Post #6: The Process of Designing a Web Site

For my LIS 753 class I developed a website. This post is meant to detail the process I went through while I worked on it. I didn’t know much about html before I started. I decided to do a page for an AV department, similar to what I might design at the library where I work (although this mock-up is a bit more simplistic).

 

I began by creating a storyboard that contained all of the design elements that were required for the project. You can view the storyboard here. After the storyboard was completed it was time to begin coding. I decided to make the “look and feel” of all of my pages the same. This meant that I could work out all of the bugs on one page, then make copies of the html for each additional page.

 

The first step after the header information was to set up the table, which serves as the structure for the page. There are 3 tables on the page. 1 table is for the title. 1 table is for the body of the page. 1 table is for the links and contact information. Tables can be very confusing. I originally thought that I needed to use tables within tables in order to make the page look the way I wanted it. This made me wish I was learning CSS. Luckily I was able to avoid nesting tables!

 

Now that I had my basic structure it was time to fill in the blanks. Adding images and links was the bulk of the work. This was pretty straight forward as a result of the exercises that we did in class. Now I added background colors and fonts using the appropriate tags. Once this was done I made copies for the other pages.

 

I had to change a few of the images and things on the new pages, but it was useful because I used the old text as a “placeholder”.

 


Next I decided to use a flash based slideshow from http://www.xatech.com for my images in the film and music departments. This allowed me to input image locations and slideshow size, and output code. This way I did not have to learn flash.

At this point I was basically done. I needed to tie up a few loose ends such as adding image attributes, an alt note, and anchor, and fix a few links.

After the clean up I was done!

 

Check out the finished product

 

Post #5: Library Buildings

Where do the origins of the process used to evaluate library expansion lie?

Is the process currently in use derived from practices that are common to all architecture projects?

How much have these practices been altered to meet the very specific needs of libraries?

These are all questions that we should be asking ourselves about library buildings. I began to wonder about these questions as the preliminary stages for expansion are completed at the library where I work. It is important to remember that any changes to the physical space of a library will need to meet its needs for years to come. Most designs aim to satisfy those needs for a minimum of 20 years, and in reality the likelihood of public libraries having resources to change their buildings substantially that often may be unrealistic.

Because of the difficult and expensive nature of such a project it is essential to have a clear understanding of what role the library would like to fill in 20 years, how the physical space can impact that, and what the essential needs of the library will be. This is a tall order. It seems that predicting the future of libraries is a particularly difficult thing to do. I believe that if it were not so difficult library culture would change entirely. What I mean to say by that is that no one can be expected to have an accurate prediction that reaches so far into the future.

It seems clear that because the need to predict the future exists, and doing so is impossible, the only reasonable way of handling this conundrum is to make the most informed guess, as well as making the space as flexible as possible. How can this be done? I am not an architect, but my understanding of how to make this equation work best tells me that all of the available resources should be used in making building decisions. Those who know a library most intimately are the people who are qualified to postulate about what the library will need most in 20 years. Who knows the library’s needs and the library building better than library staff? The people who work in the library are likely to be the greatest asset when trying to predict building needs of the future.

As I mentioned flexibility of the space is a very important concern. Because many of the needs of the future cannot be predicted it is important to accommodate those needs with flexibility of space. What does that mean? For different libraries it means different things. Some libraries have used this need for flexibility to dictate aspects of the building construction while others have used it as a part of making interior sections of the library flexible. One library decided to eliminate unnecessary load bearing walls during construction in order to facilitate future expansion. Another library decided to make their space more flexible by putting their stacks on casters so they could be moved. Each of these types of strategic implementations creates major strengths that the library would not have had. I feel that the more of these design elements that are incorporated in library design the more gracefully the libraries will evolve.

Technology will play a major role in terms of the building needs of libraries in the future as well. We all know that the library, and our lives in general incorporate a lot more technology than they once did. There is no doubt that libraries have become a primary access point to the internet for many patrons, and this has necessitated more space devoted to computers. Building projects will also have to consider technology in new ways in order to enable connectivity and the incorporation of technologies such as RFID and other technology based tools.

