I [want to] love libraries

Many people have worked hard on ALA’s I Love Libraries website. I know this because I was (in a small way) one of them.The site was advertised in the State of America’s Libraries published by ALA in April but didn’t go live until this week, just in time for Annual. In the intervening time we got what can only be described as a sub-par “coming soon” page which is really amazing to me considering that the URL had already been widely distributed.

I don’t see much need to pick apart the website page by page, but I do have some critiques that I hope will be illustrative or helpful.

1. Who didn’t learn anything about long URLs? ALA didn’t. There is no reason in 2007 to have that much extra junk in a URL.
2. In 2007, a “find your library” page should not go to a list of links of how you can find your library. It should go to a search box or a map.
3. Don’t hide your blog. Don’t bury new content at the bottom of your main page.
4. Things professional websites have that this one doesn’t: favicons, copyright statements in the footer or on the legal page not up top looking defensive, an overall design sensibility, content (not just links to content), an about us page with the names of real people on it, valid markup, alt text for images, accessible coding, valid security certificates, copyright statements that word wrap appropriately.
5. The rules for adding content to the Ilovelibraries.org Flickr group exclude humans and allow only institutions. Which 2.0 guideline does this violate? I asked to join. I never even heard back from the group moderator. Why is this restriction necessary?

In short, this is a 1.0 site that is pretending to be a 2.0 site and is a perfect example of how all the blogging tools in the world won’t make your organization responsive and interactive if your corporate culture is restrictive and controlling. Put another way, I’ve been clicking around this site for half an hour and I don’t even know what it’s trying to do. It’s all over the place. Is it to raise money for ALA and libraries in various ways? Is it a way to ask questions and get information about libraries? Is it a way to share content and/or my love of libraries with other people? Is it a way to push ALA content at more than the usual suspects? Is it a way to make ALA seem hipper and more “with it”? The about this site page is unrevealing: “Simply put, you love libraries, and we hope this Web site will keep it that way!” Huh.

I feel like if we could understand why ALA thinks ilovelibraries.org is a good, well-designed website for achieving their goals, we might understand more about why people have a hard time with technology and why there is such a digital divide in librarianship, much less among the public at large. For now it remains a bit of a mystery, at least to me.

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