Website as Destination

I just saw a job posting at Washington University for an extremely cool-sounding job: the Director of the Digital Library. And that got me thinking… thinking about how we as librarians view our websites. Is the library website a tool to support the physical library’s activities, resources, and services, or is the library website an actual destination?

Let me throw out some numbers. At Kansas City Public Library in August, 202,105 customers walked through our physical doors. Our busiest branch had 31,233 visitors. The library’s website had 309,083 visitors (granted, many of those would be visits within our physical walls – using one of our public PCs). We staff our branches with anywhere from 4 to maybe 20 employees (a mix of part and full-time), and our Central Library with even more staff. Our website is staffed by 2 employees, who handle all the day-to-day business of running the website, plus frequently writing content to be placed on the site. Other staff also send content.

So, the short version:

  • big branch – 20+ staff (lower fte), 30,000 visitors
  • website – 2 staff (plus some content help from library staff), 309,000 visits
  • Which one has staffing issues?

I think it’s time to stop thinking of library websites as something that simply supports a library’s mission and goals. Rather, the library’s website IS the library, or at least as much a real, live part of the library as a physical library branch building is part of the library.

And if we as librarians start thinking that way – gee whiz, what would we change? Would staffing of the digital library change? Would we put different types of information on the website? Would we market things differently?

Stuff to think about – and I’d love to hear other’s reactions to this concept!