Ten brainless things an online academic library can do


In part one, I looked at the good things to do, here’s the bad:

  1. Not actively talking (listening) to the academic community
  2. Cut away the subject-specific angle and quality assurance in favour of a “streamlined”, centralized appearance
  3. Go static
  4. Implement technologies that help administration, but not the user
  5. Bolt bits on the old design to make it two-oh
  6. Federated search, but no training
  7. Cut away the OPAC in favour of ancillary systems (for example eJournal and database repositories)
  8. Rely on third parties with whom you have no trust relation to store important information
  9. Focus on what’s new/important/good rather than what’s being used
  10. Aquabrowser
  11. [BONUS] Providing five databases when one would have sufficed

That’s the list, here’s the legend:

[1] if you’re not actively working with the academic communities you serve — and I mean really listening to them, helping them do their work in their way — you’re not going to do a good job. Libraries and librarians are mostly good at librarying, unfortunately the rest of the world isn’t interested; stop it.

[2] An academic library is a tool for the academic community it serves, this community divides itself into subcommunities based on the topics viewed and methodologies used; the subject-specific resources as chosen by the subject librarian — if they’re doing their job — are a good (the only) place to start.

[3] Oh dear. A few websites have of late gone totally static. Woo! (Just get with the programme, OK?)

[4] I was at a seminar a while back, where I was kindly informed that the main role of the library was “resource management”. No. Just no. (Still in doubt? It’s about the USERS)

[5] OK, so you’ve got your lovely static website. Let’s add some RSS feed. No, let’s rephrase that: let’s add some links to RSS feeds. Oh, and a link to that blog that such-and-such made.

[6] You’ve spent your money on that federated search system. Everyone at the library hates it. Consequence: nobody teaches people how to use it. Are we surprised that it is not used?

[7] A personal favourite. Users like the OPAC because they find the books they want in paper and electronic format, the journals they want in paper and electronic format and the databases they use. What does the library do? They provide an ancillary system that takes care of linking to databases and eJournals/eBook providers. Are the users interested? Are they confused as to why there are so many ways of getting at the same resource? Will they keep on doing things the old fashioned way? Will we have to export data from these ancillary systems back into the OPAC? Advice: get rid of the ancillary interface and just export the data more often (this is an admin tool, right?).

[8] Where are you keeping your data? While it’s not necessary to have your own servers, it’s nice to have reliable partners. It’s also nice to have partners who understand your needs. Many providers out there that understand what libraries need? Many partners at the university who understand how the library IT infrastructure works?

[9] Users do things wrong. They don’t understand bibliographic practice, nor do they understand how much better this database is than the one they normally use. Let’s get hide the old resource away, and put the new resources at the top of the page on the left. That’s better. (For the record: inform people, make the resource appropriately prominent, but don’t overdo it.)

[10] I’m still not getting it. Go to the Queen’s library. Type in “dying culture”. That tag cloud: why? Because it looks nice and two-ohy?

[11] The bonus for the patient: We’re good at resource management. We’re not good at user-friendly. Just because the data you have is structured in different ways doesn’t mean that you want different databases; especially if the topics covered are related.

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3 Responses to “Ten brainless things an online academic library can do”

  1. Online academic libraries dos and don’ts « Edtechkat Says:

    […] of Science and Technology Library has listed Ten Great Things an Online Academic Library Can Do and Ten Brainless Things an Online Academic Library Can Do.  I don’t agree with everything on both lists, but most of it rings very […]

  2. Why Aquabrowser isn’t doing it for me « Infonatives Says:

    […] Aquabrowser is very tasty looking, but I’m not convinced — as I pointed out in Ten brainless things an online academic library can do (Aquabrowser was number 10). Note that I wrote academic library and not just plain-old library; the […]

  3. Simon Chamberlain’s library weblog » Blog Archive » Catching up on reading, and reposting it here Says:

    […] Infonatives on ten brainless things an online academic library can do. […]

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