Blog» ALA Survey: Few librarians are truly happy with their websites

ALA Survey: Few librarians are truly happy with their websites

By Peter Keung  | September 20, 2019  |  User experience, Web solutions

Librarians who can easily manage the content and pages on their websites say they are happy with the overall usefulness of their sites. Unfortunately, most librarians report they have yet to adopt modern web publishing tools that help make these benefits a reality.

Those are two key takeaways from an informal survey Mugo Web conducted during our trip to the American Library Association conference this summer in Washington, D.C.

During the show, we had the chance to speak to hundreds of librarians, from across the globe, about their aspirations and concerns with the online experiences they create for patrons. Some librarians were from large cooperatives of dozens of independent libraries; others worked at institutional libraries (including the Library of Congress, as you’d expect in D.C.); and some represented small, single-branch rural systems.

One thing they all shared in common is a belief that their websites are critical tools for engaging patrons with special event programming and news about resources at their libraries. And while some librarians said they have recently invested in new, modern web publishing platforms, most told us, either in conversation or in our survey, that they still see a lot of room for improvement.

Easy content management makes for happier librarians

The first question we asked librarians at the ALA show is generally how satisfied they are with their current website. As you can see in Figure 1, only about a quarter of 72 survey respondents said they are happy. Most (to be specific, 62.5 percent) of them said their sites are just OK, and 14 percent said they are downright unhappy with their current online presence.

Figure 1

Most librarians are either unhappy with their current websites or find them to be “just OK”

Most librarians are either unhappy with their current websites or find them to be “just OK”

We wanted to look a little deeper at what made librarians who are happy with their websites, well, happy. As it turns out, being able to easily manage content on their sites seems to have a significant impact on their overall satisfaction.

Of the respondents who told us it’s very easy to manage content, only one said that they are unhappy with their site, and the percentage of those who said they are happy almost doubled. You can see these results in Figure 2. And the results were virtually identical for those librarians who said they can easily experiment with new pages and promotional elements in their sites’ layout.

Figure 2

Librarians who said it is very easy to manage content are much happier with their overall website experience

Librarians who said it is very easy to manage content are much happier with their overall website experience

We found the impact of being able to add promotional elements particularly interesting, since so many librarians told us that promoting events and news are critical to the success of their sites. As you can see in Figure 3, event promotion, news about library programming, and online event registration were listed as critical features by about 60 percent or higher of our survey respondents. That’s notably more than other features, including suggested reading lists.

Figure 3

Event promotion, registration, and library news were ranked as critical features by most respondents to our survey

Event promotion, registration, and library news were ranked as critical features by most respondents to our survey

Of course, flexible, easy content management is a key benefit of running your library’s website on an advanced CMS, such as eZ Platform. The solutions Mugo Web has built for library systems allow staff members to update content, add promotional elements to site pages, and even create entirely new landing pages, all with a few mouse clicks and drag-and-drop. And eZ’s detailed user permission system ensures that team members can update only areas of the site for which they are responsible.

We’ve also developed a sophisticated event registration and calendar system that patrons can use to reserve slots for one-time or recurring events, and even place their names on waiting lists for events that have booked up. This makes it easy and intuitive for patrons to get involved with your library’s programming. (You can see a complete list of the library-centric features we’ve developed here.)

Ease of managing content is just one key factor in making sure your website is supporting your library’s mission. And we talked to attendees at the ALA conference about many of these issues.

Accessibility and mobile-friendliness are key benefits of a modern site

Libraries are at the forefront on issues like accessibility for those with physical challenges, and that’s true of their websites, as well. Overall, about three-quarters of librarians told us their sites work well for users with disabilities, and 67 percent said their sites perform well on mobile devices. Not bad, but there’s still room for improvement.

We decided to compare these figures to the respondents’ ability to manage the content on their sites, and not surprisingly found a correlation. As you can see in Figure 4, more than 60 percent of respondents who told us they can’t easily update their site content also reported that their sites aren’t easy to use for patrons with disabilities. And more than half said their sites don’t perform well on mobile devices.

Figure 4

Accessibility and mobile usability decline greatly for sites that are difficult to manage

Accessibility and mobile usability decline greatly for sites that are difficult to manage

This is in stark contrast with respondents who told us that it is either very easy or at least manageable to update the content on their sites, as you can see in Figure 5. Roughly three-quarters of these users said their sites are accessible and mobile-friendly. 

Figure 5

Easily managed sites also tend to be accessible and mobile-friendly

Easily managed sites also tend to be accessible and mobile-friendly.

These numbers tell us that a lot of libraries are using outdated web publishing platforms that are not only difficult to operate, but also are behind the curve when it comes to important accessibility and usability issues. (For a detailed resource on website accessibility standards, be sure to download our comprehensive eBook.)

This is another compelling reason to update to an advanced CMS, such as eZ Platform.

Easy content management makes for happier patrons

Overall, few librarians at the ALA conference told us that they are truly happy with their websites. Many rated the performance of their sites as being “just OK” even when it comes to basic design and navigation functionality. In fact, only about 20 percent said that it’s very easy for patrons to find the resources they need, as you can see in Figure 6.

Figure 6

Most respondents rate the ease of navigation on their sites as being “just OK”

Most respondents rate the ease of navigation on their sites as being “just OK”

Because we’re big believers in workflows that empower each team at the library to update their own pages, we looked at how respondents who manage their own content rated other aspects of their sites. In all, these users are pretty happy:

  • Half of them said it is very easy to find resources, compared to about 20 percent of overall respondents.
  • All of them said their site is accessible to those with disabilities, and 83 percent said it performs well on mobile.

A modern library site that meets all your needs

Clearly, running your libraries website on a modern CMS like eZ Platform has a lot of advantages -- ease of management, better user experience, and more flexibility in promoting your library’s events programming. We’d love to learn more about your library’s goals for its site. Contact us today to discuss your project!


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