For a good summary of the “technology and communication trends, their impact on public library buildings, library use patterns and physical and electronic collection issues” you may want to take a look at: The Future of public libraries: what do an Apple computer store and a library have in common?

What do you think about library space needs now, and in the future?

Let me know!

Post #4: Libraries as Community Centers (Part 2)

I have a vision of libraries of the future that centers around the physical space being used as a community space for culture and learning. If this is to happen, new ways of learning and thinking must be employed at the library. The library is traditionally a place where people come to spend time alone doing research, and being silent. In order to have a vibrant communal space at the library there must also be areas where people can make noise, talk, laugh, and feel comfortable. Although this is happening at some libraries, this is a process that has taken many years to actualize. I would wager that the majority of libraries (designed for the general public) are still very traditional in this aspect.

As a part of the conference entitled: A Space for the Future – Library Buildings in the 21st Century Rolf Hapel asked the question “Why go to the physical library in the future?” as a part of his presentation. Some of the answers he gave that resonated most with me were about using the space to promote learning and cultural experience.

We currently live in an environment where achieving the ideal of the library as a community space is difficult goal. Tuomas Toivonen wrote in the article “Need for new community?” that “…the way urban environment and culture is developing, it is clear that the logic of ‘efficiency = profit’ is inducing and driving change in society and city.” I would argue that one of the public library’s greatest strengths is its lack of commercialization. In most cases private funding for public libraries introduces some level of private control and influence over community and information access. This inherently undermines the integrity of information provided by the library, and is directly in violation of essential library ethics.

Private fund raising in libraries can, in some cases, work quite well, but I believe that without careful planning this can be disastrous. Although securing funding to make changes at the library is a challenge I believe that it is not impossible. The best way to secure funding in a public library is to prove to all parties involved that the library is not only exciting and useful, but that positive changes are bringing patrons the services that they want. When this is clear to the community they are much more likely to support it.

The more that I learn about other people’s opinions when it comes to these issues, the more I realize that they agree with me (or I agree with them). Some of these ideas that I have run across include situations I learned about while listening to the podcast of a Talk of the Nation from NPR entitled If a Library Is Bookless, What’s In It? These ideas include the innovative collaboration between The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, called ImagineOn. I was delighted to hear the positive response of listeners to the concept of libraries as community spaces. One listener said, “…Every time I go into the library it’s just about community…there are ways to use the library that you can’t use at home.”

While I believe that this patron’s response is clearly an idyllic one that only a percentage of the population agrees with, I also think that this is a worthwhile direction for libraries to move in. This becomes especially useful when community space can be used to follow a model that encourages cultural education in the way that ImagineOn and other institutions have made successful.
For me the statement made here not only says that the library should be a space for community, but that has to be many other things too. I am certainly not advocating that the library try to be the shopping mall, but if the community loves it’s library why not promote its use for more activities? These activities such as plays, concerts, meetings, and art shows make the space come alive. When these activities have taken place in libraries in the past they have often been very successful. Let’s move forward and make these things possible.

Some of the major factors that made me think about this topic are the limitations of physical space in the library.

DOK even decided to put their stacks of wheels to make the space more flexible.

Drop in soon for the next segment: Library Building Needs

To be continued…

Un-Annoyed Librarian

Even if I’m 2 days late I am not the annoyed librarian.

Does anybody else find these shenanigans to be a waste of time?

Libraries as Community Centers (Part 1)

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about libraries as community spaces.

This was induced by several factors. The library where I work is in the process of proposing an expansion of the library’s physical space. This has lead me to think about how there are very few places for communities to gather without a commercial purpose. This is especially true in urban environments. The factor that really convinced me to blog about this topic was when a library patron told me that she felt the need to have more interaction with my department including reviews and contributions that are written by patrons for patrons. My reaction to this suggestion was that more patron involvement sounds like a terrific thing. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that others in the department would feel the same way.

