Web Site Review – Chicago Public Library for Kids

For this web review, I have chosen to focus on one particular aspect of each website, that is their page for children. I did not frequent CPL’s former website, so I can not comment any recent changes or improvements. It’s a little long, but I wanted to cover the topics appropriately.

To the Head of Youth Services for the Chicago Public Library,

It has been my privilege to examine the part of the new CPL website that is devoted to children and their families. and I am impressed by what I saw. The site is pleasantly designed and contains excellent content that will be of interest to the audience. I liked that the basic design of the main site was maintained, but that the color and font schemes are different. I also like the area near the top of the page devoted to Kid’s Events. However, in studying similar pages designed by the New York Public Library (NYPL)and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLoP), I see that there are some ways that CPL could improve their children’s site, especially in the areas of language, layout and usability.

I am glad to see that CPL is not using jargon-filled language that is hard for patrons to understand, like “catalog” or “databases.” However, the language that has been chosen instead is so general, that it’s hard to know where to look for information. If I’m looking for good books to read, where will I look? The word “book” only appears once in “Book Reviews.” Clicking the link takes a visitor to a short list of reviews written by kids. While charming, it is not helpful in finding an excellent mystery book. Similarly, it would not occur to me to click on “popular topics” when looking for a website to help me with my science fair project. In contrast, CLoP has a portion of their site known as the Book Nook, which contains links to book lists, as well as book related databases and programs. On the NYPL site, the popular topics are each featured on the tool bar across the top of the page. Kids looking for information on science can find links to websites and databases from one place.

One of the things that I like best about the layouts of both the NYPL and CLoP children’s pages is the fact that the important information on the front page is available without scrolling. Information is available at a glance. While this may not be possible on the CPL website, changes in layout could make important information easier to find. For example, on the main page of the Chicago Public Library site, information is organized into three areas, Read, Learn and Discover. This organization is not used on the children’s page, and I feel that keeping that consistent organizational scheme could improve the layout of the site.

Many children visit the library website in search of help with homework. CPL’s children’s site does have a place to click for Homework Help. It lists Programs and hotlines for homework help as well as websites for test prep. However, there are no links to reference sites, to databases or to information about area schools. Both NYPL and CLoP have created comprehensive homework help areas. At CLoP, students can find books lists by grade, subject links and a list of databases that is organized by a series of questions students may need answers to. NYPL has created a separate site for assisting children with homework with research guides, links to databases and even calculators and sparks notes. Having a similar comprehensive area for schoolwork help would improve the usability of the CPL children’s site.

This letter lists only a few ways that Chicago Public Library’s website for children could be reorganized to make it easier to use for children and their parents. Children and families are an important part of the library community and I am pleased to see that CPL takes their information needs seriously.

Thank you,



1 Comment

  1. March 29, 2008 at 12:01 am

    […] ginnybelle ’s post is one of my favorite picks for today. Check out the post Web Site Review – Chicago Public Library for Kids below. I highly recommend viewing the full post! […]

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