Physical Spaces Suck Too

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).

More on Millennials

When I was at Internet Librarian I had a chance to have a very interesting conversation about the newest generation (GenY, Millenials, whatever you call them) with Stephen Abram.

He stated that I was a Millennial – but that my husband was a GenXer (even though we were born in the same year) – based on a few details I provided for him. At first, I was a little annoyed – because this meant I was lumped in with the younger generation – and I’m tired of being the young one, but I just started reading Abram’s article for the Texas Library Journal entitled “Millennials: Deal With Them!” in which he states:

First, we must discard the idea that this is somehow a damaged generation. It is largely a myth that they are performing more poorly in their education. As a matter of fact, their performance is ahead of previous generations. They may be underperforming on some fronts internationally, but they are not the lesser of the older peers. Secondly, there is a growing body of research that their IQ’s, their raw ability to access and use their intelligence has grown markedly and at a level of statistical significance. MRI studies of their brains show that they use a greater degree and balance of their brains and have greater physical capacity through increased ganglia and folds of their brains. The majority of their education has been reinvented and shows great promise. They have, among others, better team skills, speaking and articulation skills, problem-solving and process management skills. Alternatively, they have weak general knowledge and fact skills. This is not necessarily bad. Actual facts decay rapidly in today’s world. The Periodic Table is not the same as it was when we went to school. Indeed, the number of planets has changed; the maps of nations mutate on a seemingly daily basis; most knowledge is quite malleable in context today. Indeed, many Boomers believe strongly that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and all humans’ internal body temperature is 98.6oF. Since this isn’t true most of the time, it seems that building a generation to access facts and information on demand is a better solution n a complex world.

I don’t feel so bad anymore – you can all think I’m a young’un if it means I get to be lumped in with a group that has “better team skills, speaking and articulation skills, problem-solving and process management skills.” I’m off to finish the article – but so far, it seems like a worthwhile read.

Oh – and on a last note – Abram was also right about my husband – even though we were born the same year (me before him), we are part of different generations – and it’s probably due to the households we grew up in and the locations we went to school – or whatever, but he’d be the first to tell you that he does not quite fit in this mold the way I do. How very confusing it all is!

The User is Not Broken

I want to quote the entire post found over at Free Range Librarian here, but it’s probably better that I just tell you to go read it!

Snippets to wet your pallet:

That vendor who just sold you the million-dollar system because “librarians need to help people” doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, and his system is broken, too.
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to find a library website that is usable and friendly and provides services rather than talking about them in weird library jargon.
The user is not “remote.” You, the librarian, are remote, and it is your job to close that gap.

The average library decision about implementing new technologies takes longer than the average life cycle for new technologies.

If you are reading about it in Time and Newsweek and your library isn’t adapted for it or offering it, you’re behind.

Stop moaning about the good old days. The card catalog sucked, and you thought so at the time, too.

If we continue fetishizing the format and ignoring the user, we will be tomorrow’s cobblers.

So I repeat – go read it – and then forward to everyone at your library – I’m going to.

No need for search engines?

I just read this article on UIE Brain Sparks that states:

[I]t's pretty clear that users choose to use on-site Search when the page they're on fails them. They scan the page for trigger words. Only when they can't find them, do they turn to Search. It's their trigger words they type into the search box. (In essence, they are creating their own links to the content, primarily due to absence of the necessary links on the page.) … Usage of Search is a predictor that the scent on your pages isn't working. Fix the scent and the demand for Search goes way down.

and I can’t help but say – WHAT?

If you didn’t figure it out – I disagree with this idea. Although I do understand the point they’re trying to make – design navigation that is logical and full of “trigger words” so that you’re users can find what they need without having to depend on a search engine – I don’t agree that my users are using the search engine on my site because I have failed to give them an effective navigation system. When I know what I’m looking for I go straight to the search box on a page – when the site doesn’t have one I got to Google or Yahoo! and point their engines at the site.

Some people are searchers and some are browsers – I’m a searcher – and so are probably 1/2 of my users – so why not cater to any possible audience?

Just my 2 cents on the matter.

Internet Usage

When I started at Jenkins almost 5 years ago I sat in on one of our Internet CLE (continuing legal education) classes, Internet Basics. The instructor talked about how email is the reason most peope use the Internet … well today I found an updated report on the uses of the Internet and it looks like although email is still the main use, search engines are catching up.

Unfortunately, blogs are at the bottom of the chart … which is hard to believe when you belong to a community that talks about and uses blogs on a daily basis.

Read the full report here.