Ten great things an online academic library can do


I’ve been looking at the wonder-inspiring array of stuff that libraries are putting out, here’s my top ten of the good stuff (a lot of it isn’t very two-oh, but bear with me):

  1. Communicate with the academic community
  2. Get proper subject librarians who know their stuff to generate the content for the library website!
  3. Provide high-quality, easy to use tools to put the content the users created online in various formats (see 4)
  4. Keep the content updated
  5. Provide consistent interfaces, preferably a single consistent interface where possible
  6. Present users with the resources they use, making things one click away
  7. Structure information, making it customizable where this is appropriate
  8. Make sure that everyone in the library is on the same page regarding services, ensure that users are getting the course offerings they want/need
  9. Provide a library toolbar
  10. Evangelize!


[1] The library is there to serve the users. You need to know what the users are doing, and what they need to help them do their job. Most libraries are unlucky: they don’t have captive audiences to interrogate.

[2] Quality information is hard to come by; a library is a trusted source, and it is our duty to make sure that the information provided is of as high quality as possible.

[3] There are a lot of web-editing tools out there, do yourselves a favour: get a good one. At the same time, not everyone wants to read a webpage, so tools for delivery in other formats should be provided. Go mobile: the mobile device is the future.

[4] Information needs to be updated; there’s noting worse than stagnant information and dead links. Surely there’s activity in there…somewhere.

[5] Consistency is paramount for the user experience and users should be presented with a consistent appearance and interface metaphor wherever possible.

[6] Analyze your web stats. What are people actually doing when they achieve their goals? Structure the website so that people find what they want easily.

[7] Sound like [6]? The difference is in the activity though the outcome is the same: giving the data a predictable, consistent (now it’s sounding like [5]) structure will help the users find what they’re looking for (and give you a starting point on which to base developments in [6]). Users aren’t interested in portals, but they still need to log in to view their patron data: it’s no bad thing to give them a private shelf on which to put their stuff.

[8] So many people have so different ideas about what the library should be pushing; this is to some extent inevitable, especially in academic environments where different academic communities exhibit widely differing practices, but people need to know that their users should know about certain things that the library provides (such as federated search).

[9] A library toolbar with subject-specific resources can be a great tool for the academic community. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but for the few, it can really make the difference (and these people become evangelists in the community, which is a better thing than a busybody librarian, see [10])

[10] No-one likes a busybody librarian (“we  don’t have the time”), which is fair enough; the academic community does, nevertheless, deserve to hear about all of this great stuff going on at the library.

Interested readers may care to peruse the Ten brainless things an online academic library can do.

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

  1. Ten brainless things an online academic library can do « Infonatives Says:

    […] Infonatives Information culture, library weblog for English, Linguistics and Religion @ NTNU (plus some techie/librarian stuff) « Ten great things an online academic library can do […]

  2. CBS Bibliotek » Blog Archive » Ti ting et forskningsbibliotek bør gøre/ikke skal gøre Says:

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