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A Web site is an organized collection of web pages. Sites can be authored and maintained by an individual, organization, or community. The main or entrance page of a Web site is called its homepage. (See the Wikipedia link at the end of this article for a more detailed technical overview.)
Library Web Sites
Today one of the most important parts of a library is its Web site; as with many businesses, in this day and age, a library may receive and serve far more users via its homepage than its front door.
Common library Web site components include (see also Five Types of Content on a Library Website):
- General information about the library (branch hours, locations, address and phone number, staff directory, policies, etc.)
- Research tools for searching and retrieving information, including the library's online catalog, subscription databases, federated searching systems, OpenURL lookup tools, and access to the library's electronic books and electronic journals
- A remote authentication system for patrons using the above tools from an Internet connection outside of the library or organization
- Help pages, including information on the research process, publication types, specific subject guides, individual research tools, and information about library facilities (such as a "virtual tour") and services
- Virtual reference and other online service request forms
- A library blog or other RSS feeds (such as a listing of new books or a similar current awareness service)
- Customization of the Web site contents and interface (cf. myLibrary)
- A digital library, such as online exhibits of the library's archives or special collections
- Information on reader's advisory, other library programs, and general community resources
- bookreview 18(2)1.pdf Database driven library Website is a type worth mentioning.
- A library portal is another new innovation. Worth mentioning the point is portal is sometimes considered as more comprehensive than a gateway or directory of hyperlinks.
As a relatively new service (and publication format -- see the "Valuation" section below), library Web site management responsibilities are often tacked on to existing library staff job duties. Some libraries have a designated "Webmaster," a person with more-or-less complete technical control and/or editorial authority over the Web site. Many library sites may be managed through committees, have their content and design work outsourced, and, of course, be subject to site rules handed down from the library's parent organization.
Whatever the organizational structure behind it, any Web site should be built with the proper use of Web programming languages to create valid code; a consistent and accessible design and navigation elements; and be based on an assessment of user needs and expectations (usually accomplished through formal or informal end-user surveys, testing, and solicited feedback). However this is not always done. In April 2003, for example, the ALA launched a new Web site which broke most of these principles (e.g., long URLs, broken links and redirects, and a poor search interface).
Web4Lib is a popular discussion group for library Web site issues. Topics covered include coding, browsers, and legal and other issues. See also Usability in the Library.
Patron Web Access
Many libraries have public computers (or a Wireless network) available for accessing Web sites. Due to high demand or other issues and concerns, computers may be subject to time limits or filtering software.
Valuation or Evaluation
Hoax sites are often used to demonstrate potential problems with the accuracy of Web-based information. However, care should be taken to also emphasize the growing amount of scholarly research available online as well -- some available via library subscriptions, and others in open access publications and community-built repositories such as Wikis -- and also not to stereotype younger library users with statements such as, "kids will believe anything they read online."
Jim Kapoun has five criteria for Web evaluation, viz., Accuracy, Authority, Objectivity, Currency, and Coverage. Yahooligans Teachers' Guide has four, viz., Accessible, Accuracy, Appropriate, and Appealing. But, since these measures are evolving, one could as well suggest six criteria. These are: Authority, Accuracy, Approach, Age Online, Audience Level, and Accessibility. See details of the The Six A’s for Evaluating Web Content