Rewriting pages – Monterey Public Library

The first page I’m going to rewrite is a blog post by the Monterey Public Library about a new library in San Diego.  I’ll admit that I’m not wild about this post for a couple reasons: one, what does it have to do with Monterey, aside from being a library?  Two, I think the picture could be a lot better.  I looked at that picture and immediately thought, well, I want to see the whole library, not just the front entrance.  But this assignment is about written content, not images, so that’s all I’m going to say there.

I’m going to rewrite the content so the same thing is said in an easier to read format.  The following is my rewrite:

The weekend before last, I made a visit to San Diego, and including on my itinerary a visit to the spectacular new Central Library.  It’s been years since I visited San Diego, and I didn’t really have a great impression of the place when I was last there, some 40 years ago.

However, the whole city seems to have had a major overhaul. It is, in a word, beautiful.  One of the most impressive stops on my whirlwind tour was the new Central Library  – an edifice that has almost become mythic in the library world, because it has been 30 years in the making.  It is stunning.  It is enormous.

It should be the envy of every public library that is trying to cope with

  • the changing roles of libraries
  • the increased demands for new technologies
  • room to accommodate a growing range of library activities.

See what San Diego has to say about its amazing new library.  Or just Google San Diego Central Library and poke around their official web site.

I changed very little of the actual text of what this librarian said.  I only changed the actual text of three sentences, including the link.  The rest of the changes involved breaking up the text into smaller, and thus inherently more manageable chunks of text.  I reworded the first sentence in the second paragraph since I broke it off into a new paragraph and it’s awkward to start a paragraph with but in my opinion.

Ultimately, I made several changes here: breaking the text into smaller chunks for better readability, rewording a few sentences, and rewording the link.  I feel that rewording the link is an absolutely key change as the previous link was totally dependent on what was said previously to be understandable.  The new sentence that I put there in its place is better for two reasons: better SEO, if libraries are interested in how search engines pay attention to this link; and probably more importantly, better scanability.  With the original sentence, “Read more and be astonished”, if you ignored the whole text and went straight to that link, you’d be wondering what exactly you should be astonished about.  This sentence, on the other hand, stands well completely on it’s own, you could get rid of the rest of the article and that sentence would still make sense.  Maybe not as much sense, but it is not a dependent sentence like the one in the original link.

The second page I will be rewriting is the Internet Policy page.  The following is my rewrite:

Internet Policy

Complete Internet Access and Use policy
Explanation of the rules for kids

In order to use Monterey Public Library’s Internet service, you must follow the rules established by the Library Board of Trustees. If you do not follow these rules, you will not be permitted to use the Internet and you may be required to leave the Library.

Does the library monitor or censor content?

Monterey Public Library does not monitor, control, sponsor or endorse the material you find on the Internet. The Library does not edit or restrict Internet information. Only you and your family have the right and responsibility to define what material or information is consistent with your personal and family beliefs.

If you are a child’s parent or guardian, only you have the right and responsibility to restrict that child’s use of Library resources, including the Internet. You are encouraged to supervise and to participate actively in your children’s Internet use.

Will the library train me in using the internet?

Library staff will help you use the Internet and locate the information you need. Because of other customer service responsibilities, staff members cannot provide Internet training, or help you set up, configure, or troubleshoot your wireless hardware or software.

What level of privacy will I have accessing the internet at library computers?

The Library cannot guarantee your privacy when using the Internet. Respect the privacy of other Internet users, and do not attempt to show displayed material to passersby. Library staff must take appropriate actions to resolve problems which arise during use of the Library’s Internet service and to enforce Library policies and rules.  To this end, Library staff members may need to observe Internet use, question Internet users, and restrict conduct by Internet users which violates this policy.

Is the library’s wireless internet secure?

The wireless network is not encrypted. Other wireless users may intercept any information you send or receive using the wireless network, and web-based security controls may not be sufficient protection. Therefore, the Library recommends that you do not enter credit card numbers, passwords, or other personally identifiable information.

Other wireless users may also be able to view or change files on your computer. The Library recommends that you install and use anti-virus software, firewall software, and current security patches or upgrades on your computer.

Are there any guarantees on the quality of the internet access from the library?

The Library makes no representation or guarantee that any part of the Internet service, including the wireless service, will be uninterrupted, error-free, virus-free, timely, or secure, nor that any Internet content is accurate, reliable or safe in any manner for download or any other purpose.

You use the Library’s Internet service, wireless network, and electronic information resources entirely at your own risk. Monterey Public Library and the City of Monterey shall not be liable for any damage that may occur to any computer, peripheral equipment, or storage media, loss of data, loss of confidential information, unauthorized access to or alteration of data transmissions, and/or any other direct, indirect, special, incidental, consequential or exemplary damages resulting from or arising out of use of the Library’s Internet service, wireless network, and/or electronic information resources, or inability to use these services, or any other matter relating to these services.

