Month: August 2014

Website Redesign

Recently, Schewe decided that we needed to redesign our website.  A look at our current website (as at 19/08/2014) reveals it to be a shambling mess — dead links, broken widgets, aesthetically stultifying, and a (dis)organization of content that would put Theodor Geisel to shame.  Now, in fairness, Schewe is a small library, and as a small library, we don’t really have the programming expertise, web skills, or design knowledge to make a slam-bang website.  And even if we did, we’re locked into a wider campus design template, which, while functional, would have looked right at home in 2005.  So, we’re in a bit of a tight spot, but we realize our current website isn’t measuring up, and so something must be done.







In planning our revised website, one of the first things we set out to do was re-facet our content.  Now, faceting is most often associated with thesaurus and encyclopedia construction, but the principles which underlie good faceting — logical, discrete, and mutually exclusive categorization — are very much applicable in a web environment.  If you put things where they ought to belong, people pick up the scheme of things pretty quickly.  Another design philosophy which informed our soon-to-be revision was the principle that people spend most of their time on other people’s web pages.  As librarians, we’re sometimes prone to streaks of exceptionalism, but when it comes to web design, users appreciate a familiar, standardized functionality.  In this regard, we’re just trying to be part of the crowd.







Ultimately, though, the success of a redesign can only be judged through user behaviour.  Will users download more content?  Will we get more hits?  Will people find what they’re looking for?  These are all questions which we’ve made informed guesses about, and we think we’re headed in the right direction, but, really, the stats will tell the story.  Here’s hoping…



If variety is the spice of life, it is no less the spice of working in a small, academic library.  Sure, you have your specialities, but by virtue of size, life in a small library obliges you to do a little of everything.  This is usually a good thing, but can occasionally cause problems.  Case in point: Schewe is looking to add geographic information systems (GIS) programming into our portfolio.  We’re hoping to tie a GIS software package into our new Digital Learning Center, and in addition to providing computers and software, we’d also like to offer some dedicated(ish) Librarian support for the venture.  Sounds good, right?




Sure, save that GIS is a complicated business.  The learning curves are steep, the time commitment is sizeable, and the material under consideration can be a little esoteric.  This has lead to GIS getting a bit of a reputation in the library community — the whole enterprise is considered difficult, unwieldy, and usually requires its own dedicated position (GIS/Data/Map Librarian).  Furthermore, those dedicated positions are in high demand and low supply — even big salaries haven’t pushed new librarians down the GIS path.  So, even by the standards of specialized library services, GIS is a thorny business, and Schewe is by no means big enough to simply throw a new hire at the issue.




How then will Schewe handle its GIS expansion.  Carefully, and most carefully when it comes to our initial software selection(s).  As an institution without a Geography program proper, we can hopefully avoid some of the more complex options on the market (i.e. those dealing with specialized geographic analysis or hardcore mapmaking).  Personally, I’d like to see a GIS-lite tool with a focus on demographic, business, or social data.  Those would seem to meet our needs most precisely, but we’ll see how things shake out.  Stay tuned…