Fostering Discovery through Web Interface Design: Perpetual Beta as the New Norm

Fostering Discovery through Web Interface Design: Perpetual Beta as the New Norm

Juliet Kerico (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA), Paul Anthony (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA), Chris Bulock (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA) and Lynn Fields (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1821-3.ch016
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Abstract

In 2009, the Library & Information Services (LIS) Web Task Force of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) was charged with improving its website in light of the increasing challenges presented by organizing, maintaining, and promoting its rapidly expanding selection of electronic resources. Due to budgetary constraints, a commercial tool for improving resource discovery was not an option. The Task Force chose to consider improved Web design as a solution to the problem. The resulting process of ongoing library Web site redesign, fueled by extensive user feedback at multiple stages, is discussed. In addition, the progression from a paper-based survey to an observation study of users is outlined and analyzed. Such activities inform the user experience and provide an opportunity to use improved design to reinforce principles of library instruction.
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Background

Library & Information Services (LIS) of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) serves approximately 14,000 students. Undergraduate enrollment numbers about 11,300, while graduate and professional schools account for another 3,300 students. In 2010, the Library’s Web site had 359,563 visits. LIS electronic resources recorded 571,544 full text downloads, and the link resolver recorded 150,918 click-throughs. Although the library currently has access to WorldCat®1 Local Quick Start, a version of the service free to all institutions that subscribe to WorldCat® on FirstSearch, it offers the ability to search only OCLC databases, and users cannot connect directly to external full text. In addition, WorldCat® Local Quick Start provides no method for customizing holdings display, thus severely limiting the integrated resource discovery experience an institution is able to present to its users.

When an institution is unable to implement a commercial Web-scale discovery tool, it must rely on other methods for improving resource discovery, namely improved web design and user education. Whether serving patrons at the Research & Information Desk, through formal bibliographic instruction, or in the design of the library Web site, all libraries aim to adhere to a coherent philosophy of library instruction. The accepted current framework for academic library instruction, the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education developed by the Association of College and Research Libraries, also forms the basis of library instruction activities at LIS. The library’s mission is accomplished by:

1) fostering information literacy skills; 2) supporting faculty by providing their students with research skills needed to successfully complete specific assignments and coursework; and 3) fostering campus productivity by making faculty and staff aware of information resources and providing information literacy sessions in the use of those resources. (Library Instruction & Information Literacy Program Web site, LIS, SIUE, http://siue.libguides.com/content.php?pid=132799&sid=1138682)

In addition to making improved resource discovery more affordable, the decision to embark upon a Web site redesign project involving user input is, in its most basic and classical sense, an extension of the above LIS goals regarding library instruction. In order to best educate and serve users, an online environment that facilitates learning by intuitively leading users to the appropriate discovery tools needs to be created. This important step in the information-seeking process, which is a necessary precursor to information fluency at all academic levels, must be met first at the level of design rather than relying on one tool to solve all resource discovery problems.

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