What use is the library’s internet setup for?

The Library’s Internet workstations are primarily for research, educational and informational use. Time limits are in place to ensure that all customers have the opportunity to use the Internet. Specific ports and protocols such as FTP, file share, and insecure e-mail protocols (SMTP, POP, IMAP) may be disabled on the wireless network in order to limit bandwidth and prevent abuse.

What is the library’s legal policy on internet use?

You agree to indemnify and hold Monterey Public Library and the City of Monterey harmless for any claim or demand, that may be made by any third party due to or arising out of your conduct in connection with any use of the Library’s Internet service, wireless network, and electronic information resources, your provision of content, your violation of this Policy, or any other violation of rights of another person or party.

Any use of the Internet which violates Federal, California, or local laws is prohibited on both Library and customer computers. Examples of illegal activities include but are not limited to fraud–which includes disguising or falsifying sources of electronic mail and other electronic communications with the intent of misleading, defrauding or harassing others–displaying or distributing child pornography or other obscene materials, libeling and slandering other persons, and sending “spam” e-mail including identical or nearly identical messages sent to a large number of recipients who have not granted deliberate and explicit permission for the message(s) to be sent.

You must follow Library rules while using the Internet (ask to see Policy No. 515, Disruptive Behavior in the Library). You must be quiet, courteous toward others and respectful of Library equipment.

You may not modify Library or other customers’ hardware or software, change configurations, attempt to access non-public files or accounts, or attempt to intercept, monitor, disrupt, or impede other users’ wireless communications. You may not use personal software, download software, or bookmark sites on Library workstations. Use the Suggestion Box if you wish to suggest sites for the Library’s Web pages.

You may not violate software license agreements or infringe on copyrighted material. United States Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) prohibits the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted materials, except as permitted by the principle of “fair use.” You may not copy or distribute many electronic materials without the permission of the copyright holder. You are responsible for any consequences of copyright infringement.

The City of Monterey and the Monterey Public Library are committed to providing an environment free from sexual harassment. Please help by refraining from the display of material which may be interpreted as part of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Do not attempt to show displayed material to passersby.

I actually thought the content here was fine.  The paragraphs were a reasonable length and the topic is potentially useful.  The part that I didn’t like about this page is that it’s a really long block of text.  This isn’t conducive to scanning or skimming, which is how most people read the internet.  In order to fix this, I created several headings for different paragraphs in this document.  This simple change enables skimming / scanning in this document.  If I were to make this change on the web page, I’d turn each of the titles into relative links so that it’d be easy to hop from one part of the page to the next, but for the purposes of the assignment, I figured bold would be sufficient.

Now for the third page, I’m going to do something a little different.  I am picking on the Monterey Public Library with this blog post, but I should say that I really like their website for the most part.  It took me a while to find three pages to critique.  What I’m going to do differently for this third page is address only one part of the page instead of the entire page.  It’s a large part, however, so it should be sufficient.  For the third part, I will be rewriting the Policies and Procedures part of the Meeting Rooms page at the Monterey Library.

Below is my rewrite:

Policies and Procedures

The Monterey Public Library’s meeting rooms may be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis for meetings of community groups and events of an informational, educational or cultural nature sponsored by non-profit organizations.

Who can use the meeting rooms?

Organizations, meetings, and programs must be non-commercial in nature. The Library requires proof of an organization’s non-profit status. Documents such as articles of incorporation, bylaws, or 501(c)(3) verification must accompany the application form.

What is the fee for using the meeting rooms?

If the individual who takes responsibility for the room has a valid Monterey Public Library card, there is no charge. If the meeting room is reserved by someone who does not have a card, fees are $10 per hour for the Community Room (up to $50/day) and $5 per hour for the Solarium Conference Room (up to $25/day).

All meetings and events must be open to the public. With prior approval of the Library Director, your organization may charge a nominal fee to recover the costs of meeting room rental, refreshments, and supplies.

How can we market our events in the library’s meeting rooms?

Any publicity for meetings and events should clearly state your organization’s sponsorship, provide a name and phone number for contacting your organization, and include the following sentence: This program is not sponsored or endorsed by Monterey Public Library or the City of Monterey.

Who is responsible for the safety of the meeting rooms?

Organizations using the meeting rooms are responsible for enforcing fire safety occupancy limits.

At the close of your meeting you must leave the room, including the furniture arrangement, as you found it, and return the Meeting Room Closing form to the Library Help Desk.

