Monday, April 12, 2010

Computers in Libraries Conference: Day One

Computers in Libraries is one of the most inspiring conferences I have attended. This is my second time attending, and I am loving it! Here's what I learned today:

Experience Design Makeover
Presented by David Lee King

Experience Design means making the experience for users, while they are on your web site, better.

5 ways to jumpstart your own Extreme Makeover
1. Write an Experience Brief: Instead of saying how you want your web page to work, write a one-page story about how you want people to use and experience your site. Plan for the experience you want them to have. Are there groups you are under-serving on your site? Are there groups you are over-serving? Write experience brief for each group of users. Tell their story of experiencing your web page from their point of view. What did they click on? Why? What was their goal? Did they achieve it?

2. Take a touch point journey. For example, a library's goal might be to give out more library cards. What points of the web page must users click to meet that goal?Go through every click toward a goal and see how the patron experiences it. This is different from an experience brief because it focuses on the library's goal - which is hopefully the patron's goal too! (Hopefully our users want a library card, and they may attempt to get one via the library web page.) It does not include the patron's story, though; just the clicks. Focus on a goal YOUR library has for its web site: more database use or live chat sessions, more use of a digital collection, more followers on Twitter...whatever. How easy are you making it for people to perform that action?

3. Conversation is experience. People want to talk to each other and to staff. Give them the opportunity to comment, discuss, and learn from others through your web page.

4. “Why would I click here”? For example, an “Ask a librarian” link. I would click here to “ask a librarian!” It is important to be in the user's head, not your own. If 6th grade Joey is doing homework and goes to the library web site for help, why would he click on "databases" or "search the catalog" or "teens"? Does he know what these words mean? What will be the result of clicking on "databases?" Hopefully, he will be linked to databases (not information ABOUT databases, not links to other pages that have databases...just the databases). Does a sixth grader know what databases are? What if the link said "Find articles" instead? Why would someone click on "Find articles?" (To find articles!!) Be clear, be concise, and with one or two clicks give the user the thing they clicked on it for.

5. Focus on the customer. Don’t be staff-centric. Don’t give a bunch of rules about what they can ask, why, of whom, how soon you’ll get back to them, etc. They came to the library web site, so serve them.

Website Redesign: Two Case Studies
Speakers: several, but my favorite was Sarah Houghton-Jan, The Librarian in Black.

A web site re-design can be a long, complicated journey if you don't have a plan. The panel suggested all the usual things, like having a timeline and a project manager. Usability testing is crucial. You need to identify who you are serving through your web page. Focus on the few things you do well and the things your users do the most. Don't worry about staff needs; focus on patron needs. Tell stories of what your users want – what do they do when they come to the web site, what do they do when they use the physical building? What things could they do online that they do in the physical building? Look for friction points. Where do you get the most complaints? (In person and online). Angry people are great to ask for their opinion because they already bothered to tell you what they don’t want/what they need.

5 things to avoid when re-designing a web site:
Trying to be fancy when your brain says “no”
Allowing consultants to push you around
Having more than one project manager
Stifling creativity
Re-inventing wheels

5 things you must do when re-designing a web site:
Show your ego to the door
Take risks
Document everything
Research everything
Talk to your users continuously

Improving Visual Web Experience
Presented by Michael Beccaria and Heather Harrison of Paul Smith's College and Len Davidson of Catholic University

Heather Harrison (who volunteered at the library where I used to work! I'm so proud of our "Alpha Intern" as we called her!) and Michael Beccaria presented software called DeepZoom and Photosynth. Both are incredibly cool, and don't look too difficult to learn or manage.

Library Applications for DeepZoom and Photosynth:
Panoramas – photos you can zoom in on.
Collections/rooms you want to give tours of.
New books – In addition to RSS feeds of what's new in your collection, you could take a picture of the new book shelf and let people actually SEE and browse it virtually!
Stacks – Browse stacks by photo of what’s there. See what’s next to items on the shelf. Special collections could be promoted: ESL, Genealogy, etc.
Art Galleries – Have patrons submit historic photos of the community, or do a virtual art show.
3D Tour – of library, of town, of anywhere!

Len Davidson spoke of mapping sites and location-based social networking. Foursquare, Gowalla - both could be used at the library so people can share with others that they visit the library, what they found there, and give tips to others.

Some really cool historical map sites:
Library of Congress
U.S. Geological Survey
David Rumsey

Gen X Librarians: Leading from the Middle
I took a break from the web design stuff and attended this very interesting session in the afternoon. The speakers' main points were:

Generation X spans from mid-1960s to early-1980s. I was born in 1974, so I'm squarely in the middle.

Generation X was the smallest generation entering the workforce at once. Generation Y was right behind us, and all those Baby Boomers came before us.

Generation X grew with technology. We experienced it as it was being invented. Our educations were shaped by new technology as it became available throughout our lifetimes. We were taught by Baby Boomers who were already grown and educated, but who had to learn technology to teach it to us. They might have been reluctant, but for us it was just a way of life to adopt the next new thing.

We experienced the shift from:
Typewriters to word processors
Card catalogs to OPACs
Print to Electronic
Analog to Digital
Traditional to Social
Landline to cell phone

Library implications:
Gen-Xers are generally around 10-15 years out of library school. We are just hitting the point in our careers where we have enough experience to start applying for manager and director positions. Traditional libraries may hesitate to accept the belief systems of our generation. We are independent, individual, innovative. It is an institutional challenge to be flexible enough to make Directorship look appealing to our generation. (Wow, totally untrue at my current library! It seems like "fresh blood" - a young and innovative perspective - was what they were looking for when I hired in 7 months ago. I'm really lucky!)

And that, my friends, concludes Day One. I attended one other session at the end of the day, but it was mostly a repeat of the morning sessions on web site design.

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