Use It or Lose It

◦What effect does a site/system’s usability have on information seeking?

I believe the most obvious answer to the above question was noted in some of the readings: people leave a website when it is not easy to use.  The Internet provides us with an endless number of places we can go to find answers to our question.  I am sure we all do the same, when a webpage is hard to work with, hard to understand and not providing us what we seek, we move on and try someplace else.  Users can always find information that is good enough.  Libraries in order to prove their worth, want to provide patrons with the best information.  Yet, no matter how good the information it is pointless if no one is able to navigate the site easily and receive answers to their questions.

◦What about librarians? What role do they play in a digital library’s usability and in the overall user experience?

This question gets at an issue I thought of while reading this past week, especially the article by Peter Morville.  We spoke earlier in the semester on good relations between the IT department and librarians.  Creation of user-friendly websites is likely to be a collaboration between the two departments.  While Morville spoke of librarians creating websites/digital libraries and maximizing their findability using their technical skills I am not sure how many librarians will have the technical know-how to do this.  I’ll be the first to admit that I wish I did but it would likely require a computer science degree along with my MLS.  Librarians however do have a responsibility to develop a general understanding of  the technical side of digital libraries.  Also, librarians bring a long history of placing users first.  We spend a lot of time with information seekers, we know how people go about finding information, what routes they take, what they find helpful and not.  Librarians should share their knowledge with the technical team.  Everyone’s goal is the same: have a great website.  This can be achieved when the technical aspects and behavioural side of information seeking come together.


4 responses to “Use It or Lose It

  1. I think librarians are liaisons between patrons and system builders (or IT). And to IT, you are actually the “buyer” of services on behalf of users.

  2. Your first response represents my thoughts exactly. Information-seeking is tied very closely to usability, and I think this goes beyond digital librarianship into how we organize our physical spaces. If you make it difficult for people to find what they want to find, through various pathways, people won’t seek information at your library, online or off.

  3. I really agree with your idea about gaining a general understanding of the technology involved in your DL. We do not have to have a complete understanding of all the inner working and code that goes into creating the DL but just a general knowledge can go a long way. It could create a better working environment with IT professionals, as you can better communicate with them on the needs of your patrons and how you see the technology fulfilling those needs. In general, just understanding the basics of IT can really improve the outcome of your projects.

    • Technical staff will respect you a lot more if you can communicate user needs and/or problems in how they relate to specific design flaws.

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