Posts filed under ‘libraries’
I was assigned as “Website Product Manager” almost exactly two years ago, and since then I’ve sort of figured out what I’m doing, but have still felt quite alone in that I don’t know of any other librarian that considers herself in this same particular profession.
Then today I was cruising for some readings for my recently-announced DIY Usability Testing online course (thought I’d throw that pitch in there), and ran across today’s post in the fabulous A List Apart blog, titled Product Management for the Web. Hey – that’s what I do! Everything that article mentions is very much in line with what I’ve been trying to do at the University of Arizona Libraries – forming and maintaining networks of relationships, earning trust, communicating like crazy, researching user needs & gathering analytics, setting priorities, and writing & implementing a website road map.
It’s true that when I went to Usability Week back at the end of 2010, I would introduce myself as “website product manager” and would get some “oos” and “ahhs,” so I think it’s safe to say it has been around in the larger world for a long time. But when I tell a librarian colleague that title, I am more commonly given a “huh?” response.
Perhaps this will continue to be a growing trend in how website work is managed… I think it’s pretty new for libraries, but perhaps it will become a trend in libraries soon enough, too. I don’t think it would be a bad idea, although in fairness I’m a bit biased.
I just got back from ALA where I presented a poster titled, “Is Your Web Content Useful, Usable, and Findable? Developing a Content Strategy for Your Library Website.” You can see the abstract and attached documents on the ALA Connect posting.
For an hour and a half, I was able to share what we’ve been able to achieve at the University of Arizona with other librarians, directors, developers, and web professionals. We all struggle with the same thing: we have gigantic websites with complex content. Many of us have no clear oversight or accountability related to this content. Rather than having content lifecycles, we have content that is created once, edited rarely, and that never goes away.
I hope that my presentation helps start a discussion among libraries about how to go about getting a handle on our website content and figuring out ways to manage it in a effective and sustainable way.
The content strategy I developed, which includes defined roles & responsibilities, workflows for creation & deletion of pages, editorial standards, accountability measures & success metrics, and lots of training, should be transferable to similar organizations. I hope others will share their own experiences and we can all learn from each other. User experience is as important as ever, and our website content needs to be useful, usable, and findable, if we are to continue being relevant.
I’m the product manager for our library website, and over the past few months I’ve learned that it’s actually pretty easy to gather user input. It’s data that’s extremely important and should guide your website decisions, but so many of us neglect to do it in any frequent, systematic way, often due to fears of time and budget constraints.
Well it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you are fortunate enough to have a physical location & therefore your primary audience all around you. Here are two methods for gathering quick and dirty user input:
5 Minute Intercept Usability Testing
Spend 20 minutes coming up with your key tasks you want to test and scenarios in order to test them (I recommend Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy for a quick read on this). Grab a laptop and some candy bars, and preferably a colleague to take notes, and then go out in the world to solicit volunteers. If you are on a university campus, it’s super easy to find students willing to trade 5 minutes of their time for a candy bar (king sized, of course). The student union after lunch won’t ever fail. I’ve been able to conduct 8 tests in the course of an hour or two. And learned so much in the process.
10 Minute Card Sorting
This method is often used to guide an entire website’s navigation, but it can also be used to test sections of your website. It’s a great method for testing your own assumptions about how your audience thinks about your content; you can use this technique to come up with an organizational structure that makes sense and labels that are more meaningful. Don’t get bogged down coming up with perfect descriptions of content or the ideal labels you want to test. Treat it as an iterative process. This week we’ve been testing all of our “help” content. We began the first round with open card sorting using 28 cards; more were added when we realized not every type of content was captured, and others were taken away when we realized they were confusing. We then added labels and now do a blended version of “open” and “closed” sorting where we show them the labels after they’ve established an organizational structure to see if any labels make the most sense given their structure. Similar to usability testing, you can find users willing to trade minutes of their time for a candy bar. We’ve actually found that students enjoy the activity, as well. They like the library and like knowing they are contributing to improving our website.
