I’m typing with my face today due to a stupidity-induced thumb injury from, I think, painting my basement. Homeowners beware.
In the meantime, just to show that I’m not all thorns and lemons, here are some good websites. Good in that attainable way. You will notice that these are mostly not library sites, but I hope you will enjoy the parallels between, say, a really clean weblog about t-shirts, and a really clean list of community activities.
Decent design example #1
The New York Public Library’s Main Page
- A nod to the principles of graphic design – a grid is established, everything is on one page, so no scrolling. A bit font-y, but not too bad. Clean and reasonable.
- Respect for web traditions. Contact link, search, hours up top, copyright statement at the bottom.
- There are tons of links, but they are separated by negative space and grouped to reduce clutter. There are only links to things the public might care about. If you want info about their current grants or whatever you have to dig down a bit, because fewer people care. I sure don’t.
- User-friendly labeling. “Pictures, Photos, & Maps Online” rather than “The Boogaboo Collection” Thank you. As a user, I like pictures. I don’t know Mr. Boogaboo and I don’t want to.
- Visually consistent (at least within this main page). The logo matches the icons which match the features. Don’t click on “Teens” or it will all go to hell.
Decent Design example #2
Preshrunk (hipster t-shirt weblog)
- This is negative space, my friends. As a user, it calms you, soothes you. Makes you feel a bit less like you are being attacked by dozens of people who all want your attention. Feel the negative space? Ohm…
- Look! A clear focal point for each easily-distinguished item. It’s an image! A high-quality image! Not clip art! A visually consistent size and presentation for each image! Don’t you feel safe and warm?
Decent Design example #3
- Great info architecture. What section are you in? It’s obvious! Your location is the only highlighted thing on the page. These guys aren’t out there trying to get you to “Find Databases” or click on “Interlibrary services”. Do you want a leash? Click on leashes. Do you want to know how the company works out contracts with various wholesalers? Of course you don’t. Click on leashes.
- Here is a really full website that still seems calm and peaceful. It’s that negative space and consistent design thing again.
- Notice all of the images? Aren’t they nice? Nobody downloaded those from Microsoft. Notice how they have their backgrounds dropped out? This gives them a consistent look and reduces visual clutter. If you can’t make, attain, or afford images that look this good than don’t use images. Use a clean CSS based layout instead…
Decent Design example #3
A List Apart (the other ALA)
- Look ma! A simple clean layout, and only one image up top. No need to keep a Photoshop maven on staff. Like it? There’s more.
- This site changes its look every day. Why? Because they use CSS and it’s easy. Still, each design is minimalist, standards-compliant, and simple to navigate.
Finally, here are some books if you’re into that kind of thing…
Usability for the web [link]
Information Architecture [link]
Don’t make me think! [link]
Designing websites for every audience [link]
Thanks for all of the kind comments on the previous post. They really helped balance the freaking out I had to do when a kind well-meaning soul posted this link as an example of a REALLY GOOD children’s website.
Ok. Let’s go through this again. Slowly. This time I’m going to spell it out.
Anyone can make a website. The web is the most democratic publishing forum ever conceived. But, unfortunately, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you are the best person to do it. It is an unpleasant fact that most library websites, most digital libraries, most catalogs and electronic collections are badly designed.
And by badly designed, I mean this. Ugly. Ill-conceived. Verbose. Inaccessible. Acronym rich. Confusing. Lofty. Unnecessarily complex. Deprecated. Self-absorbed. Low-quality. Pointless. Patronizing.
Are you still with me? Remember, I’m being a bitch so that you don’t have to.
There is a tendency in the library community to blow sunshine up each other’s asses, as though our intent to do good were enough. As though our good works shouldn’t be held to the same standards as commercial products because we are Nice. People don’t seem to criticize each other’s work in this profession. Which makes for a perfectly lovely working environment where you can find yourself producing piles of junk because all you have heard is happytalk from supportive colleagues. And that’s not Nice. Nope. Not at all. That’s painful and embarrassing and rather cruel.
You would tell a friend if she had toilet paper on her shoe, right? Gentle criticism (not my specialty, obviously) has a place in any relationship, especially when the stakes are high. When your TP-shoed friend is about to go up on stage in front of a bunch of elementary school kids, they probably aren’t going to listen to her charming and educational speech. They are going to see the toilet paper and turn into a pack of hyenas.
And it’s a shame, because the Internet Children’s Digital Library (and the gajillion sites like it with smaller budgets) have the potential to become popular resources if they will only make the connection between quality of content and quality of interface. Like so many digital collections, they have great ideas, like sorting books by color, but they don’t have the skill or the perspective to realize these ideas. And they don’t have the humility to hire someone who does. So up they go in front of the auditorium with a big wad of TP dragging behind them.
Jeepers. A recent link in Wired News (thanks Katykins!) has led to lots of unexpected traffic, which means I should probably get off my e-butt and do some updates.
If you’re new to this site, welcome, librarians are great, don’t be afraid of the reference desk, and by the way, our webforums got hacked awhile ago and I haven’t pieced them back together yet.
