According to the American Library Association, “the first free modern public library was opened in 1833” in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Its purpose was to be available to all classes of the local community for free. Fast forwarding almost two hundred years, modern public libraries exist for the same reason. Though card catalogs have long been replaced by online catalogs, libraries are still meant to be easy to use for everybody. The fact that many library resources have gone digital makes having a well-designed, user-friendly library website essential.
Since having a strong website can enhance community involvement, we will share our tips on designing your website to be accessible to the whole community.
Does your library’s website need an upgrade? Our team has designed a number of library websites, making them modern and easy to use. Click here or call 617-539-6528 to talk to a member of our team about your website.
How to Enhance Community Involvement Using Your Library’s Website
Place Upcoming Events on the Homepage
The homepage is the first thing that viewers see when arriving at your website, so it should include whichever information is most important to your library. Since events are an excellent way to enhance community involvement, many libraries like to include a feed of upcoming events on the homepage. In the example above from the Boston Public Library, the events feed is located next to the main announcement banner on the homepage. You can also include it further down on the page if you’d prefer to highlight different information, such as digital resources, in the first fold. Either way, placing upcoming events somewhere on the homepage will help visitors to see events right away and encourage them to get involved.
Be Sure That Your Website ADA Compliant
Making your website ADA compliant is becoming an expected standard. ADA compliance allows your website to be easily used by the visually impaired. Making your website compliant is a great way to ensure that all members of your community can use it. ADA compliance can also help prevent potential future lawsuits. To learn more, check out our blog and webinar on what you need to know to make your website ADA compliant.
Add a Newsletter Signup Form to the Website
Many community members will want to keep up with library events, hour updates and new offerings. Adding a newsletter signup form to the website is an excellent way to build your library’s email list and make it easy for people to receive updates.
You can have a pop up on the website with the form embedded, or you can have a newsletter signup page with a form that is linked to on the website in the header, main navigation menu, or elsewhere. In the example above, the Danbury Library has a sign up bar at the bottom of certain pages of their website.
Put the Catalog in an Obvious Place
Many library visitors will want to use the catalog to digitally check out an ebook or audiobook, or to reserve or order a physical book or audiobook. Making this easy will encourage community members to use the library regularly. The Tyngsborough Public Library website does this well. You can directly search the library catalog from the top of the homepage, or you can access books and digital offerings from the top fold on the homepage. There are many ways that your library website’s design can make the catalog easy to find, and doing so will help users to take advantage of your library’s vast resources.
Create a Visually Appealing Events Calendar
An events calendar that is easy to find and visually appealing will help visitors to see upcoming events and encourage them to get involved. You can choose to have a traditional calendar view or a feed of events, like in the example above from the Saint Paul Public Library. Another option is to have a toggle set up that allows visitors to decide if they would like to view events in a calendar view or a feed view. Be sure to include important information such as dates, times, locations and a short, enticing description. Adding photos can also help bring the idea of the event to life. Events are at the heart of any library community, and making them stand out on your library’s website will surely enhance community involvement!
Make Basic Information Easy to Find
Community members will need to know basic information about the library in order to get involved and use its resources. If your website is confusing or unclear, people are likely to give up before doing what they intended. On the contrary, if your website has a well thought out layout in which important information is easy to find, viewers are more likely to take action and get involved.
Putting contact information and library hours right in the header of the website is one way to make basic information clear, as can be seen in the example above from the Walpole Public Library. Another option is to include this information in a prominent section of the homepage. There are various ways to design a website to make basic information easy to find. No matter which approach you take, doing this will encourage website visitors to take action and get involved, rather than deterring them from moving forward.
Give Opportunities to Get Involved
Libraries are always looking for more volunteer involvement. Including volunteer sign up forms on your website can make it easy for people to know how to get involved and even give them the idea to get involved in the first place.
Most libraries have Friends of the Library programs that they are always looking to expand. Promoting friends of the library through an announcement banner, a place on the homepage, a pop up, or a dedicated page can quickly increase participation.
Have a Section for Important Announcements
Your library is bound to have special events or important announcements that you will want the community to know about right when they get to the website. Showcasing these announcement is a great tactic for using your library’s website to enhance community involvement. You can have a pop up template set up on your website that you can easily activate/deactivate and change the information of, as needed. Another option is to add an announcement banner to the top of the website, as can be seen in the example above on the Newbury Public Library website. Both of these options show visitors to the website whichever important message you’d like to share right when they arrive at the homepage. Both options can also be deactivated when not being used. Some common announcements include upcoming events, donation information, holiday or weather closings or seasonal hour changes. Having a section available for important announcements will ultimately help community members stay in the loop and remain involved.
Want to Use Your Library’s Website to Enhance Community Involvement?
Our team has been designing websites for over ten years and has a wealth of library website design tips that we would love to use to enhance your library’s community involvement. Click here or call 617-539-6528 if you are interested in having your website rebuilt.