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Public libraries, e-Books and UX design

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Have you ever tried to download an e-book from your public library website? What was your experience? Did you find what you were looking for easily and could download it efficiently ? Or did you struggle to decipher file formats and instructions?

This post will focus on how libraries can provide simple and efficient access to e-books on their website, given the multitude of formats, platforms and e-readers available. It will look at the design, content, formats and platforms offered on public library websites, and the aspects of these sites that lead to a positive or negative user experience. It will then look at user experience design as a possible tool for libraries and librarians to assist creating website that are easy to use for patrons.

While this post will obviously be aimed at librarians, I hope it will also help IT staff tasked with designing or maintaining a public library website, as well as other information professionals, such as teacher librarians who might be struggling with e-resource access. Hopefully, it will also help e-book readers to understand how libraries structure their e-lending websites and the reasons behind some of the seemingly arbitrary rules and methods of delivery.

There is no getting around the enormity of this issue! There are a multitude of factors which influence how public libraries design and run their websites and how e-books are lent to library patrons. User experience design is also a broad set of principles and practices and applies to both websites and manufactured products. To help simplify these issues (and to stop you nodding off!), I have created a series of videos to outline the issues and their possible solutions. I have also restricted my discussions to borrowing fiction e-books, rather than access to electronic databases and journals.

Chapter 1: E-books and public libraries

Chapter one will look at how an Australian library is offering e-books through its website.

You will also get to meet Bob.

Picture of an old man with an e-reader

This is Bob



 Chapter 2: User experience design

What user experience design? This video will outline the basics of user experience design. As the video will mention, it is a very broad topic. if you would like to do some further reading, I have listed some resources at the end of this post.


Chapter 3: Public libraries and e-Books: how does UX design fit in?

The second chapter looked the basics of user experience design and how it focuses on the emotions the user experiences when they are interacting with a product, and how designers might approach a project with this in mind. This chapter will consider how these elements may be incorporated into a library website to help patrons access e-books in a simple and efficient way.

So there you have it! I warned you it is a broad and complicated issues, and not something that can be solved easily or quickly.

If you didn’t have the fortitude to sit through my fifteen minutes of video, here are some takeaway points;

  • Delivering e- books to patrons is complicated and often dictated by the e-book vendor or publisher, who may apply restrictions on the books available and how they are accessed.
  • UX design is about the emotional interaction a user has with a product, not aesthetic design or functionality.
  • Consultation with the user is critical at all stages of the design process
  • Libraries and librarians may not have control over how their websites are designed and managed, therefore making it difficult to design to their users needs.
  • A UX designed library website might be flexible, small, not for librarians and be able to communicate efficiently in a limited time frame.

If you would like to read more about Digital Rights Management, you can read about it here. The  IFLA E-lending Background Paper gives a good overview of the current e-lending landscape and how it affects libraries.

These are the books and articles mentioned in the videos. Unfortunately some of them maybe behind a paywall, but your local library or university library may be able to provide access for you.

Chapter 1

No shelf required : e-books in libraries.  Edited by Sue Polanka. Sue also has a blog that is worth reading.

E-books as a collection and a service: Developing a public library instruction program to support eBook use. By Brendan O’Connell and Dana Haven

Library e-books: Some can’t find them, others find them and don’t know what they are. By James A. Buczynski

The e-book revolution : a primer for librarians on the front lines. By Kate Sheehan.

I found this book extremely helpful, easy to read and current (published 2013).  Highly recommended  if you are thinking about implementing e-books in your library, or studying.

chapter 2

What Is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools And Resources. By Jacob Gube. This is a great article. Smashing magazine has a multitude of amazing articles and books on a variety of UX topics.

The elements of user experience : user-centered design for the Web . By Jesse James Garrett.

A project guide to UX design : for user experience designers in the field or in the making. By Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler

Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences. By Allen Jesmond and James Chudley

User Experience (UX) Design for Libraries. By Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches

Chapter 3

Some of the resources in chapter 3 are the same as those used in chapter 2, so I haven’t listed them here- you can find them in the chapter 2 list.

Lessons from Steve Jobs: a digital framework for tapping into patrons’ emotions. By Helene Blowers

UX Gardens. By Robert Fox.

Public libraries and E-books: after a tumultuous honeymoon, seeking a stable marriage. By Devin Crawley

Reference BackTalk: Testing, Testing: Virtual Reference UX. By Stephen Francoeur







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