Meredith points out that it’s not just our OPACs that suck – but also the physical spaces our libraries are located in.
It's not just that our OPACs suck. The physical layout of our space sucks. I would guess if you did a survey of patrons, they would rather have a welcoming space and good materials than an OPAC that doesn't suck. I was talking to my husband last night about this. Ironically, since he is married to a librarian, my husband has a fear and dislike of libraries. He feels very uncomfortable in them and finds most of them claustrophobic and difficult to navigate. He wants a library that is bright and open with lots of comfortable places to sit. He wants to easily be able to browse books.
I had a similar experience to Meredith’s when I visited my local public library. The librarians were not very approachable, knowledgeable, or friendly. I couldn’t find something (it was on the wrong shelf) and the librarian actually told me to just look around on the other shelves – instead of coming out from behind the desk and helping me look – which was what I was expecting. I also had a hard time browsing the computer section. There wasn’t much there and I’m not sure I understand the logic in the organization. I’d rather search on Amazon and find titles then go to the library catalog to find them than browse the physical library.
The point? We need to re-think the layout and usability of every area of our libraries – the physical, the OPAC and the web site. If we want to keep people in the library or on our websites, we need to start thinking a bit more like the comparable retailers that are out there.
On the same note – I’m reading The Long Tail right now and I’m finding it fascinating and very insightful. I’ll write more when I’m further into the book (or when I finish).