I’d like to hear if others are conducting similar sorts of user testing on a dime. Intercept usability and card sorting are the two I’ve had success with. We have also managed to recruit faculty members to conduct some more formal testing later this month (we offered them lunch). I hope to continue to conduct testing on a regular, systematic basis. In an ideal world, all of our serious website decisions should be based on user input.
My colleague, Yvonne Mery, and I created this video for the ACRL contest to win free registration. We are presenting this year but need the funds to secure our trip. Wish us luck… and enjoy!
Special thanks to Emily Hardy, who is in graduate school right now studying for her MLS. She was great at coming up with the pre- and post- conference Libby characters!
I have created a new tutorial as part of an online class on Evaluating Web Resources. I used Captivate to create it, and was inspired to include some scenario-based interactions where students get some real practice, and learn by doing.
The students are given a situation and are presented with a website – they must decide whether or not they would use the website. I also included some examples where they need to compare websites on similar topics and select the better resource. This is my first try at using branching in Captivate (very simple branching, but branching nonetheless).
I’d appreciate any feedback!
I recently presented at a Progressive Librarians Guild – UA Chapter sponsored Skillshare event. Titled, “Instruction in Academic Libraries,” I discussed how to capture your audience in 30 seconds as well as the ADDIE instructional design model. The audio from the presentation was recorded, so I used Articulate to create an electronic version:
I’d love to hear anyone’s feedback!
As most librarians know, last week was Banned Books Week, and I was involved in a number of events in the library and in collaboration with the Progressive Librarians Guild – UA Chapter. See our library news story on how we celebrated.
First, we installed an exhibit in Research West. Almost all of the books were lent by library staff and students, leaving our own collection available for circulation during this important week. We covered the four glass exhibit cubes in black cardboard, caution tape, and warning signs, with small peep-holes for those daring to view the challenged literature. Already, we have had a great response from students. In fact, several people have said that they have never seen the exhibit so busy with people stopping to take a look! We certainly got their attention.
UA News decided to publish a story on our events, and then we even got the university’s UATV and Daily Wildcat interested, who interviewed me and did a story on the week’s events:
As mentioned in the video, we had an event (held last Wednesday night) which included a film screening, a “Read Out!” and a panel discussion. It was well attended with participants ranging from students to professors to community members. About a dozen participants went to the podium to read from challenged books as part of the Read Out, and following I performed a Pecha Kucha titled, “Challenging Censorship: Libraries as advocates for freedom and democracy.” Concluding the program was the panel which included two librarians and one English professor, who discussed issues ranging from dangerous publications about bomb-making to historically challenged classics to LGBT literature being banned in college classrooms. Audience members engaged in Q&A with the speakers, and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening which wrapped up soon after 8pm.
New Student Orientation is in full swing at the University of Arizona, and I’m coordinating the library conference sessions that take place during lunch, across from a number of other sessions. We don’t always have the biggest crowds turn out, but it’s still worth it to reach those few students & parents.
To help draw them in, and give them something to watch while they’re waiting for the session to start, I play this video, “Did You Know?”:
It’s a great illustration of information overload. Once the video ends, I explain that it seems appropriate since libraries are all about information, and helping you navigate through the incredibly vast world of information…
Last Friday, I presented at the LOEX Annual Conference with colleagues Leslie Sult and Yvonne Mery. The title of our talk was, “Developing an Online Credit-bearing Information Fluency Course: Lessons Learned.” We reviewed how we developed, implemented, and evaluated the undergraduate Skillful Researcher (UNVR195a) course. To get some backgound, you can take a look at my post from last April when the class was first approved.
We had a good turnout, and the audience actively participated by asking questions and sharing their own experiences. It seemed like a very timely topic, as many other instruction librarians are going towards both online teaching and credit-bearing courses.
