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The Online Library Experience

April 3, 2023

I had the opportunity to attend the recent Connect & Communicate session (recording posted below on March 22) and the topic was quite timely. I’ll be honest – I went through the session with the belief that I certainly wasn’t “wrong about” my expectations of digital literacy among my students. I nodded in agreement during much of the webinar, particularly when Emily shared of witnessing students completing essays on their smartphones and, I too, have bitten my tongue watching computer users googling rather than typing a URL into the address bar. While I did garner useful new information, I still felt that I was already pretty aware of the “incorrect assumptions” shared during the session – we are very much on the same page, library friends!

But then, just a few days later, when providing database instruction for a class, I shared a Padlet that would facilitate discussion to allow me to gauge prior knowledge and provide direct links to some resources I planned to share. I used tinyurl to create a shortened web address and also provided the QR code for display if using a smartphone was preferred. As you may already imagine, I had several students struggle to access the Padlet. One student got lost within the actual tinyurl webpage. I admit – I am wrong!

Going forward, I plan to create a specific page for instruction directly on my library webpages. Most students don’t have difficulty navigating to this area on the website, especially after following an on-screen demonstration.

On a larger scale, I find myself with further concerns. Less than 4% of our total materials budget is allocated for physical books. The vast majority of our go-to course supporting resources are found online. While this makes sense to provide equitable access for the many students attending virtually and not on our physical campus, statistics suggest underutilization.  Access to the databases requires several steps. It’s far from straightforward and many reference assistance requests are only after a student has exhausted google and are already experiencing frustration.

One long-term project I have planned is to evaluate our existing databases. In addition to pricing and curriculum alignment, another focus is now on the overall accessibility and user experience. I’ll explore the mobile displays as I can’t assume users will even have access to a desktop or laptop. I’ll also be looking for best practices for entry points from library websites. Our main goal is to improve the student experience and, especially today, that means the online experience.

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