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If They Build It, Will They Come?. Implementing Students’ Conceptions of an Ideal Library Home Page Joan Stein, Carnegie Mellon University Nathan Browne, University of Pittsburgh. Opportunity. planning a move to a new library management system called EPS Rooms

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If They Build It, Will They Come?

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If They Build It, Will They Come?

Implementing Students’ Conceptions of an Ideal Library Home Page

Joan Stein, Carnegie Mellon University

Nathan Browne, University of Pittsburgh


  • planning a move to a new library managementsystem called EPS Rooms

  • new software would incorporate our online catalog and all library web pages

  • gather user input to inform design of new home page


Based on work done at the University of Rochester and reported in the book:

Studying Students: the Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester

The Libraries hired Nathan Browne as anthropology advisor to study

Session held during early part of Spring semester, 2008

Had welcome assistance at sessions by interested colleagues.

  • Sessions held in advance of any decisions made by library staff and/or web design firm, incorporating students’ ideas into the earliest design phases of the Libraries’ new home page.

Soliciting participants

Posters at the University Center and in each library

Pictogram used for call for participation on the Libraries’ home page

Incentives: pizza, soft drinks, $20.00

Group work

Interactive sessions consisted of several exercises:

  • brainstorming what they liked best about a particular web page or web pages generally

  • brainstorming what they liked least about a particular web page

  • designing in small groups a device that would make their lives easier as a student

  • brainstorming contents of “ideal” library home page

  • Designing in small groups their “ideal” library home page


Students designed six mock-ups of these “ideal” pages

Results were heartening. We can implement many of their ideas and suggestions.

Students want us to do a better job of presenting our collections, services, events, and information they need

The “ideal” home pages:

  • Horizontal bar across top with rotating images of students and buildings at CMU

  • Usually divided into three sections below

  • Taxonomy of links on the left

  • Search box in the large, center section

  • Mouse-over links to see what’s below them

  • Fits onto one screen – no scrolling

  • Is “juicer”, projects a younger image

Ideal home page continued

Give them recommendations for books. Could be based on:

  • their past check-outs

  • recommendations from librarians

  • from faculty members on campus

    Want to be able to make their own recommendations to friends

    Want to recommend books to us to buy

Top level links:

  • Brings links that are important to students to the fore:

    • Top-level link (not buried in library catalog) to find out what they have checked out and when the books are due

    • Availability bar or higher level results (not buried in the hierarchy) that lets them see the status of materials without digging down, especially for movies

More high-level links:

  • Links to Libraries’ group study rooms giving availability and on-line sign up; show open study areas and open computers available in the library in real-time (like CMU does with washing machines); link to available campus classrooms

  • maps of each library and each floor in each library – interactive if possible

  • Information about the café (hours, menu, etc.)

  • Libraries’ hours and phone numbers

  • a top level link for finding online journals, not buried under full-text resources”

Other “ideal” features:


  • The ability to personalize the page, placing the things they use most often on the top page (similar to iGoogle)

    • would analyze what they have out and make recommendations to them

    • access to their entire borrowing history

    • ability to make “delicious” bibliographies


  • Categorize your links better; use a very simple outline

  • Keep your page simple and clean – its too messy now, has too many words

  • Better FAQ – general information all in one place rather than scattered

  • All the different article indexes are so confusing! We don’t know why we should choose a particular index over another one. The indexes need descriptions.

  • Add RSS news feeds regarding what library services or content or events are available to us

Incorporating Results

  • Results helping us come closer to creating the home page students want.

  • Design schedule and thus implementation has slipped – still hope for start of Fall semester roll-out

  • User testing still to be conducted, analyzed, and incorporated into final product.

Final Comments

Results are very specific to your local situation.

Rewarding in terms of wealth of data in return for your effort.

Results carry weight with our university administration.


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