Here is our powerpoint to give you an idea of what we talked about, I hope others find this helpful and share any comments:
We also had a handout with a list of things to Try and to Avoid in online instruction, which I’ll share here:
|Try It||Avoid It|
|Establishing and following course objectives||Designing as you go|
|Keeping tutorials short||Trying to put everything in one tutorial|
|Keeping text to a minimum||Overusing text|
|Using smart graphics||Using images that are purely decorative|
|Including audio||Overusing PowerPoint|
|Using provocative discussion questions||Making assignments the discussion questions|
|Including self-assessments||Depending only on quizzes for students’ assessment|
|Participating in discussions||Assuming students will participate in discussions on their own|
|Grading discussions||Having optional discussions|
|Writing clear directions||Assuming students will know what to do|
|Paying close attention to course navigation||Over-depending on the navigation in the CMS|
|Responding to students promptly||Assuming that students do not need immediate feedback|
|Listening to feedback||Ever thinking you’re “done”|
|Preparing for a significant time commitment||Assuming teaching will be less work because it’s online|
Last week I attended the E-Learning Guild Annual Conference in Orlando, FL. It was something a colleague had run across a couple of months ago and thought would be appropriate to attend, as we are in the process of creating another online course.
It was absolutely enlightening! There is a whole world of E-Learning professionals out there that I didn’t even know existed. Primarily those that attended the conference were instructional designers (IDs) that either work for a corporation or non-profit or are consultants. They receive content from subject matter experts (SMEs) that they are then to make into an online learning object, and distributed across the country (or world) to the company’s employees. It’s for training purposes, mostly.
These E-Learning professionals have been doing this sort of thing for years, becoming experts in the fields of displaying online content, designing for online learners, and assessment through online mechanisms.
I can’t possibly share everything that I learned, but I will share some key points that are important to us as librarians.
- Rapid e-learning tools are fantastic, and there are plenty of them out there. You don’t need to learn Flash or XML. At my library we already have Articulate, which is a big one, but I learned about other options such as Adobe Presenter, FlyPaper, Raptivity, and Lectora. There’ s also programs like CodeBaby where you can create animated characters who speak to each other. Very cool. They can be expensive, but these companies often offer academic discounts, and you can usually get a trial to test it out and see if it’s worth the money. Why is this a big deal? By taking advantage of these tools, librarians will no longer have to go to their software programmers or try to learn programming skills to create this stuff. These tools can usually be self-taught and require little technology-savviness. And they have great help forums.
- Designing instruction for online learning is far different than designing it for face-to-face sessions. But fortunately, there is a lot of research and a ton of books out there on how to design effective online instruction. Check out Empowering Online Learning, Making Sense of Online Learning, the Online Learning Idea Book, and the E-Learning Handbook (which are all now on my Goodreads “to read” list). Here are some tips I picked up:
- Don’t make them read. Construct your use of text very carefully. Use tables and graphics and images where appropriate. Always set a context for the learner. Always make the experience a conversation between teacher (or computer) and learner. Read Letting Go of the Words (the author, Ginny Redish, was a conference speaker on this topic and was fantastic).
- Take a lesson or two from infomercials. Find ways to draw your student in by telling them what this will do for them, and why it’s worth their time. Keep it simple, but incorporate stories, and use testimonials and quotes from experts to further convince them that this instructional tutorial is worth their time.
- Aesthetics matter, so remember a few simple rules. Use just one font type in one section, reserving any alternate font for important messages you want to get the students attention. Use different font sizes to distinguish headers from main points from supporting points. Don’t use decorative fonts, ever. And be consistent. Use good color schemes – Adobe Kuler is a great resource for selecting attractive color schemes.
I believe as instructional librarians are getting more pressure to produce online tutorials, classes, and other content – we should reach out to those that are experts in exactly that.
If you are involved in building online instruction or tutorials, I highly recommend attending a conference geared towards e-learning professionals. In addition to the E-Learning Guild conference, there is DevCon and DevLearn both happening this year. I have to say it’s possibly the most worthwhile and practical conference I’ve been to since becoming a librarian!