Hello from Wisconsin! We are delighted to contribute a week’s worth of postings from the Midwest! You’ll see that Wisconsin isn’t just about the cheese—our chapter boasts 120 members from diverse environments: corporate, law, academic, and other settings, many of us from unique national companies and associations. Our state’s two library schools have renewed focus on special librarianship and growing interest from our student members is evident. We are an active, enthusiastic chapter and happy to contribute our thoughts on future readiness! It’s great in the Dairy State!
by Megan Wiseman, Wisconsin Chapter, Legal Division
I remember Atari: Little square blob flies around the mostly blank screen while you and a friend wrestle with the joystick and its single red button to score points and win. Then came Mario (and a few more buttons)… Eventually, video games came with a mandatory start tutorial where you guided your character to jump and run around the screen to demonstrate you had sufficient skill to begin playing the game!
Remember when you could walk into a library and just use the card catalogue to find the stuff you needed? Simple, easy‐to‐grasp, low‐tech. And no, cataloguing did not spring fully formed from the ground; there was so so much work put into making that card catalogue system easy, usable, predictable, standardized… And finally we seem to have gotten through the dark ages of figuring out how to get our records web‐accessible in a way that makes sense to users. In many public libraries, records are now married to Amazon or LibraryThing records to better utilize the very familiar navigation that web‐saavy patrons intuitively understand.
Yes, one can also argue that a physical card catalogue requires training to use properly – how many kids these days would know how to use one? – and you’d be right. But it used to be the adage “teaching someone to fish and you’d feed him for a lifetime” held true. Nowadays, you can teach someone to fish but next week you’ll likely watch in frustration as they attempt to harpoon an angry bird with their fishing rod – the evolution is that fast and varied.
Example: This past month I ran two identical training sessions, one week apart, on the use of free online resources. My presentation had screen shots and hotlinks to the websites I was highlighting… During the second session, I was surprised to discover that one website’s entire layout had drastically changed, already outdating the information I’d passed along to the previous group! Also close to home: how many times have you run a training session on a digital resource and found that you need to explain how the print or save button will behave because it doesn’t behave as you would “normally” assume it would? (Yes, I’m talking to you, [Insert favorite subscription database with a wonky interface here]!)
Again, for the most part we’ve gotten through the messy period of databases finding themselves: the My Account button is now generally located in the accepted upper‐righthand location, etc etc… but there are still no standards. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve logged into a subscription resource only to spend more time trying to find the log out button than it took to locate, print, and deliver the article I sought. To their credit, many mainstream databases are currently ditching their old layouts (and even algorithms) to give people a Google‐y experience. Several major publishers that come to mind actually have touted in training sessions how “like Google” their simple layout is. (Though some have, sadly, buried Boolean searching in the process.) Overall, navigations are improving – partially as the web matures (long live the dynamic web!), partially as different tech for accessing the web matures (huzzah for smart phones!).
One saving grace, oddly enough, may be the mergers. I recently attended a LawLibConversation on legal publishing mergers, where the panel discussed positive and negative outcomes of such mergers. One major benefit discussed at the time: the navigation of these interfaces can sometimes drastically improve after a merger.
Cue my “Future Ready” bit. Librarians – be a part of this conversation. As platforms boil down to certain standard looks/feels/tastes, it would behoove us, as people who know information seeking behavior better than most, to try to engage in this process when possible. And if it’s not possible to get in that door, we should at the very least make sure we’re on top of the industry buzz. E.g. I’m keeping an excited eye on responsive web design *hint hint*.
Megan Wiseman is the Librarian for Weiss Berzowski Brady LLP in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is currently the Vice President for the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin and tweets @LibraryatLaw.