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Belleville Public Library: Evaluation of a Small Public Library's Website

Belleville Public Library: Evaluation of a Small Public Library's Website

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Published by jacquelinekate
An evaluation of the library website http://bellevillepl.blogspot.com/. Written as an assignment for Web Systems & Design, a course at McGill's School of Information Studies.
An evaluation of the library website http://bellevillepl.blogspot.com/. Written as an assignment for Web Systems & Design, a course at McGill's School of Information Studies.

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Published by: jacquelinekate on Oct 01, 2009
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10/06/2009

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I. Introduction.
The Belleville Public Library in Belleville, Kansas, has made the choice,apparently not unusual among public libraries
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, to create their website with a free blogging resource – in this case, Blogger (http://www.blogger.com
 
)
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. Public libraries inthe United States and Canada are notoriously strapped for cash, and from this perspectivethe choice of a [x].blogspot.com web address makes perfect sense. Gordon and Stephensrecommend Blogger specifically as a simple, inexpensive way to make your librarywebsite “dynamic and relevant”. They note that “blogs offer a simple way to getinformation online without having to go through a system or municipal IT department, tolearn HTML, or to invest in Web design software.” (“Online Cool on a Budget,” 48.)When discussing the choice of a blogspot.com address, which may seem toogeneric to an experienced internet user, we might consider that Belleville is a common place name (there are ten Bellevilles in North America, according to a Wikipedia search):<www.bellevillelibrary.com> is taken by the public library in Belleville, Ontario;<www.bellevillepubliclibrary.org> by the library in Belleville, Illinois; and<www.bellepl.org> by the library in Belleville, New Jersey. As it turns out, however,<www.bellevillelibrary.org> redirects to the page under discussion, so it seems thatBelleville Public Library did choose Blogger for ease of setup.This paper will review the Belleville Public Library’s website,<bellevillepl.blogspot.com>, according to the Rettig/LaGuardia Review Canon as
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Searching < “public libraries” and “blogspot.com” > on Google retrieves a number of public library sites.
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This paper will occasionally make reference to things which are and are not possible when designing a blog through the Blogger service. Since the setup is difficult to site, if you wish to confirm thesestatements I recommend that you go to the site yourself and go through the setup process. This service isavailable to anyone with a Gmail account.
 
GLIS 634Jacqueline Barlow15 February 2008
 presented in Rettig and LaGuardia’s (1999) article, “Beyond ‘Beyond Cool’: ReviewingWeb Resources”. I will also introduce two further review criteria that were notmentioned by Rettig and LaGuardia. I will say at the outset that I will not be evaluatingthe website from two specific perspectives, both of which I have already touched upon:design limitations incurred by the online blogging software, and cost. Regarding theformer, as far as I can tell there are no real limitations incurred by Blogger in terms of design, since it allows its users to edit the HTML of their blogs (see “Can I edit theHTML of my blog’s layout?” in Blogger’s Help menu); and also, very restrictive blogging software does not somehow make a bad website better, though perhaps moreforgivable. The site will not be evaluated from a cost perspective first of all because I donot have access to Belleville Public Library’s financial information, secondly because awebsite that is badly-designed because of cost is still a bad website, and thirdly because awell-designed website is not necessarily costlier to produce than a badly-designed one.
II. Evaluation According to the Rettig/LaGuardia Review Canon
i.Parentage and ProvenanceThe masthead of the Belleville Public Library (BPL) website contains a small photograph of what one assumes is the library building, and the title “Belleville PublicLibrary: Global Reach… Local Touch.” (figure 1) While the photograph will serve asready identification to library patrons and others who are familiar with the building, thetitle has the obvious problem of not identifying which Belleville, of at least ten NorthAmerican Bellevilles, the library is located in. Further identification may have beendeemed unnecessary by library staff, who reasoned that the website was being created2
 
GLIS 634Jacqueline Barlow15 February 2008
simply as a resource for the library’s existing users. This is ironic in light of the “GlobalReach” the library claims in its masthead. It is also naïve – a non-user might beinterested in this website for any number of reasons: she could be researching Bellevilleas a future home, for example, or be interested in BPL’s resources for research purposes.This site therefore runs afoul of Rettig and LaGuardia’s edict that “every good Webresource should immediately identify itself in terms of where it comes from to establishits credibility and reliability.”The confusion is dispelled by scrolling down the page to the “Web Links” sectionin the left-hand menu, which has links to the Belleville, Kansas town website, a list of sites about Kansas, and the website for Republic County, Kansas. This is helpful, but isnot in fact conclusive. If the town were actually just over the border in neighbouring Nebraska, we wouldn’t know it from this information.To find the producers of the site, it is necessary to click the “Contact Us” link inthe left-hand menu. This gives the library’s physical address (providing confirmationthat the library is, in fact, in Kansas), the phone or fax number, the email address of thelibrary director, and another email address for genealogy or reference requests. The sitedoes, therefore, identify itself, but not immediately as the Review Canon requires.ii.AuthorityAs noted by Rettig and LaGuardia, “Given the ease with which people can publish on the Web, it is essential that the creator’s authority be substantiated.” This isespecially true on a blog site such as this one, since the publisher of a blog does not even3

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