I continue to look at other university library digital collections to see what they are doing that we are not. It can be informative to see what other people have decided is important enough to include on their websites. Even if we don’t end up using these ideas on our own website, it’s good to know not only what other creators of digital collections are doing, but to find out what the users are seeing when they visit these websites and therefore the expectations that they might have when visiting digital collections such as ours.
One way of finding out what users want and expect is to ask them. On the home page of the University of South Carolina Libraries Digital Collections, there is a link for a usability survey. It is a brief survey that helps to find out who is using the digital collections (faculty, staff, undergraduates, grad students, or others); how easy the collections are to navigate; what kinds of things users are looking for; and whether users are able to find what they’re looking for. This kind of information could be very useful in making decisions about the future of our digital collections.
Personally, I’m not a big user of social media, but it seems to have become a part of most people’s lives to some degree. The home page of Duke University Libraries Digital Collections has a prominently featured area for both Twitter and Facebook. This would encourage visitors to post comments on either of these social media outlets about what they’ve found and enjoyed in the digital collections. Doing this would publicize the various contents of the digital collections to all the friends and followers of each user, which would in turn spread the word about the existence of the variety of things in the digital collections much more widely than any advertising the library could do otherwise.
There are always so many things that could be done, but there’s never enough time to do them all. Having more staff and resources could help to do more, and having more funding would help to provide those additional staff and resources. Every library and university, public or private, is always trying to raise money. Usually a person is more likely to donate their money if they know that it will go to something that is specifically important to them. The home page of the University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections has a red star highlighting a link to “Support Digital Initiatives, Make a Gift.” The link takes you directly to the university foundation and the current needs in the library digital initiatives fund. People who visit the digital collections and find things that interest them might be more likely to donate their money if they see that it could easily go directly to benefiting this interest of theirs and not just some general university fund.
Not every good idea for one library is necessarily a good fit for every other library. However, noticing what others are doing and seeing what reactions they get can be a good way to start a conversation locally about what we might want to do in the future.