Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

On Library Websites

with 7 comments

Quick evals from two different upperclassmen (in the same class) following a library instruction session I did a few weeks ago. Please discuss:

2 student evaluations side by side

  1. “What confuses me is how the university thinks we don’t understand the website – we know how to find everything online, it’s what our generation does.”
  2. “I think the whole library page setup is confusing and difficult to navigate.”
If you really love library websites (gag), the Journal of Web Librarianship is offering free access to my summer 2011 article “A Use of Space: The Unintended Messages of Academic Library Web Sites” as part of their Back to School Reading List.
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Written by Erin Dorney

September 20, 2012 at 7:39 AM

7 Responses

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  1. In my completely honest opinion, I can’t draw too much concrete from this except what we’ve always known – we get people with different backgrounds and abilities. Also in my completely honest opinoin, the first one sounds arrogant, especially when I consider the fact that I’m someone from the same generation and I’m a librarian and I know that library websites are more often than not confusing when you’re looking for something more than just a prominently placed general discovery tool search box. When speculating, though, it sounds like this is a case of varying information literacy backgrounds at Millersville as well as at home (the second one might be someone who does not have perpetual access to computers and so isn’t as adept at searching). Or it could just be that the second person was looking for more specific information than the first and so that was harder to find. It makes a case for the fact that we need information literacy standards in K-12 and college, and we need to not assume that everyone understand everything about searching.

    Christina Steffy

    September 20, 2012 at 8:31 AM

  2. Hi Christina! Totally agree. It was just so funny, because I usually read through these evaluations after the class is over and reflect back on how the session went. After I read the first one, I was like “Oh, cool, I guess our website is kinda intuitive for students” and then a split second later I read the second one and was like “…or not.” It’s incredibly difficult to teach an instruction session and/or design a library website when everyone is coming from different backgrounds/experience (I know this is not news to anyone). I think we kick ourselves a lot of the time for being inexperienced teachers or developers, but we’re attempting a lot, usually without any baseline data to start from. I also found these two evals interesting from an ethnographic (?) angle – the first person wrote in pencil + cursive (& knows how to use the site) while the second person wrote in pen + print (& finds the site confusing). Meaningful at all? I’m not sure, just an observation. Thanks for the comment!

    Erin Dorney

    September 20, 2012 at 8:44 AM

  3. I want to echo what Christina said. I get lost on MY OWN library website; things are sometimes not where I assume they are or where I expect them to be. Even though I use it all the time, I default to the schema in my head that’s been built from past experience and my education, and it can be kind of frustrating. I also think that the first response is evidence of the glaring assumption that any of us can mistakenly make about NetGen, including NetGen-ers–that assumption being that just because these people grew up on the net means that they know how to use it and find stuff. I would argue that it’s more often the opposite than any of us wants to admit. There’s a false confidence that comes from familiarity with the web, and with search engines like Google that give you SOMETHING almost no matter what you type in. That kind of assumption can be detrimental. Granted, people do also come from varying backgrounds with tech, as Christina said. Some students are whizzes with the web, and others are not. Everyone is at a different level. But to assume that just because a student is a student that he automatically knows what he’s doing is pretty closed-minded, I would argue.

    Lindsey Rae

    September 20, 2012 at 10:02 AM

  4. Is it then detrimental to members of that generation for the media and literature to push this sort of “grew up on the web, know it better than anyone” identity, if it produces overconfidence? I’m an e-resources librarian, and I’m still baffled that any of us can anticipate the requirements asked of us by link resolvers.

    Meghan (@sidesmirk)

    September 20, 2012 at 10:34 AM

  5. “It’s incredibly difficult to teach an instruction session and/or design a library website when everyone is coming from different backgrounds/experience.”

    It’s incredibly difficult to teach or design *anything* when everyone is coming from different backgrounds. Universal design–whether it’s instructional design, web design, industrial design, etc.–is really important. Design everything for the user with the greatest needs and least ability and the entire community benefits.

  6. Lindsey – I often struggle with how much time to spend on database functionality because, other than in a higher ed environment, will students ever be using these databases again? Or will they be doing mostly open-web searching on Google? Are we preparing them to graduate from college (give their professors what they want) or giving them skills to evaluate, think critically, and make smart decisions about information? I feel like we have made some of our library systems so complicated that we waste lots of time telling them the how (practical) because it’s hard to get to the why (reflection, critical thinking) if they can’t find the right place to click or the thesaurus terms.

    Meghan – As with anything, making assumptions can be dangerous. It’s not just the media and literature that push the idea – as we can see from this example of an eval, students themselves are perpetuating the notion that because they grew up with the web, they know how to search. Maybe this generation does know how to search for information-in the NEW way of searching. The way that works for them and makes sense according to their digital lives and experiences. As librarians, do we ultimately want everyone to search like a librarian? Or is putting some terms in a box and hitting search good enough? We can teach other valuable things without focusing on search (how to evaluate, use information appropriately, etc).

    Kyle – Yes to universal design!

    I feel it’s important to note that I am just posing questions/reflecting on this situation. Not expecting any answers but I appreciate the comments! 🙂

    Erin Dorney

    September 20, 2012 at 1:19 PM

  7. Without repeating everyone else, one thing that sticks out from the student who can find everything online: many librarians (the ones I know) aren’t teaching how to find everything online. What’s the point in that? We’re trying to teach students how to find more relevant, credible information.

    In the teacher/student perspective it starts to look like the old argument… “Why do I need to learn math, I’ll never use this for anything…”
    Maybe now it’s…”I can already find everything so why do I need help finding just one thing…”

    Chris Worland

    September 24, 2012 at 5:34 PM


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