Over the last couple of years we've begun addressing many of these organizational web content issues many libraries share, and while there's still a lot to do, I think we are on a good path. We try not to be draconian but we try to be up to par. There are a few parts:
1.) You need an organizational culture which respects the Web Services Person, the overall Web Services, and external Best Practices
Maintaining currency and doing user research is part of a web services librarian's description. Just as the library expects expertise from a subject specialist and respects that person's authority in the topic, the library must expect the same from its web team and, in many ways, defer certain decision making. Libraries that have web teams need to put them in a position to, first, aspire to expertise--this means ample time to experiment and learn and do usability studies--and then in a position to determine best practices. Libraries that treat their site and web content as ancillary are going to struggle to have usable and useful web services in the first place.
Additionally, other people who do web stuff better have already figured out how users actually use the web. Most of this you don't need to figure out for yourself. Optimize your services for your own users, but adopt the best practices that are already out there and learn from research that has already been done. Realize that research HAS been done, and such research is just as laudable and worthy of consideration as research in any other field.
2.) Establish Axioms that Force Better Practices
We decided a year or so ago that all future projects were going to be mobile first, accessible, and chase after a 2000 speed index. This forces certain decisions: we design for and write for mobile first - there's not really much screen real estate, so a.) there can't be a ton of stuff there, b.) it has to be readable and tappable [big font, big buttons], c.) we can't write ten paragraphs if we can say it in two or three. Additionally, we made everyone aware of Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 A, and so we aspire to meet those basic recommendations: y'know, alt tags for everything, transcripts for media. The 2000 speed index is roughly a 2 second load time, so we say that, hey, images can't be crazy big. It's actually pretty generous.
3.) Set some freaking guidelines
Create an online media committee who agree on and agree to enforce content policies. Libraries as an organization with a web presence should be just as on point as any other organization with a web presence. Users notice when content is *bad* or inconsistent, and they don't like it when they have to check the URL to see whether they're still on XYZ site. Users who come to distrust the quality or usability of a library's content will apply that same reasoning to the rest of its services. Having designs that pop with a great color scheme are super, but users really don't care. They really don't. They just want to get the content they came for - and leave.
Libraries want to be perceived as professional, but libraries without content policies won't be - even small ones.
They don't have to be overwhelming. Set some simple axioms, agree on adhering to federal / state level accessibility guidelines, inherit your parent organization's style guide / content policies [if they exist], and then make a few other simple rules that don't suck.
4.) Enforce those freaking guidelines
This is easier when the library actually has a web team, but designate someone as a Content Sheriff and give that person the authority to *unpublish* content that doesn't meet XYZ guidelines. There will be animosity, at first, but it's for the betterment of the organization as a whole - and once people get used to the fact that *bad content will be unpublished*, they'll write good content to avoid the annoyance.
This is where editorial workflow should be an option. Prevent bad content from getting published in the first place. An *awesome* guide created by an expert science subject specialist that violates your accessibility guidelines shouldn't be publishable. If you have control over your CMS (like WordPress), you can make it so that these fields are required before the content can go live. In the case of LibGuides, establish a simple and non-jerky system of buddy review so that a second pair of eyes can confirm that, yeah, XYZ guidelines are met.
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of King, Emily
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1:19 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] LibGuides v2 - Templates and Nav
At my previous institution, I struggled with the same issues as you (and probably most libguides administrators that have a large number of people creating guides). The only really positive experience that I have had was a fairly time consuming one.
Every year, I sat down with each content creators to talk through the goals of their individual libguides, the specific problems I saw with their libguides, the usage statistics for those guides and the amount of time they were putting into the guides themselves. I also had support from administration that the guidelines would be enforced or the guides would be removed. Having that conversation with the data to back it up helped the librarians see why those things were issues and where they might be wasting their time. It worked better than a large meeting because we could talk about their specific case. When I first starting having these conversations, many of the librarians didn't realize understand the full impact their design decisions were having on patrons actually using these guides. For some librarians, I would also show them a libguide from a subject area they were not familiar with similar design problems to theirs so they could experience what their user might be experiencing with their guide.
Although it was not universal and there are still problems like you described below, these problems are significantly smaller than they were.
LibGuides biggest strength and weakness is ease of creation. Anyone can create, but creating *good* content for the web is hard.
Emily King, MSLS
Digital Services Librarian
CSN Library Services
On 9/24/14 9:56 AM, "Joshua Welker" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>I lol'ed several times reading your message. I feel the pain. Well, it
>is nice to know I am not alone. You are right that this in particular
>is an organizational problem and not a LibGuides problem. But
>unfortunately it has been an organizational problem at both of the
>universities where I've worked that use LibGuides, and it sounds like
>it is a problem at many other libraries. I'm not sure what it is about
>LibGuides that brings out the most territorial and user-marginalizing
>aspects of the librarian psyche.
>Does anyone have any positive experience in dealing with this? I am on
>the verge of just manually enforcing good standards even though it will
>create a lot of enmity. LibGuides CMS has a publishing workflow feature
>that would force all guide edits to be approved by me so that I could
>stamp this stuff out each time it happens.
>To enforce, or not to enforce, that is the question-- Whether 'tis
>nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously poor
>usability, Or to take arms against a sea of ugly guides, And by forcing
>compliance with standards and best practices, end them?
>From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
>Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 11:34 AM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] LibGuides v2 - Templates and Nav
>> 4. Admin controls are not very granular. With most aspects of editing
>> a guide, you either have the option of locking down styles and
>> templates completely (and oh your colleagues will howl) or allowing
>> everything (and oh your eyeballs will scream). Some of these things
>> could very well be improved in the future, and some probably will not.
>This! My librarians have successfully resisted every attempt to impose
>any kind of standardization. Visual guidelines? Nope. Content
>guidelines? Nope. Standard system settings? Nope. Anything less
>than 100% free reign appears to be anathema to them.
>The result, predictably, is chaos. Our guides run the gamut. We have
>- Giant walls of text that no one ever reads.
>- Lovingly crafted lists of obscure library sources that rarely (if
>ever) bear any relation to what the patron is actually trying to do.
>- A thriving ecosystem of competing labels. Is it "Article Indexes",
>"Article Databases", just plain "Databases", or something more exotic?
>Depends which apex predator rules this particular neck of the jungle.
>- Green text on pink backgrounds with maroon borders. Other pages in
>the same guide might go with different, equally eye-twisting color schemes.
>I'm not even sure how he's doing that without access to the style
>sheet, but he's probably taught himself just enough HTML to mangle
>things in an effort to use "friendly" colors.
>- Some guides have three or even FOUR rows of tabs. With drop-down
>submenus on most of them, naturally.
>- A few are nicely curated and easy to use, but they're in a distinct
>I've tried. I've pushed peer-reviewed usability studies at them. I've
>reported on conference sessions explaining exactly why all these things
>are bad. I've brought them studies of our own analytics. I've had
>students sit down and get confused in front of them. Nothing has
>gotten through, and being the only web type at the library, I'm outnumbered.
>Just the thought of it makes me supremely tired.
>I'm sorry if this has digressed. LibGuides is not at fault, really.
>It's an organizational problem. LibGuides just seems to be the flash
>point for it.