Archived Story

Library unveils new website, catalog this summer

Published 8:00am Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Though it may be over a century old, the Dowagiac District Library is hardly stuck in the past.

Last month, the library staff officially launched a redesign of its webpage, with a greater emphasis on graphics and discoverability. The updated site follows the library’s relaunch of its Facebook and Twitter pages earlier in the summer.

The changes are part of the library’s efforts to stay ahead of the technological curve, as a greater number of their patrons use smartphones, tablets and other devices to access library services, said Director Jacob Munford.

“Online services need to be a part of what we do,” he said. “There’s a lot of things the library can do that work better online.”

Overhauling the website has been a goal of Munford’s since he took over as director last year, he said. However, the project presented several challenges for he and his staff, as the person responsible for managing their web presence had left the library shortly before he arrived.

Over the past several months, the director has taken on the task of creating it himself, learning the necessary graphic design and programming skills in his spare time.

One of his goals was to make the site properly formatted on mobile devices, which make up a growing number of the library’s online visitors, Munford said. The cleaner design also reduced the amount of text on the front page, making it easier to navigate.

“On the old site, you could poke around and eventually find what you’re looking for,” Munford said. “Now, that poking is much easier to do.”

One of the things the new site is promoting is access the library’s 40 informational databases, which contain over 50,000 articles about automotive, business, legal and other subjects.

“If you’re interested in learning something, just jump in,” Munford said. “You could go down the rabbit hole forever.”

The site also features an improved listing of library events, which allows visitors to add items to their phone’s calendar, which will alert them before it takes place.

The library kicked off its summer by increasing their social media presence, adpoting a regular posting schedule while focusing on more personal content for visitors, such as funny photos of library staff.

“They show off the human element of the library,” Munford said.

The redesign has been well received by patrons, resulting in a surge of traffic and interest, Munford said.

“It’s a big step for us,” he said. “A lot of library websites tend to try and get people to come to their library. We want to bring our activities and services outside the library, directly to our patrons.”

The library hasn’t lost focus on its physical collection, though.

Later this month, the staff plans on updating its catalog system, which will feature improved search features and richer user interface. Like the website, the new system will make heavier use of pictures and graphics, including displaying the full covers for books in search results.

While the transition from physical to digital resources is still ongoing, Munford said he is confident that the library will roll with the changes, continuing to provide an outlet for the community to learn and to congregate.

“A common thing we hear from visitors is, ‘oh, we didn’t know you guys did that,’” Munford said. “People like to come to the library and be pleasantly surprised.”

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