You know how important your library website is, right? It’s most students’ first stop when they’re looking for a new resource or to check out what you have in the stacks. Because it’s so frequently used, you owe it to your campus community to keep it updated, easy to navigate and looking fresh.
But if you’re still using Angelfire.com as a host—or otherwise haven’t updated your site since the 1990s—now’s the time. Here are a few reasons why you should give your website a makeover and some examples of great academic library websites for your perusal.
A great website can save you time later on.
You love all your students equally, but it’s pretty irritating when that group of freshmen consistently reshelve their books in the wrong places, leaving you with a history of the 1984 American presidential election puzzlingly wedged in between Rich World, Poor World and Climate Change by Melanie Jarman.
Your library website is a great place to give students tutorials on how to use the resources you have available. For an example of ways to do this, read the Portland State University Library website and check out their Help and Services tools. Not only do they have tutorials on how to reserve a study room and renew a book, but their Library DIY section offers students the opportunity to learn about more advanced issues like citing and finding the best sources. Consider implementing similar tutorials on your site. Whether they’re video tutorials or simple slideshows, they can help students use your library more efficiently—and save you a headache later on.
Students are using your website differently than they were five years ago.
Whether they need to look up Jose Martí’s essay Nuestra America to settle a dining hall debate on pan-American thought in 1890s Latin America or just trying to remember the Dewey Decimal System code for the book, students are looking through your catalog on their phones. As a result, it’s important that your website be mobile-optimized.
Take a look at Champlain College Library's website for a strong example of what a mobile-optimized library website should look like. Make sure your mobile website fits on a student’s screen, all links are easy to identify and easy to click with a finger or stylus and information is laid out in a logical manner. Don’t forget to check if your database pages are optimized as well! It will help your students access more information much more quickly.
You’ll have new opportunities for engagement.
There’s more to you than just your stacks of books. You can use your website to promote events, social channels and library news to get students involved in what’s going on in your study rooms. Don’t be afraid to add plenty of links to your social media profiles, insert a live chat feature and even start a blog to get students up to date on the hottest library functions of spring semester.
Take a look at the Wardman Library at Whittier College’s website for inspiration. On their front page, you’re immediately given the chance to check out their social channels, get research help and find support—oh, and there’s a link to find books and articles too. Their categories stay easily navigable and those social media buttons are on every page, no matter how deep into the library’s resources you go!
Don’t just rely on your website to get students involved. Check out our checklist of 9 Innovations Shaping Today’s Academic Libraries to learn more about the gadgets and gizmos bringing students into the academic library—and how you can start innovating your library as well.