New Library Website Launches Tomorrow: The Numbers

Courtesy of Darien Library

Courtesy of Darien Library

I’m fairly exhausted right now so I can’t put down too much right now. However, some behind the scene stats:

  • 4 years and 11 months in the making — since my hire date
  • 12 months and 27 days of active development work
  • 4 people to build it
  • 10+ staff members to add events and booklists
  • 75+ pages at launch
  • 100+ events at launch
  • 50+ booklists at launch
  • 15+ UX meetings
  • 6 public training classes
  • 6 user tests in the past two months
  • 300+ emails over the past year on this project
  • 55+ staff photos on the website
  • 165 staff photo samples
  • 300+ total staff photos taken

Official New Website Announcement

Courtesy of Darien Library

Courtesy of Darien Library

This is it! We’ve told the world about us and what we’re doing. Check out the frustratingly small preview image of our new catalog. My boss told me about book recommendations now being baked into the works level (that’s right — works level! Thanks, James for getting this together). He hadn’t finished uttering the words when I spun around in my chair and slammed my fingers to the keyboard to check it out. Then I ran about the building showing my coworkers. Our new catalog is magical.

Pro-tip: it’s very awkward to fangirl anyone to their face, but I really can’t contain my delight with the catalog. The new website is cool, but that catalog…!

The press release from Darien Library

Darien Library is pleased to announce the forthcoming launch of its new website on June 1, 2016. The new website is designed to be a user-centric portal to library events, services, and materials. The new website will launch with SOPAC3, Darien Library’s ground-breaking new catalog system.

The new website overlaps with the catalog and provides a feature-rich patron account experience that includes integrations with the website’s event calendar. Users will be able to register and RSVP for events and keep track of their library activities from their profile screen. The system now also seamlessly includes both physical and digital checkouts on the account page, giving users the information and tools necessary to manage all of their circulation activity. Users are given direct control over their checkout histories and will now have the ability to maintain a wish list of items from the catalog they may want in the future. Numerous other features have been introduced, such as integration with Darien Library’s eCommerce system, Envisionware, so that users can now check their account balance in addition to their fines and fees.

The new system introduces linked accounts. Linked accounts allow family members to link to other family members’ cards so that they can, for example, conveniently see what their children have checked out without having to log in separately. This is a feature that was designed and introduced as a result of direct patron feedback. We believe this will make the web experience for parents and caregivers much easier.

Darien Library has adopted a completely new paradigm when it comes to the new catalog interface. SOPAC3 abandons the bibliographic record level search and uses its own works level concordance at the discovery layer. From a user experience perspective, this is a game changer because it organizes all content types for a title into a single record. No longer will a user see one record for a book, another record for large type, a record for each ebook vendor, and yet another for audiobook. They will see one result with a simple, easy-to-use interface to select the format of their choice. E-Content from Overdrive and Bibliotheca (formerly 3M) can be checked out or placed on hold directly from the catalog with a single click. Work views feature a “look inside” option for previewing titles as well as embedded audio excerpts. Integrated book recommendations are powered by Zola Books’ “Bookish Recommends”.

The website has been designed to be clean and responsive so that it may be viewed on mobile devices. The new website has been in planning for several years and in active development since October 2015. Design decisions were influenced primarily by direct member feedback. The User Experience department at Darien Library wants the new site to feel natural, be a pleasure to use, and become a seamless companion to the library experience.

New Library Website: Staff Photos Finished

I wrote earlier about learning how to set up lighting for our staff photos. After about 30 hours of work in taking the photos, sending them to staff to select their best shot, retake some photos, process the photos, and finally upload them to our staging server. Here is the fruit of that work. You’ll be able to see it in full size very soon.

The stated objectives of this project was to take photos which share a common background to look more uniform on the site. I decided that people should be more or less in the same pose.

Courtesy of Darien Library

Courtesy of Darien Library

Lessons Learned
I set up the photo studio alone, so the lighting is best for my own skin tone. This didn’t always work so well on others. Some photos turned out orange. I’d drag the main light back and forth to try and lessen the effect. After I attached the laptop to the camera so my colleague could see the photos as they actually are, I was able to straighten this out a bit. However, I still had to do some color balancing to fix orange casts on some photos.

At my current age, I’m still wrinkle-free so the lighting fell smoothly across my cheek. For some colleagues, the lighting spilled across their face to highlight their smile lines in an unflattering fashion. Perhaps I shouldn’t confess to this mistake of mine, but it was a serious issue that had to be lessened in Photoshop afterwards. I have a strong belief in treating others’ photos the same way I’d want my own to be handled: if it’s unflattering, don’t post it.

The same pose does not work for all people. I had people lined up so their toes pointed in one direction, rotate their heads to another, and then move their eyes to the camera. This pose did not always show people to their full advantage. I won’t correct this now, but there are a few people whose photos I’ll retake post-launch in order to do better by them.

I was hoping for a tool that would make it easy to batch resize and crop the final photos for the web. No such thing exists it seems. So I took several crops of my boss’ photo and sent it to him to choose the one he liked best. Then I set up guidelines in Photoshop (top of head, chin, left edge of face) from that. When I pasted in a new person’s photo, I’d freehand resize it till it fit those dimensions. This worked in most cases, but the tilt of some people’s heads or their fluffier hair may have thrown this off-kilt. In those instances, I tried my best to accommodate and make the photo work for them.

Finally, I could not tell the final results of the photos until I saw them all together today. Then I reopened some files and made final adjustments: contrast, vibrance, color correction, curves, and levels in order to create a pleasing equilibrium across the photos. Some people’s photos look wonderful on their own, but when paired with others, they needed a little more oomph in some way.