I was sitting in the car this morning thinking about library websites and how linear and “square” they are. Of course this is because they follow the ruling trends of the mainstream webdesign, but it does not take into account the very spatial nature of a library. In Second Life there are loads of library bulidings, and although many of them are wonderful structures they all resemble libraries in real life, exept they have fewer books and shelves. Most even have a reference desk!
Why are we so married to the library as a building? Surely on the net, and in second life, there is no need for walls, shelves, desks and roofs. It does not rain on the Internet! Lets drop the bulidings and concentrate on how we can make a visual representation of the library in second life and on the web that is spatial but more open and free of the constraints of walls and shelves.
Then there is the need to make websites that are scaleable and wiewable on all kinds of units, from cellphones to 50″ flat screen tv sets in the living room.
So how do I think a library website should look? What I want is two things, I want a landscape instead of a building, and I want findability instead of searcability. So I’m going to disregard a lot of constraints that limit what we can do today, and look a little forward. Of course this should be a youtube video or some sort of graphical mockup but words are all I have access to today, so…
The library website of 2014
When you end up in the library a landscape opens up, it is a hilly, green landscape on a sunny day. (a bit like the default desktop on Windows XP), a few mountains in the background and a forest off to your left. Right in front of you stands an avatar. The avatar is obviously a librarian, a woman, who welcomes you to the library, her voice is plesant and inviting. If you are a first time visitor you will be offered a few choices, you can choose to change the avatar apperance, to a man or animal or just to go away, you can choose a different landscape, city, mountain, dense forest, jungle, costal landscape etc. And then the avatar will ask you to allow the site to access the information you have stored as your “public identity” based on social network profiles, amazon profiles etc, to better tailor the service you want. When your profile is accessed several things will appear in the landscape you have chosen. There will be a social place, a cafe in the city landscape, logs around a open fire in the hilly landscape etc, a number of objects will appear around you, suggestions, storage facilities and of course a librarian avtar to help you. If you just want to browse and look around things will pop up in the landscape, text, sound and video grouped together based on your profile and placed in relation to each other according to your preferences. As you navigate the landscape, flying is fine, your choices and searches will ripple through the displayed items and if you use the website repeatedly your most used items and paths will become familiar, but will also be augmented with new material as it occurs in the library, on the web or in databases the library has access to.
The items will be displayed in any way you find meaningful, at first in traditional formats, text as a book page, sound as a loudspeaker, video as a screen, but other ways will be offered as you progress.
It will be possible to integrate your library profile on social networks, in online stores etc. to enhance both the library experience and use the library profile to enhance your other networks and sites.
The social meeting place in the library will be open, but also have featured talks and discussions, all available in real time for participation or as recordings for later viewing.
This is as far as I have come today, maybe I’ll follow up later, or maybe you have a better idea or a way to improve my idea?