New Library Website Master Post

Are you interested in what went into the making of our new library website?

Digitization & Poster

I attended my last physical therapy session this morning, so I was a bit late for work. That along with the goodbye lunch for our summer UX colleague means that I didn’t have much time to work on my projects today. The main things were a surprise 1-on-1 on slide digitization and creating a poster for a genealogy program on digitizing photos.

The first poster was straightforward and serious with some camera lenses sitting on a pile of old photos. I then looked at its blandness and thought, let’s go bright. The Taj Mahal came to mind so I found a great CC photo and whipped up a pink box to highlight the program. It felt a little risky, but once I mounted it to the wall, I knew it was right. The brightness really captures your eye. When we discuss digitization, we’re not talking just old photos but our recent memories too.

Publicity project requests are coming in from my colleagues. One was for a bookmark and a brochure. They shared a Google Doc with me outlining a very simple layout of what they were thinking. I wrote back a little confused since I thought we had settled on a brochure. No, a bookmark. With any luck, I’ll be able to share that design here on Thursday. I know what they’re thinking of, but I just had an idea of making the bookmarks a little more punchy and fun. “Gotta catch ’em all” if you will. The idea probably won’t fly, but we’ll see! Another project is for an open house which will happen when I’m away next month. Trying to put something together for that in this short amount of time will be difficult.

Otherwise, I confirmed a meeting with Readers Advisory which will consist of three members of their department. I’m currently just data gathering to learn where their ideas originate from, timelines of development, what constraints (time, people, skills) make their work difficult. A three member team coming to what I have in mind may be a bit over the top, but they may play well off each other. Everyone probably has a piece of the puzzle or remembers a detail that someone else would have forgotten.

Finally, I had an idea I want to approach the adult programming librarian on. Years ago I had asked her predecessor to work with me on tracking how publicity efforts influenced program attendance. That idea was never carried out, but hopefully in my new role I’ll be able to pull it together. In my years as a UX librarian, I uncovered a lot of assumptions people had which may not have been held out when researched. I wonder what ideas we have about our communication efforts will be overturned once we shine a light on them?


In the grand tradition of Mondays everywhere, I spent quite a bit of time setting up my week. This meant scheduling meetings from weekends that came in over the weekend, evaluating what things I had planned could be moved to make way for these new things, and then digitally thumbing through my calendar to check out how much time I have left before my big trip. The Staff Art Show is only two weeks away. I sent out a form asking for people’s info for their labels and bios for the website. We also have our department meetings on Mondays, so I wrote down a list of projects, meetings, and general items to alert my group to.

The phone rang before 10 a.m. To my great surprise, I was invited to be a guest speaker for a staff meeting at a library two states away. I couldn’t address it then, but I asked her to email me. In the evening, I wrote up an outline of that talk and sent it over for her perusal.

The rest of the day involved getting six 24 x 36 inch posters printed, meeting with three people for resume reviews as a step-in, and arranging for a staff photo shoot. These three items ended up being much more stressful than anticipated. It all worked out in the end, but I left work with a squished fingertip and a goose egg above my left eyebrow.

Publicity? I need to setup an editorial calendar system. All day I tried to come back to this, but alas, other duties called!

Introducing the Publicity Manager



I’ve hung up my hat as the library’s User Experience Librarian. I am now the Publicity Manager. This is not the end of UX at my library nor the death of the UX librarian. Instead, my focus has changed. Broaden. Instead of looking at the miniscule so much, I will be in charge of overseeing how publicity moves through the Library itself. Since this change just took effect on Friday, August 19th, there will still be some echoes of my UX librarian self in the weeks ahead. That and I’m going to New Zealand for half of September. It’ll take me a bit to get up to speed.

Since this is something new, I’ll try to blog about my work more as I learn through this new journey. My first big project was started months ago and will premiere on September 7th: the Staff Art Show. On Wednesday, I’ll attend a Facebook Analytics workshop. What awaits me on this new arc of my career?

Thought Experiment: Then & Now Maps

You know when you look at Google Street View how you can sometimes click in the upper left corner to see what the site looked like the last time the Google car came through? I want that for historical photos. After doing some research on the topic, here are some potential leads on putting that together:

  • Leaflet for open-source mobile-friendly interactive maps
  • Pinbox.js for tacking historical photos over modern day locations
  • Time Machine, a WordPress plugin, to show what posts were published on this date for another interactive layer if you connected it to articles
  • Embed content into Google Map InfoWindows
  • Google Maps Easy, a WordPress plugin, for some very interesting ways to display content

My idea is that you could add historical photos or postcards to a map location. Then the pop-up window would allow you to click through time. Originally I thought about using those image comparison options like Before-After.js, but it restricts you to only two images. I dug around for a moment to see if I could find some way to add more images, but nope.

