OPL A Brief Appreciation

I love the public library. My whole family are heavy library users. We are now downloading audio books, borrowing movies, graphic novels music CDs and even a few books. I will be attending the Library's Awesome Authors awards ceremony this week (sponsored by the Friends of OPL). A few weeks ago a started using the new Ottawa Public Library website.

While there are still a few technical glitches (that seem to be getting fixed a good rate) I am really impressed overall. This is a much improved site. The truest sign of this is the increased amount of time I am spending on the site.

The primary navigation scheme (top of page) seems to be based broadly on functional categories. This is a list of things to do on the site. Each menu item has a tagline that helps clarify what it represents. I probably would have buried the 'About OPL' content deeper and used that real estate for something more interesting but I understand how this content always finds its way to the top. Jan Harder's face is never more than two clicks away!

The body of the page is made up of six large content blocks. Each block, when selected reveals a sub menu. The submenu offers some pretty good clues as to the functionality it offers. I like this navigation style, although it took me a few visits to understand exactly how it worked. I may be slow. There are overlaps between the top navigation and the content blocks navigation. On some sites this would bother me more and I would probably would have merged the 'Using the Library' menu item and the 'Planning my trip to the library...' content block.

At the very top of the page is a search box to search the catalogue, website, or articles. At the same level are links to the catalogue, the computer sign up site, the kid's site and a feed back button.

All of this is accessible without logging in. Anyone with a library card can login which is where the fun starts. A partial list of new features:

  • Keep book lists                       
  • Organize lists by titles I've borrowed/titles I own
  • Easier access to a wealth of digital media and databases
  • Easier to see what I have out, when things are due, what I have on hold
  • Find and connect to other users with overlapping collections
  • Easy to add to my collection from the catalogue. Maybe impossible to export my lists out of the OPL system.

Even with the technical fixes to date there are a few frustrating quirks remaining.

  • The site seems to ask for a new login whenever the catalogue is accessed
  • I can't find aggregated ratings for items. It would be cool to see the highest rated or the most commented on items featured
  • You can earn community credits by rating, tagging or commenting on items.There isn't an explanation of what the community credits are good for. The help and FAQ pages are too generic. "Ask your Ask your librarian if your library is currently offering prizes for community credits." The help files should be for the actuall application the OPL has of the software.
  • While the software seems to support it, I still can't send myself reminders when items are coming due

In summary, the new site is a great improvement.

It shows that it is possible to have a navigation scheme that works well even if it isn't especially intuitive.

I hope the library continues to test the site and makes changes where warranted.

I hope that the technical glitches get fixed before users get frustrated with the new functionality.

I hope the OPL is getting good feedback on the site. They deserve it.


Thanks for taking the time to provide us with this feedback on our new site. We take patron feedback seriously and our site is always being developed to ensure it meets users needs.We are working quickly to address any remaining technical issues. As per the community credits BiblioCommons will offer contests from time to time and community credits are used to enter these. The more the community credits you have, the better the chance of winning! Email prenotification will be coming in the beginning of May 2010. We are in the process of a major integrated library systems migration and as soon as this is complete, you will receive pre-notification of overdue items. Hope this helps to answer some of your questions. We had custom work done to allow for single sign on betwen the library catalogue and our website and will be working this year to extend this to our other related databases like our Overdrive digital audio catalogue and our online PC bookings if this is technically possible. This was a huge first move and we look forward to leveraging the strength of Drupal to be able to improve the seamless access to our resources for patrons and decreasing the need to log in repeatedly.

Thanks for the feedback. I hope it is clear from my brief review that i really like the site improvements and am looking forward to using new features as they come. My experience with getting feedback from OPL has been exceptionally postive.