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Libraries & Educational Technologies Redesigns Website
by Jennifer Keach


The JMU Libraries & Educational Technologies website starts the new academic year with a brand new look.  We had many reasons for the change.  We’ve added a host of new services and resources since 1997, the time of the last major redesign, as well as plenty of new library staff contributors.  Technologies, too, have changed, allowing us to add new features by updating the underlying structure.  The old site had become unmanageable in size with almost 4,000 content files on the server  The biggest motivator for the change, though, was working with students who couldn’t find what they needed on the old site.  We knew we could provide a better tool for our users.

Carrier Library Web PageThe redesign affects almost all parts of the Libraries & Educational Technologies website.  What were once disparate sites for Carrier, CISAT Library, Media Resources, the Music Library and Special Collections are now united in one look and organization. With the redesign, you will find all our news, services, research tools and help in central spots. You won’t need to know, for instance, that Media Resources is the department that checks out wireless laptops or that CISAT Library is the location that provides delivery across campus. Go to our new Services area, and you’ll find information about both of these services and more.


The most obvious change to the site is the look and feel. Craig Baugher, Graphic Designer in the Center for Instructional Technology, and Paul Wampler, Libraries’ Web Manager, collaborated on the design.  The logo you see in the upper left corner, along with the header and color scheme, was designed for Libraries & Educational Technologies by Baugher.  Wampler applied that new look to every page on the site and did innumerable other changes, large and small, to get the new site together.


Another significant change to the site’s main page is the new Research area.  A variation of the area is included on each branch front page, tailored to the needs of each audience.  If you know what you are seeking, the Look It Up at JMU Libraries at the top of this section is a great place to start.  On most of the pages, you can do quick keyword searches here in JMU Library Catalog (for books, videos, music and more), Periodical Locator (for journal, magazines and newspapers), or Research Databases (for specific databases), and Site Search (for all other content on the site).  Major research tools and collections are also listed in the Research area.  And if you don’t know which tool to use, explore the Research by Type and Research by Subject options, where you’ll find more guidance and advice for getting started on your research. 


Some not-so-obvious changes lurk beneath the surface.  Among the more exciting technological changes is the creation of database-driven news, features, and frequently asked questions.  Library staff members maintain all three of these new areas in one central spot with a program written by Bill Hartman, Library Systems Developer, in ASP.NET with a SQL Server database.  The ease with which the library staff can now publish these items will allow us to provide more dynamic content to our users. Learn more about this addition and the other technological innovations behind-the-scenes of our new site.


The mission statement of JMU Libraries & Educational Technologies starts with the goal of “connecting people and ideas.”  By learning from our users, the new website design attempts to meet the needs of our primary users even better than the old design.  Creating personas, studying website statistics and reference questions, and learning more about our users in general—these are just some of the ways the redesign team kept focused on the users indirectly.  Through the work of Jody Fagan, Digital Services Librarian, the team also learned about our users directly.  She organized usability testing, where note takers watched volunteer users interact with the site-in-progress.  From that testing we were able to learn some of the things that worked, and some of the things that didn’t.  Learn more about the usability testing and other user-centered design processes that went into this redesign.


The new website is a work in progress.  The Web Projects Team will continue to fine tune and add new features to help our users connect with ideas.  In the near future, look for improvements to the Research Databases area of the site, implementation of MultiSearches, where users can search across more than one of our Research Databases at a time, RSS feeds for delivering news to you, and a faculty resource center for learning more about information literacy, copyright, and library services just for faculty.  The Web Projects Team welcomes your comments on the current redesign and future plans.  To do so, please do send an e-mail to Jennifer Keach at keachja@jmu.edu.


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