What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?

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What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?

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The sins of library web sites

13th August 2008

Ah, Twitter is a wonderful thing.  I asked members of the Twitterverse to catalog the problems of library web sites, and my followers (as friends on Twitter are called) did not disappoint.  I got responses not only from both library and non-library folks, but even a bit of international participation with a comment or two from Australia.

Here’s a sample of much of what I received:

  • Nonsensical links to products by name. Bookletters, EBSCO, iBistro.”
  • “Branch hours/locations not easy to find from the library home page.”
  • Having to…”scroll waaay down to bottom to find search box and then was Title(not keyword).”
  • Animated gifs and blinking text.”
  • “Focus on library materials and facilities, rather than how people use our materials and facilities.”
  • “Acronyms.”
  • “No site search.  C’mon, time to leave 1998.”
  • Hiding your staff and/or hiding ways (or not providing them at all) to contact staff through the web site.”
  • “Library jargon: what the heck is a ‘electronic reference database’ to the layperson?”

I saw at least one major theme here:  many libraries don’t have sites that are intended for the end user.  Too many library sites are designed around the perceived needs of library staff, rather than for their patrons.  I encourage every library to take a good, hard look at their public-facing web site(s) and ask the question “Who is this really for?”

Here’s some additional sins I’ll add to the list:

  • Can’t find the address and/or phone number for at least the main branch on the front page.
  • Too much text on the front page.  Don’t put the whole 3-paragraph story there; just a teaser.  People scan the web; they don’t read.  When I see too much text, I’m outta there.

What other problems with library web sites do you commonly see?  Share’em in the comments!


  • Jill Hurst-Wahl
    Posted at 2:04 pm August 13, 2008
    Jill Hurst-Wahl

    Not including information on all library services, like ILL. “Gee…want to borrow a book that is not in our library? Here’s how we can help you get the book!”

  • Mary Jane Santos
    Posted at 8:55 am August 14, 2008
    Mary Jane Santos

    Not being able to find how to search the library’s catalog easily.

  • Evan
    Posted at 3:27 pm August 14, 2008

    Library web sites that cannot be “re-sized” or cannot be viewed properly in ALL browser types.

  • Steph
    Posted at 9:25 am August 16, 2008

    Just plain text lists of services. If I’m on a website I don’t just want to read about what you do, I want links that get things done, pictures of fun programs, a separate page for who I am (i.e. Teen Page, Tween Page, Young Adult Page) with specific information. Then again, I don’t want it too cluttery. Wow, I’m picky aren’t I??

  • Doug
    Posted at 3:43 pm August 19, 2008

    Library web sites whose content is not 100% accessible in a plain-text format for patrons with disabilities.

  • Jullie
    Posted at 1:59 pm September 9, 2008

    We have a small community library in my town that doesn’t have access to patron renewal or searches from the website.

Comments are closed.