Outcome 3a. Design resources or tools that facilitate access to information.
I created my first website “My Encore Career Guide” for the final in my second-semester Reference class, with the passion of someone pursuing a second career. The goal was to start with a brief explanation of the service, present an embedded inspirational video, and plenty of encouragement. With each area of the website, additional tips are provided on how to maximize the use of the site and materials. This final ran parallel with a marketing plan for this program, that I created for my Management class during the same semester which you will see in Goal #5.
The site contains circulating, and non-circulating resources at the library, and databases and educational online resources. The website provides enough resources for a variety of users, that can be explored over time with the libraries MY Encore job assistance program. The idea was born out of a time when corporate jobs were leaving Lake County, and I personally witnessed many families work through periods of unemployment, as well as taking steps to realign encore careers with their personal values.
The needs were developed through assessment of existing job programs, government statistics, outreach to other employment support agencies, and member comments on what they needed from the library. In addition to assistance with resumes and cover letters, the program focuses on building a community of support, bringing in inspirational speakers, and having members build new networks through the library to end their unemployment isolation. The marketing plan also talks about having digital literacy classes for those trying to acquire 21st-century skill sets to utilize all available technology at the library and was designed to be inclusive of all levels of workers, including those with no post-high school education.
Outcome 3b. Utilize resources or tools to manage information.
This web collection and exhibition is designed on a free open source web-publishing platform called Omeka. The collection pulls together resources on anxiety and depression, with the images, stories, and self-help articles reflecting on the effect of Donald Trump on public mental health. The resources gathered present a narrative of mental health issues, help, self-care and hope activities, plus a gallery that shows images of hope and images that trigger anxiety.
Building a collection on a user-friendly platform presents a fast way to gather both digitized analog and born-digital collections for education, entertainment, or cultural heritage. In addition to the exhibition, metadata is added with the actual resources in the collection area of the site. Most users accustomed to evolving software can figure out how to move between the exhibition of collections, and the collections as individual pieces. Having built websites from scratch, working on Google sites, and Word Press, I found Omeka’ biggest weakness was navigation, both for the collection maker and the user. Platforms like Omeka have an important place in the ability to create collections without fees, and advertisements and serve the needs of students and institutions that are fiscally challenged.
Collecting and creating this born-digital collection reinforced curation practices such as resource assessment, selection, copyright, audience, and metadata creation and consistency. As more resources are made or born digital, the creation of well-curated digital collections and exhibitions will continue to provide value for digital repositories business, education, cultural heritage, and the public.
Outcome 3c. Evaluate resources or tools that facilitate access to and manage information.
I enjoyed this assessment and testing assignment by selecting one of the most prestigious library websites in the world, the Library of Congress (LOC) in 2015. I drew my own conclusions on search and website navigation success and then designed a set of actions for user testing. My learning process was in observing how different generations and levels of education affect user effort and experience on websites. Stepping back from educator to observer and facilitator was much more useful in learning about user needs, habits, and skill levels. This is a productive was way to gain immediate observations and have conversations and engagement activity with users rather than sending out surveys or screening peers. We must understand what our users want and aspire to before we can select and facilitate the best uses of library resources.
Each person had a unique perspective, that either affirmed or disagreed with my own conclusions, but the point was to serve the communities service needs, not mine. Two of my biggest criticisms was how busy the page was, and the lack of mobile applicability. Eighteen months later, the site has been redesigned, Library of Congress Home 2018, and has made itself available to mobile users. I don’t know how you make their web pages less busy, but the clear message of the home page is that they are focused on searching, visuals of trending topics, featured exhibitions, programs, visits, librarian questions, and news. The search tab, once engaged has a very good list of formats in its drop-down list. The thought I had then and now is, do we want the Library of Congress website to operate like Google? I say no because these are collections of resources about and for our country, not information connected to Google algorithms and ad revenues.
What I have learned is that any potential or current resource, program, or service needs to be built by outreach around the diversity of the community it will serve. Therefore, outreach and conversation with the community is far more important than implementing the next trend. Without embedding librarians into communities through relationships, we will be unable to connect resources, programs, and services that give us measurable ROI (Return On Investment), and build the credibility of the library with the community outside of its walls.