Faculty Members: We Need Your Help

The library’s Web Steering committee is looking for faculty members from all disciplines to help us improve our website. Over the next month or so we would ask you to come to the library, or we could come to your office, and have you perform a series of tasks via our website, so we can see how easy or difficult they are to perform. This is a test of the site’s ease-of-use, and in no way a test of your abilities! If you’ve always wished you could show us how you interact with our site, this is a great opportunity. We would need 20-30 minutes of your time, and we are offering a $20 gift card to your choice of the NU Bookstore (Barnes and Noble) or Starbucks as compensation. We appreciate those of you who have helped us with similar testing in the past! We are currently seeking new volunteers who have not done this before with the library. If the month of April is not a good time for you, we anticipate that there will be more opportunities for testing later in the year. Please contact Karen Merguerian at or x2747 if you are interested in participating in this project now or in the future. And please forward this appeal to others you think may want to help. Thank you so much for your consideration!

A Holiday Raffle for the Library Website

Test the library website for a chance to win! We are redesigning our website to make it as navigable and user-friendly as possible. In order to ensure this, we would like to hear from you. We are hosting an online survey and usability test of our current website, which should take about 10-15 minutes to complete. We invite you to tell all! There are no wrong answers and all responses are confidential. For your participation, you will be entered to win either our first prize of a $50 gift card to the NU Bookstore, or our second prize of a $15 gift card to iTunes. If you are interested in participating and entering the raffle, please take the survey and usability test before January 5th, 2011. Thanks for your participation!

Bill Gates as usability rabble-rouser

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog posted this email sent by Bill Gates to various Microsoft employees in which he details, with clear irritation, the usability issues he encountered in trying to download and install some Windows software.  Aside from the clear amusement factor, the email and Gates’ response is also fascinating in providing a glimpse of someone who views his job, as The Man in Charge, to advocate for usability. Strangely enough, this is part of what I think librarians do, too.  We advocate to all those companies that make all those fancy databases to keep the end user in mind.  (The end user being, in our case, everyone that comes into Snell and tries to find an article in, say, Lexis-Nexis.) So if something is hard to use, let us know.  Sometimes research is complicated, period.  I daresay that will never change.  But sometimes research is complicated because the tools are poorly designed.

Why haven’t portables caught on yet?

See this NY Times story about the importance of hardware usability.  It’s not enough to digitize books — you need hardware that’s as cheap and long-lasting as the printed page.