How far in advance can we reserve library meeting rooms?

Recurring reservations will be accepted through the current calendar year subject to availability. The Library will begin accepting reservations for the upcoming year in the fall. Organizations are permitted to book each room for two dates in each month at this time.  If an organization wishes to book additional dates, it may request additional dates up to 30 days prior to the additional date desired.  Applications must be resubmitted yearly.

Read the complete Library Board of Trustees Policy 105: Use of Library Meeting Rooms.

This rewrite is very similar to the rewrite I did earlier on the Internet Policy page.  I didn’t change the content at all, just the formatting.  In essence, I updated it to improve scanability.

Finally, on to examples of well written pages.  I am doing an internship at the Naval Postgraduate School and I was going to post an example for the first part of the assignment here, but found good news: I couldn’t find pages that needed their content rewritten.  So I decided to save it for the good example section.

NPS homepage

This is a screenshot of the NPS library home page, without scrolling down at all.  I really like this for several reasons.  Here’s why:

  • Excellent scanability: the bullets, tabs, and quick links sections make it really easy to jump from one section to another and find what you’re looking for without actually curling up with a book and reading it.
  • Instant awareness: within five seconds or so, I can scan this entire page and tell what it’s useful for: finding books and ebooks, etc.
  • The limitations jump out as well: it’s obvious that you can’t find articles in the main search box from the text above it.

That’s great.  There are, however, as always, a few things that could be improved.  They are mostly backend things:

  • As a patron, I’d love an option to search articles straight from that search box without having to go into the articles & databases page.  NPS subscribes to a fair amount of databases, however, so the likely solution here if it implements a change like this would be to only search common databases like ProQuest.
  • It doesn’t search NPS’s institutional archive, Calhoun.  Why not?  What’s the logic for having this separated out instead of being integrated into the regular search?

I’m absolutely positive that there are discovery engines that will let libraries do this searching for books and articles all within one box, I attended a presentation about them at the Internet Librarian conference last year.  So that comment isn’t pointing out something that isn’t feasible, just something that NPS hasn’t made a priority of, in my opinion.  Personally, I think this particular library’s job is to make its resources as easy to use as possible so that the graduate students attending NPS can focus on writing their theses and not as much on the research process.  Of course they will still have questions, but wouldn’t it be nice if they could search five databases from that box in addition to the library holdings?  Or better yet, all the databases the library subscribes to?

Having said all this, I’m critiquing functionality here, not content, but it’s well within the realm of changes the library could make to enhance the library’s usability to graduate students.

Here’s my second example, also on the NPS library site:

Calhoun homepage

This is the Calhoun home page.  I have very little to critique about this homepage: it’s clean, easily scannable, and explains why NPS students and faculty should contribute to it.

My only critique is this: the description only talks to one potential audience of this page: internal NPS faculty / students.  What about the rest of the world?  Why should I, as some other person who doesn’t work there, want to read it?  This wouldn’t be hard to fix, just add a paragraph or to answering this question: “What can I find in Calhoun?”


Usability testing from week three

I followed a shortened version of the test script for my usability tests, where I tested the Monterey Public Library.  It is attached to this post right here  test-script

The only difference is that I didn’t really ask people their internet habits or what websites they frequent because all the people I did this test with are people I know fairly well.  Two of them are on the computer / internet 5+ hours a day, most days.  The third is my dad, who is actually not a big computer user, and fairly computer illiterate so I figured asking him would be a good contrast.  His favorite website is Google News.  He’s on the computer no more than an hour a day, probably less than that.

Here’s the actual usability questions that I asked people:
1) You are planning a vacation to Switzerland and want to discover the sights while you are there. You have decided that you want a book that will explain what is available while you are there. Please explain what you would do to find books that would help with this task.

2) You have a book that is coming close to being due and you would like to renew it. Please explain what you would do to renew this book.

3) When outside the library, you are wanting to ask someone who works at the library a question. Please explain what you would use on the website to ask this question.

The first person who I asked is a friend of mine who is a grad student in a PhD program for Teaching in a Spanish and Portuguese Graduate School.  The second person was my dad, as I mentioned earlier.  The final person I asked is a friend who is the leader of the local writing group that I joined a while ago.

My observations?  The interesting thing I observed is that my friend who is the PhD student came up with pretty much the precise answers I was looking for, although she did access them in precisely the same route I used personally.

For the first question, my dad found a LibGuide on travel bags that I didn’t even know was on the library’s website.  He then pointed to a book from an external link rather than finding a book from the library catalog as I had intended the test to be.  Another tester, the writing group leader friend, refused to look for a book on Switzerland altogether and said she prefers looking in internet forums and other websites for traveling resources, thinking that books go out of date too quickly.

