Where are you?

Look at your library’s home page.

Can you tell me within one minute what city and state (or province, or nation) your library is located in–without prior knowledge?

If you can’t, maybe you should consider revisions to your website.

Oh, and if you have a blog or many blogs: Do those blogs list your library’s address? Do they link directly to your home page (and vice-versa)?

There’s an interesting discussion on PUBLIB (where I usually work). Part of it has to do with exactly the first question: Figuring out where a library is…when all you have is the library’s name (and that name may not even be the name of the city or town). I’m sure some of you don’t read PUBLIB and work in public–or academic, or school–libraries.

I actually ran into this quite often when I was preparing Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples: Not only blogs with no links to the library’s website, but library home pages that didn’t tell me where the library actually was.

Sure, most of your web users probably visit the physical library first and get the website URL from the library card or bookmark or something. They know which Madison or Ontario or Orange County or Cambridge or … they’ve reached. (I’m not saying any of these multiply-occurring city and county names has a problem with their websites; these are just random examples.)

Maybe that’s why I didn’t make a big point of it when I was doing the book. I don’t mention the difficulties I had figuring out which library was which; I didn’t think it was relevant to the book. But the fact is that without Worldcat Registry, I might never have been certain where a library blog actually came from in one or two cases–and yes, I sent email to a Canadian province that should have gone to a U.S. state.

You’re proud of your website, right? If you aren’t, it probably needs work. And if you are, you should be proud to display it not only to those you’ve guided there, but also to others who’ve stumbled upon it indirectly. And you sure don’t want people thinking you’re that other [enter ambiguous name here–and if you think your city’s name isn’t ambiguous, you should check].

I live in Mountain View. There are at least a dozen Mountain Views in the U.S. and Canada–including, bizarrely, a “census designated place” called Mountain View in Contra Costa County, which is only a few dozen miles from here. I just checked MVPL’s website, which is now a page within the City of Mountain View’s website. A little ways down the left sidebar, I see this:

585 Franklin Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
Phone: 650-903-6337

OK. Street, city, state, zip code. Can you say the same for your library?

[Psst: Academic library websites could use proper addresses as well. Take a look at the disambiguation page for “St. Mary’s College” at Wikipedia, to name one possibly-extreme example.]

3 Responses to “Where are you?”

  1. Michelle says:

    Good point, although I and many others probably assume that the vast majority of visitors to our website are locals anyway. That doesn’t mean though, that I am not going to go to our website and fix that problem asap, lol.

  2. You raise an interesting point, unless you are an “anonymous blogger” (see http://talkingbookslibrarian.blogspot.com) or blog about more general library topics, where it doesn’t matter where the local library is. But of course if the whole point of your blog is to promote your local library, then most certainly the location should be prominent!

  3. walt says:

    The project was specifically library blogs, official parts of library websites. In general, I see no reason why libloggers–people who blog in library-related areas–should be expected to provide a geographical location unless it’s relevant to their topic.