Power Point: The Hatch Library’s Redesigned Website Links In to the 21st Century
When asked for three words to describe the completely new website for the Hatch Library, Sandy Cahillane stated with authority: “Empowered. Supported. Engaged.”
But, she added with a laugh, “It’s also just so much prettier!”
Cahillane is the Electronic Resources and Reference/ Instruction Librarian , and together with Library Director, Mike Moran, they talked recently about the site’s look and functions that were brainstormed, designed, and built, all over the course of the last month and a half. Tight time frame? Absolutely, but one look at the new site and you will agree that even in such a short span, the new library site fully checks out. The redesigned, retooled site went “live” last Wednesday, October 16.
And is it more pretty? Well, according to Cahillane, that would be in contrast to the library’s prior online presence as of early last week. It was fully operational in terms of search functions, and everything that students needed was there, yet visually the site was not as similar to the College’s home pages.
The new Hatch site looks and feels more connected to the Bay Path aesthetic. Colors were chosen as a complementary palette to the home page. For Moran, it was important that the new site not just look good, but also work better for the College’s needs.
“We wanted the site to be more welcoming and to get students where they needed to go as quickly as possible,” he said, adding, “To be user friendly with an intuitive interface.”
What does that expression mean? “It’s intuitive to the needs of the students,” Cahillane explained. As an example, say your professor asks you to research scholarly articles for an assignment. Well, as it turns out, there is a prominent search tab on the Hatch site that will lead you directly to a page containing those articles. Within that page, there are distinct search profiles that are targeted for a variety of academic disciplines.
If this sounds like the basic principles of a good search engine, you’re right. But that trend has yet to be fully embraced by library science. For the librarians at the Hatch, however, that was an important step in rebuilding the site. “When you look at trends in research, what people are used to is a Google-like interface,” Cahillane said. “But unlike Google we have very specific information that we need to present to the Bay Path community. We set it up so that hopefully within a click or two they can get to where they need to go.”
The library worked with a firm that has a long track record of web design for academic libraries. These web designers had the basic mechanics of how a cutting edge library site should work, but for team Bay Path, there were a lot more specific requirements in order.
In an initial “blitz” meeting, as Cahillane called it, the firm showed up with some mockups, and offered insight into how best to wrest opinions and creative working advice from the Bay Path community for how our library website should look. A focus group was drawn together from students, faculty, and staff.
“We very quickly saw a pattern of what people were drawn to and what they wanted to see,” Cahillane said. “So even though there may be a few elements that overlap with the other academic library sites that they had built, a lot of what they designed and built for us is unique.” The pull-down tabs, databases, even the search box—all specific to the needs of the Bay Path community.
The new functionality—how the site works—may be different for users familiar to the older site. But she said that a prominently featured help box should put site visitors back into circulation.
It was an encyclopedic challenge over a short period of time, getting the Hatch site online. But as both librarians said, this new resource should help in the mission of demystifying information literacy, building lifelong learners, and above all, to better help students.
As the two clicked through the many exciting new features on the site, the sheer volume of clearly and cleanly presented resources and reference material truly felt of the moment, and at the forefront of technology. But don’t think for an instant that the site replaces the face-to-face interactions that you can still get from the faithful reference librarian staff at the Hatch. They’re always going to be there to help out.
In conversation, the two offered some philosophical evaluations of the building that is the Hatch Library. And even though they were talking about the building around them, Moran and Cahillane shared a laugh when talking about how the new website is a mirror of that space. “We’re small but we’re powerful,” she said with a smile, adding, “We are bigger on the inside than we are on the outside.”