Almost a year ago, we started on a magnificent journey together. Allow me to spin you a tale of how we got here and what we’ve done since last you’ve heard from me.
When the current instance of our library site was launched over 10 years ago, it was a great accomplishment. Our mission at the start of this project was to examine and evaluate our library’s current online presence. Was it still meeting our needs and the expectations of our patrons?
We started with the data: What were the site’s hot spots? What were people searching? How were they searching?
Then, we got personal. We took it to the seminar, where we gathered your insights on the current site. In addition to hearing your thoughts, at the beginning of the school year we did some guerilla user tests with new students who hadn’t yet interacted with the website.
In the weeks that followed, we talked to those of you who would be most affected by changes made to the site and any of its components. We needed to get a sense of what was working and what wasn’t. These conversations were perhaps the most enlightening; we discovered pain points of staff and patrons alike, and our objective became clearer.
Here are some of the key decisions we made in our effort to revamp the library’s online experience. I realize it is a bit of a tease to talk about these without any sort of visual reference, but think of this post more as a signal of upcoming changes than a handbook! A launch announcement will follow.
1. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to improve the search experience.
We know that our search feature is heavily used so we wanted to make sure we got this one right. We’ve embiggened the search bar itself and placed it more prominently on the homepage. We’ve also introduced an intermediary page of search results that shows the most relevant books, articles, and website items that match your search term. Yes, website results! Now when patrons search “printing”, for example, they will find their answer without having to or forgetting to switch the search category to “Website.” From this intermediary page, the full Summon search results page, where they can filter to their heart's delight, is only one click away.
2. We considered the most coherent way to organize the homepage.
The most consistent feedback we received about the homepage was that there was just too much information to digest at once. People felt overwhelmed. So we thought about what information needed to be most accessible for staff and patrons; what was most important? What was heavily clicked? To that end, we upleveled the most trafficked links to make them more findable and readily referenced.
We also wanted to create a way for library news and blog posts to be more visible. The Learning at the Library blog series contains a wealth of information written by our knowledgeable reference and research librarians and we didn’t want it to be overlooked. Now there’s no missing these posts! Pressible authors, you’ll notice that your articles are published immediately to the homepage, providing readers with a constant, fresh stream of content.
3. Speaking of organization, we’ve introduced a new header complete with side menu navigation.
Also, adding, editing, and deleting new pages (including news items) is a breeze now, thanks to our CMS. For those of you in charge of content creation for the library, you will get more details on this in the weeks to come.
4. Changes to room booking
Many of you have probably skipped straight to this section. You may have heard rumblings of upcoming changes, and perhaps have been nervous about what exactly that means.
We’ve introduced a set of room guidelines that we hope will encourage fair use of our library spaces. We’ve upped our transparency level by posting them on the reservation page for all to see. These guidelines include:
- All patrons (regardless of status/role) will be able to book a room up to 4 months in advance
- Reservations are limited to a maximum of 3 hours
- Patrons may only have 2 active reservations in the system at a time
- Reservations can be made for groups of up to 8 people (rooms 305 and 306 will be defaulted to “Open Study” unless reserved by library admins for a special library event)
In addition, our iPad displays will get a visual makeover and a functional makeunder. The old “Roomer” system will be retired and new, info-only displays will take their place. Patrons will no longer be able to book at the door. The displays will only show two events at a time: what’s currently happening in a room and what’s immediately following.
5. Better support for our support team
Our library support team has come to the rescue of countless lost patrons over the years. The platform on which they take in and respond to tickets should help them meet their service mission. So, we evaluated our options and decided to go with a dedicated, hosted helpdesk solution.
The new solution includes a familiar support ticket system and knowledge base with a few added bonuses. For one, KB articles are now easy to edit, add, and delete so keeping them up-to-date is less of a chore. In fact, everything is easier to edit, including the fields on our ticket form. Our support team will also have access to a number of robust reports on general helpdesk usage statistics. Patrons won’t see much of a change during the ticket creation process, but we're hoping they’ll be into the new knowledge base, with its improved search-and-discover interface.
6. Uncharted mobile territory
Who’s got two thumbs and two versions of a library mobile app?? This girl, pointing awkwardly at the library because who points with thumbs.
There aren’t too many academic libraries out there who have developed their own app from scratch (many use out-of-the-box, plug-and-play solutions), so we’re particularly proud of this achievement. The app (which has both iPhone and Android versions) is designed exclusively for members of the TC community; it’ll make checking things like your borrowed items and room reservation history so effortless you’ll wonder how you ever lived without the quick access before. For now, everything you can do on the site, you can do on the app. In the future, we plan to create app-exclusive experiences that take advantage of the affordances of mobile technology. Maybe we’ll make a design event out of it! If that sounds fun, let me know if you’d be interested in participating.
There you have it! Now you know what's been keeping the Dev and Experience teams busy these past several months. None of our work would have been possible without the constant feedback of our colleagues. Thank you for handling our incessant (and oftentimes random) questions and pleas to meet.
To our Services teammates in particular, you have not heard the last from me (sorry if you were hoping!)! We realize that your work will be most affected by this change. I plan to follow up some time post-launch to see how things are going for you (and for patrons). We are hoping to get the site and app in your hands in about 2 weeks. For everyone else, our official launch is scheduled for early June. That’s when the site will change over and the app will be made public.
Thanks for sticking to the end of this longer-than-expected post. Let me know if you have questions about any of the above in the comments below!