There’s likely a more complex way to do what I’m trying to achieve, but it’s likely cost prohibitive. Putting together this system I’m envisioning using open source tools would be very time-consuming. There’s gotta be a better way. But for now, it looks like a dream I could turn into reality (if you didn’t care about copyright of those images).

New Library Website: Card Sorts

Previously, I discussed the navigation and faqs for the new website. This time we’ll go over the card sort process to organize those FAQs. I had approximately 50 questions to organize in a semi-logical way. The questions could loosely be arranged into groups. For e.g. all the website account questions went together. All the fax related questions were made to be together too. So that is the first hierarchy which I grouped things under. These headers had to then be grouped in a few different sections. The particular page we built uses tabs to direct you to more specific information.

Courtesy of Darien Library

I recruited three people to help with the card sort. Each header was written onto strips of index cards. I also brought a stack of blank ones so that new categories could be added. Each session was approximately 30 minutes. It was a little tough not offering commentary, but I did ask them questions about what they were thinking as they went along. As you’ll see, one person’s card sort was so perfect that I pretty much lifted it entirely for the website itself. Another person didn’t quite get the exercise so their help wasn’t quite as useful. The other repeated, “Keep it simple” multiple times as she worked. Once things were sorted and organized, I’d then ask them about the phrases. Was there a better term that could be used? I believe three headers were changed thanks to this exercise.

This is for the FAQ page as gathered from staff feedback on the most common questions they answer for patrons. On the new website, I need to organize these questions into common categories. Your task is to do the organization in this workshop. This is called a card sort. Two other people will also do this activity.

Why do you put X into that category?

Should anything’s title be changed?

What would you call these categories?


Card Sort 1 Courtesy of Darien Library

Card Sort 1
Courtesy of Darien Library

For the first card sort above, I met with our longest term staff member (40 years now?). She was working on the reference desk at the time, thus our limited amount of room to work.

Card Sort 2 Courtesy of Darien Library

Card Sort 2
Courtesy of Darien Library

The above card sort produced my favorite results. You’ll notice that I used the same category titles that was suggested. This person practically did all the work for us!

Card Sort 3 Part 1 Courtesy of Darien Library

Card Sort 3 Part 1
Courtesy of Darien Library

The results of this card sort (image above and below) was looking for fewer main categories and wanted greater simplicity.

Card Sort 3 Part 2 Courtesy of Darien Library

Card Sort 3 Part 2
Courtesy of Darien Library

New Library Website: Navigation and FAQs

Our website’s main navigation was decided primarily in a staff meeting. My boss coded it live, dropping into the files to change terms and order on demand. It was quite impressive — and you could see it on the faces of the staff. We then discussed which icons to use. I was late for the meeting since I had a one-on-one pre-scheduled, so I don’t know how the meeting was introduced or set up.

We then spot-checked it with some patrons to see if it made sense what we called things and how items were grouped. The comment I heard repeatedly was, “Oh. If I just look at this and read it, I can see exactly how it is organized.” This isn’t exactly Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Them Think, but patrons were quite excited about seeing the pattern.

Courtesy of Darien Library

Courtesy of Darien Library

The navigation on our new site is entirely different from the old. Our new site is mega menus and added different ways to think of the information. For example, we have under Services, pages designed for specific patron types/needs: business, parents, teachers & schools, students, job seekers, and home-bound. On the old site, the main nav was My Account, Catalog, Events, Services, Kids, Teens, Community. Then you’d find some sidebar menus to go deeper. The new site goes for landing pages. I wrote the content to be brief as possible and then if needed, direct you to a deeper level page.

The FAQs page was born in that big staff meeting. I wasn’t sure about it. If we did our job right, we wouldn’t need to have this filler page. I had even recently read a tweet by someone big name in information architecture proclaiming that stance. But staff insisted it was a wise move. The concession I wrangled out was that we not call it FAQs in the top menu but spell it out. I’ve been on the internet for a long time, but FAQs aren’t as popular of a term as it was in the early 2000s!