Everyone found the renew link one way or another without any trouble.

My writing group leader friend posted a different link than the other two people for my third and final question on asking someone at the library a question.  It is, however, a valid link to answer this question, as it is a staff directory with phone numbers.  I don’t see the reference desk phone number on this list, but there are multiple librarians on the list, so it would work, but would perhaps not be a straightforward as calling the reference desk directly.

Observing this usability test itself was very revealing to me.  The fact that one of my testers basically said she wouldn’t look for a book and said here’s what she’d do instead surprised me, but her approach is definitely a valid alternative approach for finding travel resources.

Analysis of the Monterey Public Library Website

This is the review of the Monterey Public Library’s website, local to where I live, and the library I use most frequently as a patron.  I think it is a decent website, but it does have some issues.  There was only one time fairly recently when I thought about their usability, and it was a decidedly negative experience for me.

The reason for this negative experience?  They recently added a carousel of rotating images and the image size was decidedly too large of the images in this carousel.  The first time I loaded the site with these new items in it, it took between 30 seconds to 1 minute to load.  That is way too long for a website’s loading time.  To put things in perspective, my internet connection speed is 25 Megabits.  I can only imagine how slow it would have been for someone with slow internet to load the site with this new carousel.  I just downloaded two of the images in the carousel and they were both around 200KB.  There are four images total in the carousel.  This means that the carousel alone is about 1 MB in file size, not counting everything else on the page.  I used to do web design professionally, and I heard that a general rule of thumb is that it’s a good idea to have page size not more than 50 KB if possible.  This site’s home page is more than 20 times that size, for a carousel that adds no functionality to the site.  They are pretty images, but to me, the long initial load time subtracts more from the site experience than seeing the pretty images adds to it.

This is a screenshot of the Monterey Public Library’s home page:
MPL Homepage

It has the bright red box that Professor Schmidt is not wild about.  I personally don’t mind this template that libraries seem to have to announce news.  It’s usually announcing things like closures during times that the library isn’t normally closed for holidays, or, in this case a longer close than normal for July 4th because the library is migrating its ILS over to Koha.

The library is following several standards that Krug mentions in his discussion of templates.  The four that I see right away are these: the clickable logo in the top left corner, the menu bar along the top of the website, what Krug calls the “utilities”, or the My Account / Catalog buttons.  There are also two other buttons there: a site map and a search button.  Personally, I think these are way too subtle, especially the search.  I’ve been using this site for years now and I only just now noticed that was a search button now that I started analyzing it more closely.

There is a more obvious search section below the carousel of images and big red box, but it’s barely even visible without scrolling, so again, I feel that this is too subtle.  I think the text of this functionality is okay, but I just think it’s in the wrong place.  I’d get rid of the carousel and move the search functionality up to the top where it is if I were to redesign this homepage.

I don’t know if I’m a typical user of this website or not, but I only use a tiny fraction of the links on the site.  There is a big menu bar and a bunch of events listed on the home page.  But pretty much the only thing I click on when I go to the Monterey Public Library’s website is either Catalog (to search for books) or Checkout -> Login to my account (to renew books).

As far as the useful to “junk” links ratio, it’s not great, unfortunately.  Steve Krug talked about the home page being prime real estate, thus why everyone wants all their information there.  The whole right side of the screen is called “In the Blogs” and most of the information on there isn’t the kind of thing I’d look for when I’m going to a library website.  One post is called “New Kid on the San Diego Skyline” and is talking about San Diego’s new Public Library.  I tend to think pictures from other cities would, in most cases, only be interesting to other librarians.  Unless, perhaps, they’re really spectacular, like I think the Seattle and Vancouver (British Columbia) libraries are.

On the positive side, all the information on the left side is about events, all of which looks like it’d be useful or interesting to someone, so that is all useful information.  One piece of information that I’ve also looked for on the library’s website, the hours, is also relatively easy to find, on the bottom center of the home page.  This is especially critical for the Monterey Public Library to be easy to find because they have three different hours schedules throughout the week, making it hard to remember all the various times they are open since it’s fairly varied.

All in all, there are positive and negative aspects to the Monterey Public Library website home page.  As far as the navigation goes, I think they do a pretty good job.  For me, they follow Krug’s Second law of usability well here, in that there’s no ambiguity in what links do.  And while there are large sections of the website that aren’t useful (to me), they are very clearly laid out in sections, so it is easy to just ignore the sections I’m not interested in personally.  The biggest weakness is the carousel that I mentioned originally: the images are just too big, while they look nice, and are professional quality, they add too much to the website loading time for me to truly consider them a useful feature of the site.