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Internet Librarian 2013 – Creating a Cohesive User Experience

Ginny Boyer

Ginny is the Discovery Services Librarian for East Carolina University Libraries, but her job also includes system and web librarian responsibilities.  Her staff had drastically different agendas and personalities, different cultures (internal and external), and physically separate divisions with different affiliations.  To be successful she had to be stubborn, use a grassroots effort on neutral ground, and a neutral person in a position of leadership.  Her library has three distinct libraries—the main library, a music library, and a health sciences library.  The virtual library is actually funded separately and has an oversight committee (rather neat).  They had two different OPACs, two different ILLiads, two different database lists, etc. between the main library and the health sciences library.  Problems with this?  Duplication of effort, wasted staff resources, multiplicity of access points, poorly designed and outdated search tools, etc.

They have Summon, the Serial Solutions discovery tool.  They branded it One Search, deployed widgets to both libraries’ homepages, included the libraries’ local catalog records, and found that a major problem existed—at the item level the resource links out to the native OPAC…bad since they had two different OPACs.

Consolidation was a dirty word.  Instead they said “collaboration” or “unification.” You have to have a strong project manager and strategic leadership.  Everyone has to be willing to give a little.  You need tech folks to play nicely or tech leaders to be involved directly with the projects.  And finally, communication and interaction across departments is key.

They created a combined catalog, which was a big deal to them—the first time they had one tool for the library as an entity.  The problem was the branding for “ECU Libraries.”  Each library has an independent website—no one site for the libraries.  The newly developed ECU Libraries page is mobile optimized, simple, and clean.  Front and center is the search with three graphical links to each of the three libraries underneath.  Spin-offs from this have been a combined ILL page a single system and log-in.  Book Recall form—got the circulation staff talking about standardizing policies for users too.  Suggest a Purchase form—got collection development talking between the two libraries.  Ask a Librarian—there were three and now there is one.  Two WorldCat Local implementations—now only one.

This work fortified the evolution of the ECU Libraries brand.  It also served as a public declaration of combined efforts to benefit the university.  Their branding was approved by university marketing as an official logo.  And most importantly, it created a cohesive user experience under a combined front.

Initially they had tools.  Now, however, they’re looking overall at search tools and usability, user experience and its impact on discovery, the integration of library websites as an essential piece of discovery, and overall access and retrieval concerns as they affect discovery.  So far they’ve consolidated their classic catalog, WorldCat Local, and database lists and also redesigned their LibGuides and LibAnswers.  Their next steps are an implementation of VuFind, redesigning all Serials Solutions pages/tools, and an implementation of BlackBoard Bento.

The websites are a big nut to crack.  They’re hoping to have an ECU Libraries consolidated website.  There is also a room reservation system for one library that they chose to place under the ECU Libraries brand and website.

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