Re-envisioning the library website

It began innocently enough. One of my co-workers mentioned that the children’s page for our library was really outdated. I had just registered for this class and I thought it might be fun to take on the challenge of redesigning the page. I had no idea what I was getting into.

Really, our library’s website isn’t bad. It’s better than some I’ve seen, just a little bland. So I started goofing around. I was inspired by the design of the Maui Community College Library, which Michael blogged about some months ago. My first attempt was really bad. No… really.

But the effort was not in vain, because I got to practice using tables in tables. I know that using tables to create layout is no longer correct, but with my limited knowledge of html, it was the only option available to me.

Having the chance to map out my plans for the page was really helpful. It helped me know where I was going before I started messing with the code. The other assignment that significantly affected my thinking in regards to this project was the website review. I loved the content and design of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg’s Kids page, and have incorporated many of their ideas in the organization of my site.

Putting the Youth Services page together was not difficult, just time consuming. Even though content was not a factor in the project grade, I would ultimately like to use this page as an example of what could be done to re-think the real kids page. I needed enough content to flesh out my thinking. I used the picture of the library and the library logo from the main page. I created the Youth Services logo in Publisher. I chose green because of the color scheme of the original library page, and tan because it was a nice complementary color. While I do like the bolder color schemes used on other library kids pages, I sometimes find them kitschy or garish. I felt a more understated color scheme, supplemented by lots of colorful pictures, would convey the idea of a children’s space without “screaming”. As for the colorful photos, Flickr Creative Commons is AWESOME! Of course, eventually I’d like to have pictures from our library, but we’re still wrestling with privacy and liability, so we’ll leave that for now.

Overall, I’m happy with the way the page turned out. Obviously, there’s still some work to be done. Eventually, I’d like to play around with some CSS and maybe even redo the whole page the “right” way.

But for now, the page is achieving the objective: I’ve managed to sneak my way on to the library’s website re-design committee. Because of the information I’ve learned in this class, I have a lot of ideas to contribute. And, more importantly, the confidence to share them. We probably won’t be adding texting or cover flow. But we have a blog now. And I’m going to float MeeboMe at our next meeting. So there’s progress.

And I’m good with that. It’s good enough 🙂

~Renee

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,

~Renee