OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey’s idea of libraries “getting with the flow” (from 2005) is something that has resonated well beyond the library world.
The importance of flow underlines recurrent themes:
– the library needs to be in the user environment and not expect the user to find their way to the library environment
– integration of library resources should not be seen as an end in itself but as a means to better integration with the user environment, with workflow.
Increasingly, the user environment will be organized around various workflows. In fact, in a growing number of cases, a workflow application may be the consumer of library services.
For libraries, as evidenced also in the discussions by Holly Witchey at Musematic who has been covering the Webwise IMLS conference with regular session reports, and Guenter Waibel from RLG’s follow-up commentary, libraries are at a far more pointy end of changes in customer/user behaviour than most museums. Waibel raises the very hefty 290 page OCLC report titled Perceptions in which the survey suggests 84% of general users begin an information search with a search engine, and only 1% with a library website (PDF page 35/1-17). If conducted again now I would expect Wikipedia to rate highly.
Libraries are seen as more trustworthy/credible and as providing more accurate information than search engines. Search engines are seen as more reliable, cost-effective, easy to use, convenient and fast. (PDF page 70/2-18)
Where are museums in this? Is your content in the “flow”? Do users need to come to your site to your onsite search to be able to find it? If so, they are probably going to look elsewhere first, if they haven’t already.
Over at the University of Minnesota they have just held the CLC Library Conference titled “Getting In The Flow” with Dempsey as one of the speakers. There are some great summaries of the presentations including slides over in their conference blog.
Other than Dempsey one of their speakers was Peter Morville who some readers may remember from his first O’Reilly book Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, or the less technically oriented
Ambient Findability (which has been doing the rounds of the office for the past 9 months).
Morville’s presentation slides are an excellent introduction to his work and given their tweaking for the library/information-seeking context are very useful for those in museums too. Ellysa Cahoy has some notes taken during the presentation at the CLC blog as well for the slides that aren’t immediately self-explanatory.