Courtesy of Darien Library

I needed information to put together the FAQs page. So I sent an email out to staff asking them to put the questions they hear most often under their department name in a shared Google Doc. I let staff know that they didn’t have to bother reading what other departments wrote, I’d do the weeding of duplicates myself. It took a little prodding, but I got the responses. :-)

If you ever work with me, you’ll see that I live and die by bullet points, so I made nice little bulleted lists and organized the questions a little bit. Then I struck them out as I answered them in the FAQs. If I had a question, I’d write down what confused me and then date it. When I was done with a department’s section, I’d then email them for clarification on what they had meant.

Then began the work of answering the questions and weeding out ones which didn’t apply to the website. I hope I used friendly language to get to the heart of the question while also not being too intimidating. For e.g., for the question of “Why do I have a fine on My Account?” I wrote:

Oh no! We’re sorry to hear that. Fines are caused by three things:

  • Item not returned on time
  • Item is lost or returned missing a part (like a CD)
  • Item is damaged (this is a replacement fee)

The Library attempts to keep you aware of when your items are due by:

  • Offering a checkout slip which lists the due date
  • Sending you email reminders
  • Listing your checked out items on your website account

If you need a receipt of what you checked out, please see the Welcome Desk.

Stats show that the FAQs is one of the most popular pages on the website. This confused me a bit until I realized that it’s the help link on the account login page. So far I’ve only had to go in to add more information to the page once since June 1st. However, just because we had a lovely batch of questions answered doesn’t mean it was easy to figure out how to organize them! In my next post, I’ll write about the card sort process.

Direct Mail Tips

I attended a Direct Mail class from the local SCORE group. I’m not feeling up for formatting it correctly right now, so forgive the mess. The main takeaways:

* There are two types of Direct Mail from USPS:

– Retail: no permit, but with a limit of 5,000 items per zip code per day

– Business: buy a permit ~$250 and you can send more items. This is for people sending direct mail all the time.

* The process:

– Your mail object needs to be within a certain size.

– You need to print the default stamp and mailing address on your items (your printer does this for you usually)

– You go online to and enter a zip code.

– Then you can use the table tools to look for people based on income, family size, and ages (info from the Census)

– You can pick the exact route you want to send mail onto. The site tells you how many households that is and how much it’ll cost. You can pay online or at the post office.

– Once your mail piece is printed, you need to bundle it into stacks of 100s and 50s. Then you use their provided facing slip (get off the website when you place your order) to wrap the bundles. Each facing slip says how many slips you have for that route.

§ If you have 268 mail objects for route X, you would organize your bundles like so:

§ Two stacks of 100

§ One stack of 50

§ One stack of 18

– USPS is responsible for sending the mail onwards within 48 of delivery (I think this was the message)

– You can save money by taking your bundles to the post office which services that zip code.

– You can go to Irresistible Mail, which is USPS’s site for more inspiration

– The main thing is to try and send your mail to the people who are most likely to be interested.

– You can go to Town Hall and ask for a list of people who have dog permits. Then your grooming business can send mail to only them.

– This sounds crazy to me, but the guy said that’s what he does for his clients.

– Never send your mail first class. Send it standard to save money.

New Library Website: Feedback Form and Inspiration

I’m still not feeling up to doing the full write-up, but here are some shots of the final library websites I choose to inspire our current design. How many do you know? I mounted these onto a huge corkboard and displayed them at our visual design meeting. My colleagues got distracted by Skokie’s website and really honed in on that design. I choose these websites after completing the last feedback and “hopes and dreams” interviews.




As you can see in the image below, those interviews yielded nine pages of notes. That is 228 specific comments. I know who made which comments, but I hid the column from the team indicating who precisely wanted it. The spreadsheet is a Google Sheets, but I locked the hidden column so no one else could see it. I choose this route to give our colleague reviewers a sense of privacy so they would speak candidly. At no point did our team encounter an issue where they specifically needed to know who wanted something done. Instead I would stress the points which were repeated as being an area which we needed to address.


I printed out copies of the feedback and passed them around the table for review. The columns were:

  • Priority
  • Category: Website, Catalog, Demographic Info, Website & Catalog, General, Website & General
  • Type: Dream, Easy, Repeat, Requirement
  • Comment
  • Elaboration
  • Notes
  • Assigned To
  • Status
  • Department

I then color coded it somewhat to show what were of immediate concern (red). Offhand, I know that the new site addressed concerns about a single home for events and giving people a way to indicate interest in events. Otherwise, I’d have to sit down and see how many of the dreams we responded to.