they enter the library, and they shouldn’t. If the discovery service is doing its job, then it is leading researchers to the library’s great resources. Once discovered, users will often go to those resources directly. At other times, they will go back to the discovery service. It is, once again, the Google analogy. People use Google to find shopping sites, but go back directly to the one with the best shoes.

    You said that all your 700 e-resources get used and that’s great. It sounds like the discovery service is working (and – full disclosure — maybe I’m a little biased about your library’s selection). Nevertheless, if the resources are being found and used, then the library remains important to the researchers. A discovery service – a clear and compelling starting place – helps.