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The Store Window and Your Portal

I worked my way through university by working in retail – mostly hardware, housewares, gifts, and a little furniture design. It was fun and I learned a lot. Even then I marvelled that most libraries that I knew didn’t have a ‘shop window’ where they promoted their most interesting things. I was reminded of this today when I read the new Forbes article, “Google Isn’t Everything”. The author does a marvelous job of simply stating that libraries have a load of wonderful content in databases that are better than Google. I can hear you all saying, “Duh!’. But this is Forbes not a library periodical!
There are two great insights here:
One – he notes that “None of these databases is perfect, since most were initially designed for trained librarians rather than mere flailing mortals, so the user interfaces can be daunting until you get the hang of them.”
Two – he challenges that “My biggest complaint is that some libraries’ Web sites don’t detail the amazing range of services they offer online until you cough up a card number. Memo to those insular institutions: Put the info in the shop windows out front and I bet you’ll see a lot more card-carrying customers walking through the electronic doors.”
Hmmmm – just imagine if your portals were the shop windows they needed to be. Does your portal/web site ‘sell’ your services? Or is it a dry compilation of links? Can you tell what’s behind the authenticator/password wall? Is there a motivation to get that library card to find what’s behind the opaque wall?
Hmmmm – Do we design our federated search options for using these licensed databases to make it easy? How much does the cardholder have to do to get into these great tools? It should be easy but I worry that it’s still too hard.
And, BTW, what does your real shop window look like in the bricks environment? In the retail world we had to change our displays weekly, keep them fresh, make them look attractive and engaging, promote a limited range of things and not everything and, oh yeah, we weren’t allowed to tape a hundred letter-sized posters to the windows either. Apparently the mall thought they looked awful. Maybe a few libraries could use some sprucing up with a few retail techniques.

Posted on: August 2, 2005, 12:45 pm Category: Uncategorized

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