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Wednesday 15 April 2009

Why academic libraries need to be user-centric

It often seems like public libraries are leading the way with user-friendly websites. I think it's too easy for academic librarians to say, "Well, it's different for them: their users are kids and teenagers and the general public. Our users are academically-inclined young adults who should be able to cope with learning the Proper Way of Doing Things."

The problem is the other difference between public library and academic library users: a public library user is a user for a lifetime. An academic library user (barring the few who go on to research and lecturing) is a user for, say, 3-5 years.

Academic library users don't have time to learn how to do things the "Proper Way". They're too busy writing assignments and working to pay for their next electricity bill. And why should we waste our time teaching them the "Proper Way" - only to have to teach the same lessons to the next year's intake, and the next, and the next - when we could just fix our interface to let everyone get on with doing it the Easy Way?