Your Library on the Web

The proposed new standards for Texas public library accreditation require a public library to have a website. The details of the requirement might change before the changes are finalized, but so far there are no specific requirements concerning what information must be on the website. Discussion during the March 20 webinar indicated that a minimal web presence, such as a page on a city or county’s website, would be adequate. 
 
In the absence of other guidance, I’d like to offer my opinion as to what information any public library, no matter how small, should publish on the Web.  Just be aware that when you publish something on a website you are also making a commitment to keep the information current, so posting information that changes often will increase the effort necessary to keep the site updated. 
 
At a minimum, the following information should be available on the web:
– The library’s physical address, with a link to a map
–  Hours of operation and holiday closings.  (If hours change during the summer, include that information.)
– Contact information.  At least a phone number, an email address, and the name of the head librarian
– A link to the online catalog
 
If your web presence is more than a bare minimum, use it to answer the questions that might be asked by a newcomer to the community, so that they’ll know what your library offers and whether they’re eligible to use it.  This is the same information that you might put in a brochure promoting your library. Here are some ideas:
 – Post policies regarding who is eligible for a library card and how to get one, including rules related to children and non-residents. 
– Post lending policies — including maximum number of items, loan periods and overdue fees — for books, audio, video, and anything else that circulates.  If there are collections that don’t circulate, list them. If there are special restrictions for children or non-residents, list them. 
– Post any policies as to whether children need parental permission before using particular library resources.
– Promote the library’s public Internet computers and the policies regarding their use.  Also mention what software is available, whether printing is available, and whether USB drives or other portable data storage devices can be used for personal files. 
– Promote things other than books that the library has — like DVDs or magazines — and special collections such as local history or genealogy, and the relevant policies for using them.
– Promote your library’s online resources, especially if they’re available over the Web from outside the library building.  This might include online databases or ebook services.  
– Promote any other services your library offers, such as wi-fi Internet access, meeting rooms, study rooms, copier, fax, and so forth.
 
Use your library website to promote other community resources by posting links or contact information for
– city, county, state and federal government offices and elected officials
– local chamber of commerce
– local community service organizations, charities, and social services
– other nearby libraries
 
As your website grows you will add other things, such as 
– other written policies
– how to make donations
– book clubs, story times, and other events (only if you can keep the information up to date)
 
Look at the websites of other public libraries for ideas.  
 
If you work in a Texas public library without a website, or if you are required to go through an external I.T. department to update your information on the web,  contact TSLAC about creating a website using Plinkit.  It won’t cost the library anything and the most of the site setup will be done for you. Customizing the library’s information and keeping the site current is only about as difficult as using Microsoft Word, and TSLAC will provide your staff with the necessary training and support. 
Judy
About

Judy is a technology consultant for public libraries. She blogs at ElephantInTheLibrary.com.

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