User-Friendly things to do with Catalogs

I just saw New Catalog Kiosk from the Library TechBytes blog. And it’s a great idea, too!

Helene mentions her library’s Catalog Kiosk – go take a peek at the image, then come right back. They have created an in-library web page “kiosk” that points to lots of library information – just in a user-friendly way. It includes:

  • Access to the catalog, with a big, fat “Begin Search” button
  • A My Account link
  • A Find Articles search box
  • Staff recommendations
  • Upcoming programs
  • News
  • Button to the general library website

I find this a great way to integrate content for patrons inside the library. This allows staff to concentrate on “most wanted” information at the Public PCs (or “Kiosks”), while still maintaining a global website that brings together even more information.

Great job!

10 Easy Steps to a Horrible ILS

I just read this article, and thought some of the points made really compare to the ILS discussion going on right now. First, a little explanation – the point of the original article is to point out rather obvious ways to ruin an ecommerce site. But, some of those points translate nicely to our beloved ILS systems, too. Here are some of the more “telling” points: 

1. Use your Ecommerce Software’s [ILS System’s] Default Layout. Ouch! A large percentage of us libraries use the default layout. When we get brave, we add our logo image and maybe change a color or two.

We really need to customize the ILS we bought with our taxpayer’s/students/patron’s hard-earned money so it’s usable for our customers, don’t you think? And if we can’t do it, well then – we should expect our vendor to do it for us.

2. Don’t use thumbnails. SIRSI adds Syndetics info, which includes thumbnails of materials. So much nicer, especially when our competition is Amazon – at least it’s a step in the right direction.

4. Don’t smooth the Checkout Process. Sometimes this is easy for us, sometimes not. Make sure your ILS is easy to use when customers want to place a hold on an item. ANd make sure you’re using the most appropriate words, phrases and descriptions for your customers, too (ie., do your customers understand what “placing a hold” really means?).

5. Ignore the Market you’re “Targeting.” Who’s your target audience? Kids? If so, can they use your ILS system made for adults? Etc, etc, etc. Think about ways to help your target audiences find what they’re looking for.

8. Completely leave out Product Descriptions. Compare The Hobbit in your ILS system to The Hobbit at Amazon. Most likely, your version has author, title, subject headings, a call number, and (egad) a MARC record. Amazon, on the other hand, has all the normal ILS stuff (except for the MARC record, which they really don’t need), plus pictures, a “look inside this book” preview, customer tagging, reviews from publishers, and reviews from other customers.

Do you see a difference?

10. Never post your Address or Phone Number. What happens when a search leads to nothing in your ILS? In my library’s ILS, this phrase appears “… found no matches in the library you selected.” And then a search box is displayed so the customer can re-do their search. That’s well and good, but let’s go one further. Let’s add our email/chat/IM/telephone reference contact info there, too. This way, a frustrated customer can go one further – and you have just added some positiveness to an otherwise negative customer experience.

web2.0, library2.0

Me, SirsiDynix, and Keyword Positioning

Gotta love the blogger (my blogging tool)/Google combination. Right now anyway, when you do a google search for the Sirsidynix logo tag thingie (“SirsiDynix. Better. Together.” … the original news story appears first (and second). My blog post appears second. A Netherlands version of the Sirsi page appears fourth, and then the actual SirsiDynix page appears fifth.

Why? I’m only guessing… but:
1. my post came out a day or so before the sirsidynix page had content.
2. Google owns and hosts Blogger blogs, and maybe they bump the rankings up somewhat?

Either way, I think it’s sorta funny!

Library Catalog Experiences

Page 57 of the book Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences: – a customer went to a store to buy a can opener, but it was on a shelf 12 feet high, so she picked another product. Bad product placement, and bad experience!

What do you think – do libraries do this? With high shelving, sure – but also by making our information hard to find. For example… A new book can be:

  • on a new books shelf
  • a genre shelf
  • a themed display
  • in the kids or adults section
  • on the normal shelf
  • Or checked out

And the library catalog doesn’t always provide this type of detail to our customers. The catalog entry might say nothing more than “new books” – but our customer is left scratching his head, wondering “where is ‘New Books’?” Another good one – a library catalog entry might say “browsing collection” – huh?

We need to provide clear direction so customers can quickly and painlessly find our stuff – thus providing a positive experience. And, simple as this might seem… customers want to repeat positive experiences.

Great ALA Quote

From Marshall breeding at the top tech trends thingie (I’m not there, just reading other blogs about it – I just might have to join soon):

“Now we have in Sirsi Dynix 185 people doing development, so there is potential they have some resources to make some progress long overdue. There is now no excuse that “we don’t have the resources.” ”

I sure hope at least one of those people is a web developer…. it’s VERY needed.

Just sayin.