WebJunction “redesign” status update

WebJunction is in the middle of a design refresh project, which I guess is somehow different from a plain old redesign. For a site that is becoming a state portal for a great deal of library content nationwide, it’s distressing that only 27% of their survey respondents found the site very easy to use. It also concerns me that for a site that has been around for so long with such esteemed and established partners, they seem to still not be section 508 compliant and accessible, or at least that’s how I interpret “We are in the midst of defining some 508 remediation work“.

The only search box on their home page goes to Worldcat which seems odd considering that many of the WJ members are not Worldcat members. The entire state of Vermont for example doesn’t have many Worldcat member public libraries, but when you go look at the Vermont portal… oh hey they don’t have a Worldcat search box at all! I can’t find a discussion forum on the Vermont portal that’s had any activity since August. What I’d love to be able to do, personally, is figure out which content on the Vermont portal is specific to Vermont and what is just general information that is supposedly of interest to Vermonters. This is unlikely to happen, I think, because then it might be more clear just how little Vermont-specific content is on this portal, a portal that I’m fairly certain the Department of Libraries paid for, and may continue to pay for. The “new” Focus on VT Library Programming section mentioned on the main page is over a year old, so maybe we haven’t renewed the lease.

It is an improvement over my state Department of Libraries home page (yes that’s a 2002 copyright statement, WJs is 2004)? Absolutely. Are big projects like this difficult to do, especially when you need to cater to a group of people with a very wide range of technical abilities? Almost certainly. However I think some problems can’t just be solved by one more web page, even if it does “Improve traffic by enhanced synergy”. WebJunction does a lot of good things for a lot of people, but if you don’t already “get” the web, or if you’re not very tech savvy, WebJunction is harder to use than the average website. This passes on the “computers are hard” myth. This keeps people from getting help, because more and more people help by saying “Hey it’s on WebJunction!” Well, what if WebJunction doesn’t help? The libraries I work with are more likely to have wireless, Flickr accounts or blogs than WebJunction logins. Why? Because those things are easy, and tiny libraries find them to be worth it.

two posts over at PLABlog

I went to two interesting sessions yesterday which I blogged about for PLA.

Creating a Digital Library on a Shoestring, Laurie Thompson and Sarah Houghton
Right of Center and Still Balanced – Susan Hill

I also went to a WebJunction event where I met some interesting regional librarians from Iowa, and a Library Journal awards dinner at the top of the Prudential celebrating the best small libraries where I met some new-to-Boston librarians from Missouri. It was a fun shindig made even better by the fact that the library who won last year, the Haines Borough Public Library is actually one that I’ve been to, way back when.

webjunction has a blog

WebJunction has a blog. I mentioned them a few weeks back taking issue with some of their suggestions for smaller libraries and got a fairly nice note back from them encouraging direct feedback on things that could help them. Apparently they’re soliciting a lot of input in making some decisions about design and usability issues. If you use WJ at all, consider giving them your ideas. [technobib]

tech for small libraries?

The Librarian in Black points to an article on WebJunction called “Technology Watch List for Small Libraries” and I have to say that I am also unimpressed. The difference between reading blogs and RSS feeds and creating blogs and RSS feeds is substantial, as is the difference between employing a thin-client solution to the centralized server problem and just learning how to do ghosting effectively. Ebooks are not a good solution for cash-poor libraries [which is what I hear when I hear “small libraries” though maybe this is geared towards small rich suburban libraries] and when I think “cost effective” for virtual reference, I think IM — which isn’t even mentioned — not joining a consortium. In short, this article seems to be more effectively titled “shopping tips for small libraries” because by and large it is much more geared towards things to buy than things to learn.