Easy Web Fixes

Lichen RancourtMonday, 11:00 – 12:30

Does your web site need an extreme makeover? Would you like to add Web 2.0 functionality? Is your budget for web development somewhere between miniscule and negligible? Get practical advice from Lichen Rancourt, who was responsible for bringing the Manchester (NH) City Library web site to a whole new level. Her step-by-step review offers guidance that shows you how to make changes that will bring positive feedback from your community.
Presentation slides: http://nelib.org/conference/2008/program/2-11-2-webfixes.pdf

The original website used static html, and had grown organically (as of 7/07). It wasn’t dynamic, but does give a good introduction to the website.

Updating was difficult, because everything had to be coded by hand. The overall desires of website improvements were to:

  • bring the website more inline with the vibrant and robustness of the actual library and services
  • make it easier to update (focus more on content, and not coding).
  • make it useful and interesting on a daily basis, like the actual library
  • provide a sense of community, like the actual library
  • make the website’s content portable, so it works on mobile devices as well as computers

Easy to maintain

Need to focus on content, so the staff can show patrons, through the website, how active and vital the library is.

  • Created a flickr.com account for the library, and uploaded photos they already had (and joined flickr groups for Manchester and New Hampshire
  • Use flickr badge to automatically display photos on the website
  • By using flickr, all the content is managed through their interface, which is much easier to handle than coding
  • Flickr generates the code for you, and you paste it into your website where ever you want it
  • Having patrons sign release forms is a good courtesy, but only legally required for kids

Expose library resources

  • Our collection is our heart and soul, so we need to et it out there
  • Let patrons search catalog, determine availability, view accounts, and renew materials
  • All ILSs should allow for this, so talk to vendors or other libraries using that same ILS to find out how
  • Once you get the code, just paste it into your website where you want it

Interact with patrons

  • Promote your librarians – this is what amazon and google do not have
  • Started a blog with wordpress to give librarians a voice, and personalize the website – like the library is personal
  • Make sure whatever blog you use provides rss feeds and allows comments
  • How to get the blog info into the website? Used feedburner to generate code to paste into the website where they wanted it to display. Doing this keeps the blog information within the context of the website, instead of making patrons go somewhere else, and you also get lots of options and stats


  • Since wordpress allows patrons to comment on posts, using feedburner to import post to website also allows patrons comment to display on website. If your posts are interesting and useful, people will participate
  • Flickr also supports comments
  • Once you start doing this, make sure you keep it new and updated, because if a photo sits too long, people get tired of it – always think sustainability
  • Using Google Calendars to display library events – this provides a feed to embed in the website, and also lets patrons to sign up for feeds to be delivered as rss or have it sent right to their own Outlook calendar using the iCal format

Life Integration

  • Letting patrons use this information the way they want to use it
  • This is important because even if you don’t know what rss is or use it at all, chances are you have patrons that do
  • Feedburner lets patrons subscribe to the various feeds, and they can check them in an rss reader or have updates emailed right to them

So what’s next?

  • Everything shown here can be done in a day
  • More complex additions could be migrating to a new platform (which is easier to do once the content is separated from the code), YouTube, Twitter, etc.
  • But no matter what you consider, the website will only be as good and the content that YOU generate


What software do you use to maintain your website?
It is Novus, and is mandated by the City of New Hampshire

Do you moderate comments?
Yes, on the blog, but we’ve never gotten an inappropriate comment. WordPress also notifies us when comments are held for moderation, so there is very little delay between patron submission and librarian approval. Can also use filters to approve automatically based on language or users

Do you get a lot of spam comments?
Yes. WordPress has a spam filter which works well, but is not 100% flawless

How much time do you spend on a daily basis doing this?
Most of my time is spent cajoling the staff to write for the blog. But when I do it, I try to think of it as if I am speaking to someone a cross the desk – make it short (two paragraphs) and useful. For flickr pictures, it’s maybe 5-10 minutes a day.

Is google calendar your only calendar?
No, google calendar is just for promoting events on the website. We also use Library Insight for meeting room management and reservations

Does wordpress do calendars?
It is possible, but that is a bit beyond an “easy web fix”

Are these feeds all or nothing feeds?
No, most let you filter based on tags, dates, or other criteria, so you can have a flickr badge just for childrens events, or just for a particular branch

How do you know how many people use this?
Feedburner gives us stats, but we also use Google Analytics for website stats