By Scott Steward
Let’s talk about some best practices for organizing electronic resource pages.
It doesn’t matter if you are an academic, K12, public, or special library; if you boil down what we do to its simplest definition, our primary goal is to connect people to information.
Our users are already using tools like Google and Bing in their everyday lives to find information. E.g. Who makes the best cup of coffee? What is the cheapest flight to Las Vegas? What is the carrying weight of a swallow?
Right out of the gate we are at a disadvantage; users come with expectations that finding information should be easy. In hopes to provide a similar experience to Google, many libraries setup discovery systems. Google is a single search box, my discovery system has a single search box, this will make it easier for my users to find what they need. Right?
Well the answer is yes and no. While I’m not saying discovery systems aren’t useful tools, I am saying that they are not necessarily making searching easier for your users. I don’t want to go too deep into a discussion about discovery systems (I’ll save that for a future blog post), but in most cases, not all the content the library subscribes to is discoverable. This means users access some content one way and have to go to different parts of the website for other things. In addition, the discovery system is just casting a net into an ocean of content, which most likely will provide the user with results they don’t need, want, or even understand. That doesn’t sound efficient or easy to me.
That brings me to my first tip: Use context
The biggest advantage the library has over Google, Bing, or a discovery system is context. Google is getting better at guessing the context for everyday life things, but they are just guessing. For example, if I search for “pizza” in Google, it guesses that I might want to know where to get a pizza. It even knows that I’m searching from Farmington Hills, MI, so it tells me the restaurants near me. If I did the same search from other parts of the country, it would give me different results. So Google has taken some information it knows about me (my location) and then guessed at the reason I searched for pizza. But what if I was a student writing a paper and wanted to know where the pizza was invented, my simple pizza search would be useless.
Since you know the users you serve and the types of content in your electronic resources, why not help them get to what they need?
For example, if you are a library at a university with an English literature program, put all of your resources that support English literature in one place and provide the professor (and their students) with a link directly to that page. Then, have the professor add the link to the resource page in the student LMS, or even better, provide a single search box (widget) for just the resources that support English literature.
If you would like to add widgets to your website, download them >>
We have them available, and easy to implement, for most of our products. For the literature example I used above, I would recommend the widget for: Artemis Literary Sources. This will provide a single search box to all the scholarly literary resources you have from Gale. Essentially, a discovery system with context. We also have other custom options that can be explored.
Another example of using context would be organize the resources in a way that the users identify themselves. Once they have told you what type of user they are and what they are looking for, you can provide them with a curated selection of resources that will fit their needs. At Gale, we call these self-identified lists Personas. You can see an example of how we did this for the Vermont Online Library. The way this works is the user selects the Persona that best identifies them, or what they want. For example, they choose “The News Junkie.” A list of resources that provide news content are presented to the user. In this case, it would be General OneFile and Newsstand.
I have quite a few more tips to share, but lets leave it here and pick up again in the next time, when I will help you think like a user.
If you have any questions or comments about what I have discussed so far, leave me a reply below.
As always, stay tuned to the tech channel!
About the Author
Scott is a problem solver. He is equally comfortable writing code, creating graphics, swinging a hammer or turning a wrench. He has an Associate degree in Architecture from Washtenaw Community College and a B.S. In Computer Science from Baker college.