Connecticut’s Darien Library last week launched darienlibrary.tv, a new website designed to offer streamlined access to the library’s archive of library-created video content, including recorded author lectures, educational seminars, TechCast “how to” series on consumer technology, reader recommendation presentations, and more. Much of this content was already available online, but on a “hodgepodge” of sites, explained Assistant Director for Innovation and UX John Blyberg.
“We have been producing video content for quite some time,” Blyberg said, with some recordings predating Darien’s new building, which opened in 2009. “We hadn’t come up with a strategy that we were happy with. We had a lot of it on YouTube, some of it on Vimeo, some of it was just floating around on our internal file servers…. We needed a place to put all of this stuff.”
Darienlibrary.tv content is hosted on the library’s YouTube channel, with videos embedded in darienlibrary.tv’s clean, intuitive interface. The most recent video posted to the site occupies the majority of screen real estate on the site’s homepage. Navigation options are limited to a single drop down menu on the top left of the screen, allowing visitors to browse by series, and a search field in the top right corner, plus small type links to the main darienlibrary.org site in the bottom left corner, and to the site’s Creative Commons license in the bottom right. The site employs responsive web design techniques, enabling it to scale to any screen size, making it easy to navigate on tablets and smartphones, as well as desktops and laptops. Blyberg has posted the templates—built on the open source Jekyll site generator—and other files needed to produce the site on GitHub so they can be easily adapted by other libraries.
Specific darienlibrary.tv content is not yet discoverable on darienlibrary.org, although the library has been promoting the new site via social media, and has included a prominent “now open” graphic and link to the new site on its homepage.
Doing one thing well
When designing websites—particularly homepages—many libraries struggle to strike a balance between promoting digital resources, highlighting events and news, making it easy to search the library’s catalog or find branch information, and making it possible to navigate to other library resources from the homepage. Tradeoffs must be made and priorities set, or sites can become cluttered.
Blyberg said that darienlibrary.tv is part of a broader effort to enhance the online experience for Darien’s patrons, and that the stripped-down simplicity of the design was deliberate.
“This is the first step in that strategy, to create discrete experiences around the content that we are providing,” he said. “We thought about making a subsection of our website—darienlibrary.org/videos, or something like that. But when we thought about it, and started piecing together this digital strategy that we are starting to embark on, we thought ‘let’s think about this in terms of designing experiences around the content, rather than the other way around.’ When you go to darienlibrary.tv, it’s clearly just a video site. There’s nothing else there. We’re not trying to push in any other library initiatives or information. We’re just providing as-is.”
Site analytics played a major role in shaping the design of Darien’s new video site and its emerging digital strategy, Blyberg said.
“Over the past few years we have had, internally, one idea of what users wanted,” Blyberg said. “But then, when you actually look at the analytics and see what users are going to and what they are viewing, it can be a bit of a bruise to your ego. You’ve put all of this work into what you think people want, but they actually don’t want that.”
Using this analytics data, Darien is examining ways to simplify navigation and ease of use for popular content.
“We’re going to parse out all of the things that our users want from our online presence…and figure out how to streamline the experience of them getting to it,” Blyberg said. “That means pulling out a lot of information that we always thought was useful or value-added, and paring it down into silos where we can tailor make an experience around the content itself.”
Documenting the library
Concurrent with the rollout of darienlibrary.tv, the library debuted its new online web series The Library. Professionally filmed and edited by retired advertising executive Manny Perez, who has been working as a videographer for Darien for about a year, each episode of the ongoing series highlights a different behind-the-scenes aspect of the Darien Library, such as a short film following a book as it travels through an automated materials handling system, or an episode in which Darien’s Head of Readers’ Services Stephanie Anderson, Book Group Coordinator Marianne Paterniti, and Reader Advisor Patricia Sheary prepare for a readers advisory event.
So far, Perez, has selected the topics and subjects profiled in the series, exploring each subject as a documentary filmmaker.
“He doesn’t have a library background, he has an advertising background,” Blyberg said. “So when he comes into the library, he doesn’t see what we see as librarians. He looks at it as ‘how does this happen? How does a group of three or four librarians…create a successful program?’ We’ll brainstorm and look at the schedule…but ultimately it’s his curiosity that drives it.” The goal of the series, Blyberg said, is “to create pieces that both advocate for the library, and educate the public as to what actually goes on in a library…. It’s basically [Perez] delving into interesting parts of the library. One series may be him focusing on a particular program or event in detail, another may be exploring what a particular department does, and getting to know the people in those departments. The intent is, if you watch the series, you have a whole new appreciation for not only how Darien Library works, but how public libraries in the 21st century operate.”
While most libraries may not have the resources to fund a full- or part-time videographer, Blyberg noted that video editing software and 1080p digital recording equipment has become relatively inexpensive. The site itself is hosted on GitHub Pages, and the only additional capital expenditures on the project have been for lighting equipment requested by Perez.