The Boston Public Library recently unveiled a new design for their website, as well as a series of print, television and radio ads promoting the library. I took a look at the ads, and I have to say that I like them — especially the print ads, which are cheeky and informal. All of them (well, except perhaps the radio voice over) feature actual BPL librarians. In the TV ads, they’re talking about what they know, how they compare to search engines, and how they do their work — but in a friendly, not-boring-you-to-death kind of way. For example, in one of them the librarian is rattling off some random facts that he knows, and then he says “I know how to clear a room — take me to trivia night.” The TV ads also have a series of line drawings that illustrate what the librarian is saying, which gives them some interest (otherwise, you’d just be watching a talking head). I had seen one of them in July, when I got a super-secret back-room tour of a couple of BPL offices, but I had completely forgotten to try and keep an eye out for the launch of the new site & ads. (Good thing someone sent me the link!)
As for the website, it’s been long enough since I was regularly using the BPL’s website that I can’t really make a good comparison to the previous incarnation. What I can say is that I like the design, and it seems like it is pretty easy to navigate and get to what you’re looking for. The redesign includes a search box in the banner that defaults to searching the library catalog, which I think is a handy feature. Also in the banner is a drop down menu with “How do I find” as the default value — that gives folks an easy way to find some of the most frequently-viewed pages, no matter where they are on the site. (And without cluttering up the navigation in the banner!)
The advertisements and the new design for the website are tied together quite well — the website colors and logo flow over into the ads, and I believe the font is the same as (or similar to) the logo font. It’s a subtle, but very effective, way to make sure that people get the same feel when viewing the ads that they do when they see the website.
As I said, I like the ad campaign, and especially the print ads. I am a big proponent of libraries relaxing a little bit, and being friendlier and a little more informal as institutions. (Naturally, that requires that the librarians are willing to relax a little, which is not always the case.) People are intimidated by libraries, period. I still feel a little awkward when I go into a new library for the first few times. Despite being a librarian, I sometimes still feel like I am going to get asked why I am looking at the YA books (um, because I wanted to see what was over on this shelf?), walking around the children’s room (I heard it was neat?) or doing whatever perfectly normal thing that I’m doing. I think that anything a library can do to make things a little more relaxed for our patrons is a good thing. Now, I’m not talking about “hey, take off your shoes and take a nap on this soft seating with your headphones blaring gangsta rap.” I’m talking about signage that is clear (and when necessary, gives reason for our weird rules) and owning up to things like “yes, our catalog is difficult to search” or “yeah, the multidatabase search takes a really long time to get results and then they’re usually not very good results.” I’m talking about at least letting people bring in water bottles for heavens’ sake! (I will not digress into that rant today.)
So anyway, that’s what I have to say about that. What do you think about the BPL’s new look?