The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Plainfield Public Library launches redesigned website



The Library's redesigned website features navigability.
The Plainfield Public Library has officially launched its redesigned website (see here), which marks its fourth iteration since putting up its first website in the mid-1990s (Full disclosure: I worked on the design of the original website.)

Much has changed in both the Web and site design in the intervening years, and libraries themselves have changed to meet new needs undreamed of before the advent of the Internet.

Because so much of the library's online services are database driven, the Plainfield Public Library's site is probably the most sophisticated of any in the city.

Yet for all the behind-the-scenes complexity, the user experience is one of simplicity and directness (are you reading this, City Hall?). Hovering over any of the images or links on the home page gives the viewer options.



Hovering over a menu item reveals additional choices.

Especially noteworthy are the drop-down menus and submenus bar across the top of the page. Unlike on the city's website, where the menus are driven by a proprietary technology (Adobe's Flash, which often presents accessibility issues for users with disabilities), the Library's menus require nothing other than a browser to be accessible to any user -- regardless of ability or disability.

But the website isn't all that has changed at the Library.

Once thought of as a big warehouse for books and magazines, the Plainfield Public Library has striven over the years to meet the ever-changing needs of its community.

With 16,500 active cardholder patrons, the library's reach into and service to the entire community is deeper than that of any other city institution, including the public schools (with 6,431 students) and the city and its agencies (where Recreation, Senior Services and Plainfield Action Services reach several hundreds of participants each at most). For complete information, see the Library's 20009 Annual Report here (PDF).

The Plainfield Public Library was a pioneer in offering public computers, realizing that many in the community could not afford them but also that Internet access and email would become increasingly important in people's everyday lives.

Literacy outreach has also become in important part of the Library's services, helping residents better address life issues by imparting reading and math skills as well as helping improve English-language facility.

The Great Recession has put a spotlight on another area where the Library offers invaluable services -- preparing for and hunting down jobs. With software to help patrons prepare resum├ęs, computers to search and apply for jobs, the Plainfield Public Library has plans to expand its offerings by dedicating a space within the building as a 'Job Search Center'.

By all means, visit the new website (here), but make plans also to drop in, if you haven't lately, and take a quick tour of a vital community institution meeting the needs of today's patrons and preparing to meet those of tomorrow's.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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