Curating Web Content to Meet Patron Needs

Yes til no, yes til now
With web content we need to constantly reevaluate our decisions. What once worked may not work now.
Photo by Nicholas Laughlin via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Managing library web content doesn’t stop after creation. Using a curatorial hand, we conduct regular inventories and assessments to ensure that content is still meeting the needs of our patrons. Like weeding the library's physical collection, we sometimes need to "deaccession" web content. These decisions are informed by web design principles and the Library's web content strategy. You can read more about how the library makes decisions about content by reading posts from Ian Demsky, our Web Content Strategist.

Deaccessioning doesn’t necessarily mean deleting or unpublishing. Instead, it can mean finding a new home. The library website should only have content that aids patrons in accomplishing the goal they wish to complete while using the site; like finding resources, reserving a room and other tasks. In other words, the Library website is not an archive where we keep content just in case. Instead, we can take advantage of web archives to store content that we still value (though often in a new way) when it reaches its time for retirement.

Archiving Content

As an intern in the LIT User Experience department this summer I helped to ingest multiple pieces of web content into the University’s institutional repository, Deep Blue. Some of this content was at the cutting edge at its time of creation while other content was not meeting the needs of our core users and was only serving a specialized subset.

User Experience Reports

I began with some of the User Experience Department's own content. This series of User Experience Reports, created by the no-longer-active Usability Working Group, reflect a large body of usability research and studies conducted by our staff. The audience for this content is staff from other libraries across the country interested in what we have done. This audience, while important, is not the primary audience we are attempting to serve as a library.

By moving this work to Deep Blue we have still made it available for other librarians or researchers to access. Now, users won't have to stumble over these reports when searching for "get this," "ask a librarian," or other keywords that are associated with the subject of these studies.

Online Exhibits

I also worked on archiving six Special Collections online exhibits that were created before the adoption of Omeka as the library's online exhibit content management system. Instead, these exhibits were created using static HTML. Although they had once been on the forefront of online exhibits, as technology and user needs changed, these exhibits remained the same and reflected the time in which they were made. Their look and feel, the method used to create them, and the content they contain are still relevant to a specialized audience making it important for us to preserve these works for future study. Deep Blue offers a great location to give users continued access to these exhibits.

Technically, archiving the exhibits was much more difficult than archiving the reports. To maintain the look and feel of the exhibits, I reorganized the HTML and image files into a single directory. By doing this, exhibits when downloaded from Deep Blue can be navigated in a browser the same way they were navagable on the Library website. Essentially we removed the files from the Library server and rehosted them on the Deep Blue server but the exhibit itself looks the same. This required basic editing in the HTML to reflect a simplified directory structure allowing us to avoid broken links.

In addition, I worked with Special Collections staff to formulate a metadata plan to consistently describe the exhibits in Deep Blue and make them findable. We decided which fields were best to use as well as the appropriate subject keywords to group the exhibits together and provide for better browsing. By creating this plan, we prepared ourselves to retire other exhibits as needed down the road.

As time passes and the needs of library patrons change the library needs to be ready to change as well. “Deaccessioning,” in this case archiving certain content, helps keep our website on the cutting edge and able to serve our patrons to the best of our ability.