Library Tech Talk

Technology Innovations and Project Updates from the U-M Library I.T. Division

A New Model for Overseeing Web Content

The problem was clear. The library's website had roughly 10,000 pages of content, authored by more than 100 people —with more being made every day. In such a decentralized organization, each area was focused on its own needs, but not on what was happening across the rest of the site.

Our content also had a number of common problems — problems that formed as the website grew organically over nearly 20 years, and which many other libraries also face.

As University of Arizona librarian Rebecca Blakiston puts it:

All too often, the focus is on design and higher-level navigation and labeling; on the users’ discovery process rather than the actual content they must understand, use, or interpret at the end. Users visit our websites for content, but often what they ultimately find is poorly written, outdated, and duplicative content. (pg. 176, "Developing a Content Strategy for an Academic Library Website," Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, September 2013)

So, in the fall of 2013, we launched a six-month pilot project that proposed a new model for stewarding web content: the Web Content Coorindators Group. The group is led by the head of the User Experiecene (UX) Department and our web content strategest, along with nine libraians and staff drawn from across the library — each representing one or more divisions, or major areas of content like LibGuides.

Individually, they serve as liaisons to their division — helping to guide content creation and clean up in their areas, and communicating the needs of their units to the UX Department. As a group, they help coordinate cross-divisional projects, and help communicate and support a coordinated web content strategy across the library.

In this way, the UX Department is able to provide specialized technical and best-practices training to the members of the group, and to work closely with them on projects in their divisions.

Over the course of the pilot project, the content coordinators made significant changes and improvements to numerous pages across our website — and helped to guide the creation of several new initiatives. Their initial efforts to consolidate and streamline content reduced our total number of published web pages by 12 percent — which helps make the rest of our content easier for our users to find and use.

In April, the Associate University Librarians over each division gave their support for making the role ongoing.