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.

18 thoughts on “I [want to] love libraries

  1. It looks like another advocacy site to me. It seems they have split some of the content that was on the main ALA site and moved it here. It seems targeted at the general public. I think it is neat that it linking content about libraries in the general press. However, I think the site seems to hit people who are already book lovers and library lovers. So what is added?

    You are right, this isn’t 2.0, because you can’t mash it, own it, or talk about how you love libraries to anyone. So if you love libraries, there is no way to share that.

  2. I contrast the ALA site with this one – not sure about the design elements, etc, but the purpose and implementation of it are much stronger in my opinion.


    Personally, I think libraries should steal this idea and utilize it at a local level.

  3. Funny what you say about asking to join the flickr group — they sent me a flickr invitation, and I have a personal account and am still in library school, so I’m no even affiliated with an actual library at the moment. I thought it was weird that they were ignoring their own guidelines in sending out the invites.

  4. “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…I don’t even know what it’s trying to do.”

    YES, YES, a thousand times yes! Great analysis. The problem here (at least one of the problems) is that it doesn’t look like ALA had a goal for this site. I have the feeling that the idea was, “hey let’s have a website called “I Love Libraries”, and then a bunch of things got thrown into the pot.

    Another problem, which seems endemic to library “marketing” : It’s about US, not them. So much library marketing is us talking about how great we are, instead of trying to demonstrate how we might be relevant to the customer’s life in any way. (note to KGS, note appropriate use of quotations—and apostrophe!)

    Oh, and how about this: If I want to find my library, I’ll put my library’s name into google and press -return-.

  5. Excellent rundown, Jess! One more for the list: The page entitled “Five easy ways to find a library fast” lists, um, four ways to find a library. Perchance the 5th way is Peter’s idea to Google it…

  6. Jessamyn, I had the same 1.0-as-2.0 reaction to the new ALA website wireframes.

    I agree on the “what is the goal” issue of this site. I think it was conceived in the heady moments of an ALA presidency but then never quite got ported to “and we’re accomplishing ‘X.'”

    Though if it kills the “@ your library” meme, I’ll be thrilled right there…

    Pete, yes, those are appropriate qualification quotes. ;-)

  7. Also I feel that I should point out, there’s nothing strictly wrong with having a nice brochure-like 1.0 site as long as you don’t pretend it’s anything but a brochure. People still do it. I know Jenny did some pretty hard lobbying for more and better tools and encountered more resistance even than she was expecting.

  8. About a year ago I swore off any attempts to look at the ALA website ever again. Sounds like I am not missing much.

    In response to the last comment:
    When are people going to realize that resistance 1.0 is futile 2.0?

  9. @john – that’s odd, no I didn’t. I copied and pasted it from someplace else. That may explain at least one of my problems, huh?

  10. The best way to go about this is to look at what other sites are doing and then apply the good examples to your needs.

    Instead, it seems that many projects evolve in a sort of technological isolation.

  11. It sounds like ALA is just reflecting the typical user experience at any public library.

    I still can’t walk into a public library and put a flyer on their bulletin boards. I still have to explain that, yes, the flyer is for a nonprofit project.

    Don’t expect ALA to understand Web 2.0 when most librarians are stuck in Library 1965.

    As I like to say, Web 2.0 is the Dot-com Bubble with rounded corners.

  12. Great analysis of this website!

    What struck me most about this site is that it represents a problem that I think we have as a library industry. We make it dueced hard for our users to get anything valuable with just a little bit of effort.

    For example, I clicked on the “Careers in Libraries” link hoping to see a nice little chart of they types of librarianship with corresponding salary ranges. I was completely annoyed to be sent out to a range of surveys and government studies. I don’t want to read through a government survey and I’m positive our users don’t either.

    If we keep making this so hard, we can’t really blame people for looking for easier solutions to their information problems.

  13. I’m totally stealing your breakdown and points and using them to critique the world!

    =) I’m only 1/2 kidding. Awesome article!

  14. I had a similar reaction during my first visit to the site, though I didn’t wonder so much whether it was trying to be 2.0, so much as I suspected it was trying to be too much at once, thereby becoming not much of anything. I like your reaction “I don’t even know what it’s trying to do.”

    I am also with Karen re @yourlibrary–please, somebody drive a wooden stake into the heart of that campaign! Just because they registered it as a trademark (which I thought was really rude) doesn’t mean the have to keep using it. But the Campaign_Phase_II.doc indicates we’re a long way from freedom as first kids@ and then teens@ is upon us.

  15. That side-bar navigation pains me with it’s un-usability. I’m so disappointed that resources went into this that could have been used to create something truly wonderful.

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