I realize that I have bitten off more than I can chew, and this post will most likely evolve into several posts due to the wide scope of topics covered, so please be ready for more installments as they are posted.

Post #3: Internet History

The beginning of the Internet was based on the communications of computers over a network. One of the first major developments of such a network was called ARPAnet. This network was developed by DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPAnet was the first packet switching network. Packet switching networks are systems based on the transmission of “packets” of information between computers over cables that carry data through space. This communication allows the exchange of data between computers that are geographically distant.

Although the concept of this sort of data transmission began as a simple idea it quickly evolved to become a communication network that would withstand a nuclear explosion. This fact made these technologies important to US defense strategy. The implementation of this technology lead the way for many modern technologies that are commonly used today including ATMs, modems, and wireless internet. As more networks of this kind were created and made available to the public, the need to standardize and make them compatible arose. This is how the internet as we know it began to evolve into what it is today.

In the same way that the Internet began within the government and University circles, it was realized that these institutions had begun to outgrow the Internet. Universities saw the need for a network that would support the data mining, medical imaging, particle physics, and other computer intensive work that was being done. A need for a much higher bandwidth network was evident. Just as demand creates impetus for development in other fields, the forces that brought us the internet of today will help to develop new and more efficient methods of transmission for the future. As new types of networking become available, and financially viable many new possibilities will present themselves. Uses for these technologies that we never dreamed possible will become a part of everyday life in much the same way as the Internet of today.

Web Page Review: Rebecca Crown Library

The new web page for the Rebecca Crown Library is well designed. It is clear that a lot of thought went into the page in terms of usability and layout. After comparing several other college and university library web sites I believe that Dominican University’s design choices make the Crown Library page at least as good as the others. Although it is always possible to make improvements to existing designs I find the current design easy to navigate.

One of the major changes to the site during the last revision seems to have been an update for the “look” of the page. The color palette for the site seems to use fewer primary colors in favor of a move to more understated shades. This makes the site a lot easier on the eyes. The shift to a light background, with a more spacious layout helps also. Below the screenshots show a side-by-side view of the new / old Crown sites.

crown 1side by side

One of the major complaints that I have about the site is the fact that it is very repetitive. There are several sections that have links in more than one place. While some people might argue that having more ways to access information will only make locating it easier, I am confused by redundant sections such as the “more” sections for article and books.

I have noticed that many college and university libraries have a similar layout to the Crown site. It seems that many of them have about four sections in the center with additional links in columns on the sides. One such site is the Columbia College Chicago site. One of the features that they use that might be a nice addition to the Crown site is the use of different colors to represent sections. This also facilitates a way to return to another section without clicking the back button. To see what I mean go to the Columbia College site and click one of the colorful headings such as the purple “Services” heading. You will see that, rather than clicking back, you will now be able to chose from all of the headings on the right column. This use of color association makes remembering where things are found much easier.

One other aspect of the Crown library page that could be improved is “The Human Element”. I feel that the site is pretty impersonal. The main areas of the library site that encourage interaction, and feel more personal are the News and Events Section and the Ask A Librarian section. Some of the other links within the Research Help approach what I expect, but fall short. A good example of making a page feel “interactive” and more like an actual person is there to help can be found at the North Carolina State University Library page.

ncstate.jpg

As you can see nearly the whole bottom half of the page is devoted to local information, news, and the community. On the Crown site one thing that could be changed to help this “feel” is in the Ask a Librarian section. I like the addition of the Meebo window, but the fact that the page redirects to the cheap looking “myDU” back door to the library really bothers me. If all of this time and attention has gone into a great new Crown Library page why shouldn’t students use it? It seems that most student functions will be accessed through the “my DU” portal, and I think that is a shame.

Okay, I’ll admit it I’m on a bit of a soapbox. I really like most of the features on the new Crown Library site, and I hope that in time the relatively few complaints that I have will be addressed. In general I think that the interface, layout, and overall function of the Crown Library site is quite useful. Some might even call it intuitive.

Whatever you call it, it sure has come a long way since 2003 wouldn’t you say?

crown2.jpg



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