Library is an organized collection of information resources made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or digital access to material and may be a physical building or room or a virtual space or both. Man’s quest for knowledge has led to the creation and accumulation of tremendous amount of information. This quest for knowledge knows no bounds and limits and is never satisfied. It has continued since the dawn of civilization to the modern age. This hard-earned knowledge and information is valuable for the entire mankind and therefore liable to be preserved. With the invention of paper man has been able to convey this knowledge to others by writing books. Thousands of manuscripts have been written by the wise men of the earlier times but many of them were destroyed due to the lack of proper means of preservation. Libraries are established for the systematic collection, organization, preservation and dissemination of knowledge and information. Role of library websites in information dissemination technology-led developments have created new opportunities and challenges for libraries in creation, promotion, dissemination and storage of information. The library is one of the many institutions undergoing change in the face of technological advances. This in turn has led to the generation of new services, as well as modification of existing library services and their deliverables, as well as the move towards new communication paradigms and the shift from face-to-face human contact to human machine interaction, from paper to electronic delivery, from text centred mode to multimedia and from physical presence to virtual presence. Traditional online services have transformed themselves into web-based services using web technologies. Library websites have become the main point of access and catalyst for new web-based library services. A library website is a virtual public face, the quasi equivalent of the front door path finder’s, surrogates to the collections, services and it is used as a window to the World Wide Web (WWW). As more libraries move towards providing services in a web environment, the improved access to remote library collections is making the use of electronic information resources more realistic and more attractive. The rapid growth of new technologies has changed the communication process and reduced the cost of communication for individuals. Electronic information sources can be seen as the most recent development in information technology and are among the most powerful tools ever invented in human history. The web allows library staff to extend their services beyond posted library hours. It improves library visibility within the library system, users become aware of what the library has to offer. The library’s use of the web to deliver highly visible databases and full text services promotes the image of the librarians as the “internet expert”. Most importantly, providing “web-based library services promote the image of the library as an innovative, progressive, and integral to the commitment to excellence in education and research”. There are different kinds of web based reference resources and services for accessing information from libraries such as OPAC, Gateways, Portals, Subject Portals, Electronic Journals, Online Databases, Subject Directories and Search Engines. A library should have a good collection of these resources like selected Web links, subscription resources, and library materials in well-organized pages for serving better services to their users. Websites of libraries provides virtual library guide to the physical facilities including collections, services and infrastructure available in the library. The web-based user education provides a high degree of interactivity and flexibility to the users. Library web sites have some web forms for suggestions and comments on the Library Services. Different types of Web Forms are available on web that may be an Indent form for acquiring some publications, interlibrary loan request form for document delivery, Ask-a-Librarian forms, on line reservation form or user survey form etc. Web Content Developing client-centric content begins with ensuring that the content is aligned with the requirements of the target users and the site objectives the following content categories are regarded as necessary for “best practice”: Providing a clear indication of the target users and the site objectives to allow a user to quickly determine if the site should be explored; Providing a site map to outline the content of a website; Providing report summaries, press releases and other “core” information with embedded links that allow users to easily navigate through the information; Highlighting any recent updates or providing a “What’s New” section for recently updated information to facilitate repeated users; Providing an index of downloadable materials, such as reports, bibliographies, glossaries, appendices of information; Listing frequently asked questions to reduce the number of direct users’ enquiries; and providing contact information, including email, telephone number, fax number and mail address. Usability for website redesign is a quality attribute that assesses how easy users can find information on websites”. Additionally, the word “usability” represents approaches that may expand the “user-friendliness” during the redesign development. Nielsen defines usability by some quality components: Learnability: Keep a website simple and make it easy to learn. If a website is hard to use or understand, more than likely the user will leave. When writing and preparing content for the website, use words, phrases, and concepts that users are familiar with. Content should flow in a logical and consistent order. According to Nielsen, many website users look at web pages in a dominant reading pattern, similar to the letter F. Oftentimes, users end up on unfamiliar web pages and need to exit quickly, so one should have a back button put in place. Users normally scan lists versus reading them. Nielsen conducted a usability study that 21 tested how well people understood a link’s first eleven characters to illustrate whether web professionals write for users. The results indicated that users usually see about two words for the majority of list items and a few more when the main words were short ones. Efficiency: A website is efficient when users can perform their tasks quick and easy. Using accelerators may often speed up the interaction for a user. Limiting the number of steps, a user must take to accomplish a goal further illustrates the use of good efficiency. Response times need to be quick while waiting for the next page to load. The less time it takes a user to accomplish a task, the better the efficiency. Memorability: When users take time to learn how to navigate a website, they tend to remember those navigational steps when they return.
Conclusion: Library is the storehouse of knowledge, that people can use to broaden their power of reason, consciousness and use it to develop and progress the circumstances around. Library science helps in the modern age how to regulate the data put on books and most particularly how people can access it in online mode. So, the modernisation of libraries is an important task because it depends on its updating like other living organism need to develop so to sustain.
Mudasir Ahmad Bhat
(Pursuing Ph.D. in Library & Information Science)