Why Libraries Still Exist

Over the weekend, I was on my phone, and in my news feed an article popped up because it was about libraries. It was this Forbes piece (links to the article through the WayBack Machine) by Panos Mourdoukoutas, who is a professor and chair of the Economics department at Long Island University, who also lectures at Columbia University occasionally (at least according to his bio on Forbes).

The piece is entitled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” After I started writing this post, the piece was pulled from Forbes, but these ideas still exist out there, so I’m going to continue with this post.

The article argued that “Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.”

Mourdoukoutas said that libraries aren’t free, because we pay taxes for them, and that their value as a place to host community events no longer exists. He believes Netflix and other streaming services have replaced the need for video rental services, like borrowing DVDs from the library. He also argued that Starbucks and other “third places” take over the role libraries have as a community space, where people can go online, meet up with friends, and enjoy a drink.

This isn’t everything he said, but I want to provide a counterpoint to a lot of what he wrote above, as many of these ideas have been floating around for a while.

Continue reading “Why Libraries Still Exist”

Visual of a springshare calendar on an academic library website with the no coffee Achromatopsia filter applied

Library Websites’ Hall of Shame: Color Blindness

This is a continuation of my Hall of Shame series, where I point out website “crimes” that many libraries are guilty of committing. If you missed my first post in this series, you can see it here: Hall of Shame series.

This time, I’m coming for those libraries (and other institutions) who don’t test their website to see if it works for people who are color blind.

Color blindness affects approximately 8% of all men, and 0.05% of women (National Eye Institute). This means out of the approximately 300 million people in the United States (doing the math myself) they may be as many as 12 million men and about 7.5 million women in the United States with some form of color blindness, which is a total around 19.5 million.

So, with all of these people who are color blind, what can we do to improve their experience on websites?

Continue reading “Library Websites’ Hall of Shame: Color Blindness”

What I’ve been working on: A new bpl.org

Homepage for the soon-to-be new bpl.orgSo today, I can finally show you what I’ve been working on at my new job, that I started a little less than six months ago.

The Boston Public Library unveiled today its new website, now available for public preview.

The website can be viewed here: https://bpl.bibliocms.com/, and we’re really excited about a few features:

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photo of a public library website within a city library's website

What Not to Do on Your Library Website, or the Library Websites’ Hall of Shame: Not Having Your Own Website

This is a continuation of my Hall of Shame series. One of the many things I work on as a librarian is websites, more specifically, the usability, accessibility, and navigation of a website. In this series I will show examples of website sins libraries commit, and explain why they’re not good ideas. In all of my examples, the names of the libraries, and any other identifying information, will be blacked out to protect those guilty of these sins.

Before I go into this month’s post, I want to say this disclaimer: The issues I’m pointing out are very relevant, and should be rectified if there is a chance to do so. I don’t claim to know the budgets of these libraries or the reasoning behind their decisions, so I can only go off what I see on their websites.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin. This post is about libraries that don’t have their own website. Their website is folded into the university or city’s own websites. Below, are three big reasons why that is problematic, with screenshots of library websites to back up the evidence.

Continue reading “What Not to Do on Your Library Website, or the Library Websites’ Hall of Shame: Not Having Your Own Website”