Librarian Avengers visitors usually fall into the following categories:
- Frazzled librarians looking for fellowship
- Hipster librarians looking to put the “hepcat” in cataloging
- Library students looking for evidence that their future can be cardigan-free
- Disenfranchised humanities majors tossing around the idea of becoming a librarian
- Journalists trolling for material for the next “ohmygod librarians have a sense of humor and are kinda sexy” article.
With that said, I’ll try to provide some appropriate resources. ‘Cause that’s what librarians do.
- Librarian.net – Jessamyn’s librarian news site. Check out her naked librarians page. Updated daily, and chock full of goodness.
- Well Dressed Librarian – A librarian with style. I just love this fellow. I’d have him over, but I’d have to polish my silver first.
- The ALA’s guide to accredited U.S. library schools. You’ll be wanting an accredited one if you want to work in the States.
- Gin, search and retrieval, the weblog I kept while I was in library school. All of the dirt. Well, 5% of the dirt, anyway.
- A list of frikkin’ funny librarian websites.
- Unshelved, the comic strip about librarians. No kidding. It’s funny.
I found this list from a year and a half ago. I was half-drunk and coding a webforum for my PHP class. I made a list, oh so long ago. Here it is…
List of things I want to do after graduation:
- Learn Yiddish
- Finish reading Sophie’s World (Done!)
- Make the webforum decent and secure (
- Overhaul Librarian Avengers (Half-assed overhaul complete)
- Start looking into Art schools and Computer Science departments. (maybe in a few years…)
- Re-dye blue streak in front of hair for Librarian Job Interview Shock Value (Done!)
- Start doing 5k runs again (or 3k…3k is good…)
- Write old friends
- Move to warm place
- Develop a drinking habit
- Read!! Read!! Real books! Things I care about!
- Start buying music again
- Start ballroom/swing dancing again (Done!)
- Visit Erin in San Francisco and Jenny in St. Paul (Too broke. Thanks homeownership.)
- Stay with Jessamyn West for awhile and help with chores
- Plan the next Librarian Avengers ALA party. Book Klezmer band.
- Re-pot my plants
- Build a hive for the honeybee and live alone in the bee-loud glade (Done! Thanks Yeats!)
- Romance my boyfriend (ongoing)
- Buy impractical shoes (Done! ow!)
- Think impractical thoughts
- Raise a dog (soon)
- Rescue an old cat (soon)
So my friend Clay (of reference desk fame) and I have just gotten out of our dance class, and we are talking about books. A woman overhears us and starts talking about a book she is reading on the subject of Jack the Ripper.
“What was that book?” she asks, “The one they made a movie out of?”
At this point I should pause and remind you that neither of us were in any way identifiable as librarians, nor were we at work, where we might have had a contractual obligation to answer this woman’s question. Yet answer it we did, with alacrity.
We pipe up, “Oh! you must mean the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore,” and our cover is blown. We have been exposed as professional know-it-alls. Any chance we might have had to pose as members of another, sexier profession has been lost.
We couldn’t just say “huh” like normal people. Nope, had to jump in there with the full bibliographic citation.
This is how librarians talk when they think no one’s looking. The following excerpts are from actual email conversations:
Me: Good news! The ALA now has a Library Worker’s Day! ALA loves library assistants! What I like most about this day is how close the phrase ‘library worker’ is to ‘sex worker.’ “Hi, I’m Erica and I’m a library worker! I started out as a library dancer, but now I just do some phone reference and a few library tricks on the side.”
My Librarian Friend: Some day I will be Madam at a whole Library of Ill Repute. Really naughty boys will be sent to Technical Services!!!
Me: Good news! The ALA now has a Library Worker’s Day! ALA loves paraprofessionals!
My Other Librarian Friend: Show me the money.
Oh that wacky American Library Association convention. Imagine, if you will, 50 billion librarians wandering around downtown Toronto. Yes, it looked like that.
I did a bit of shopping on Sunday afternoon, and had the honor of being informed by a salesgirl that a librarian had appeared on TLC’s A Makeover Story and had been brought to that very store. “See” she implied, “it’s not too late for you!”
On a similar “weird public image of librarianship” line, I had more trouble with the ALA vendors than usual. Since I’m no longer a student, I had to contend with eager sales representatives trying to sell me their wares. I found myself regularly explaining that SOME librarians don’t actually work with books, deal with the public, or care much about the latest installment in the Harry Potter series. Once I made the mistake of mentioning the words “digital preservation research” and was treated to a sales pitch for a music journal.
I did get a chance to see a copy of Revolting Librarians Redux this weekend, and I would like to encourage everyone to buy the heck out of it. Among other things, the book contains a poem that I hadn’t read since I submitted it. I was pleased to see that it didn’t suck quite as badly as I had feared.
News Flash: A woman just walked by my library office window practicing sign language to herself. People often walk by my office and don’t realize they are being observed. Unfortunately, this works both ways, and I’ve often been caught chewing my fingernails by a casual passerby.
The library has been empty and echoing today since so many of the staff have boarded the bus for the American Library Association conference. Tomorrow, I too will be leaving for the land of free tote bags and low-key cultural revolution.
I say fie on SARS, and will support lovely Toronto in her hour of need. If anyone wants to catch a quick dance, I’ll be at the Social Responsibilities Round Table Boogie Down event Sunday night, whoopin’ it up with the Cuban librarians.