Thursday, August 22, 2019

Listening to Library Websites: the Home Page – Post 1

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Courtesy Gilles San Martin, CC by SA 2.0, Pediculus humanus capitis

In preparing my marketing library email list platform, I am seeing library website after website and they are communicating to me. It makes me reflect on two lines in Robert Burns’ poem from 1786 “O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” I’ll leave the title alone.

Interestingly, libraries no doubt initially had website design focused on the physical boundaries where they serve. Likely, website development funding was from the government with the expectation of covering that same geographic area. Reality is, however, that once a website goes live, it’s a global entity, not local or provincial.  If I live in Boston and plan to move to Seattle, one of the issues I’ll examine before I move is the local library options. Who would think that a library website could make a difference in one’s community choice? Yet, it can.

Let’s see how a home page can make a difference. Take a look at the home page for Richmond Public Library in Virginia. You can go from this link http://rvalibrary.org/. The page is filled with people, people engaged in use of the library. It’s inviting. The big picture changes images, showing an even wider view of the opportunities at the library. To move through the big picture quicker, click on the little circle buttons at the bottom of the big picture. The page encourages the viewer to linger on the page to get the flavor of the library. No matter who you are, the images welcome you. The viewer gets the immediate feel that the library is about the patrons, not the building or wealth of information it contains.

Some library home pages will provide a picture of the library building, especially if the building is new and unique. It may look like a page from an architectural magazine. Some will provide a history of the library. If I’m looking for a good community library, I’m not sure that would appeal to me as the welcome I expect. Others will provide activities in boxes or lists to let patrons and others know what’s available or upcoming. Although the information may be interesting to some, and knowing what the library looks like may help people find it, it is not the best choice for drawing people to the library. Other pages may show no images at all but use color and design to draw the viewer to their posted information. Color and design may be appealing, but it makes the website look like a bulletin board rather than a visually literate draw to the patron or potential patron. Neither of those views will communicate a patron-focused library. One of the primary goals of a library website should be to design a patron-focused, people-to-people welcome to draw the viewer to the home page and encourage exploration of other pages, resulting in patron draw to the library.

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