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David Lee King

Community and the Digital Experience



I’m knee-deep in wading through a bunch of articles and books on various aspects of experience design for the book I’m writing on digital experience planning, and I just had an epiphany today: I’m insane!

(No, wait – that’s not it…)

Ok – so I’ve been thinking about experience lately, both for my book and for the library website my library is currently redesigning. And we’ve been talking a lot about “experience.”

So what was my epiphany (hee – I just used the word “epiphany” twice in one blog post)? The type of experience a library website delivers. Because there’s more than one type of experience that can be delivered via the web.

Here’s what I mean. Go take a peek at the website for the newest Harry Potter movie (just promise to come back here!). That site clearly presents a type of experience – it’s all about fun, entertainment, projecting a theme through sound and cloudy, dark images, etc – it’s all about the experience of entertainment.

That’s a great digital experience – but that’s not what I want on my library’s website. No, that’s the wrong type of experience. So I continued thinking about digital experience and presentation for a library website (or any content-rich site, for that matter) – what type of experience should we be creating?

And then it dawned on me (yes, this is when the heavens opened and I had my epiphany (ha – did it again): the movie site is mimicking the actual movie… so a library site should mimic the actual library. And what type of experience happens in a library?

One of community. And conversation. And participation.

Those things happen here at the library EVERY SINGLE DAY. There’s an amazing amount of interaction between the library staff and our patrons – ideas being shared, information being found, meetings being held, and questions being asked and answered.

And that – that – is the experience I think libraries need to work on creating in a digital environment, be that in Second Life, in MySpace or FaceBook, or on the library’s website. Look at CNN and USAToday’s recent redesigns – they focus on community. Why? Because those newspapers exist to inform their user communities. And why not interact with those communities? That only makes sense.

It makes ok sense for a newspaper. But for a library? Community is our lifeblood. Our goals, as I see them, in the emerging digital age are to:

  • create a sense of community in our digital spaces
  • create and nurture conversations in our digital spaces
  • allow participation in our digital spaces

Do these things, and your digital doors will swing just as wide as your physical doors do now.

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  • Richard Glady

    One of the realizations I have come to, is the fact that gamers and book readers (especially fiction book readers) are the same people. They want an experience outside their normal lives.

    One way to bring the two groups together is to build a library web site that looks like Second Life(ish) that will draw in the gamers, have graphic links to Myspace and Facebook, and have fun interactions built around books-i.e. Flash based games. The traditional catalog and databases still play a role, but as part of the entire “Second Life” virtual world experience.

  • Richard Glady

    One of the realizations I have come to, is the fact that gamers and book readers (especially fiction book readers) are the same people. They want an experience outside their normal lives.

    One way to bring the two groups together is to build a library web site that looks like Second Life(ish) that will draw in the gamers, have graphic links to Myspace and Facebook, and have fun interactions built around books-i.e. Flash based games. The traditional catalog and databases still play a role, but as part of the entire “Second Life” virtual world experience.