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Revamping an Art Library Website: An Approach to Sink Your Teeth Into

Magazine article Online

Revamping an Art Library Website: An Approach to Sink Your Teeth Into

Article excerpt

What would Jane Austen think if she knew that zombies had ravaged her novel, Pride and Prejudice? In Seth Grahame- Smith's version, Austen's main character, Elizabeth Bennet, spars not only with Mr. Darcy, but also with a troupe of blood-thirsty zombies. Would she approve of this modern mashup of her beloved novel? How about the characterization of Mr. Darcy as a vampire? Two books do that: Regina Jeffers' Vampire Darcy's Desire: A Pride and Prejudice Adaptation and Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy, Vampyre.

These versions of Pride and Prejudice were rewritten to quench the thirst of the vampire- and zombie- obsessed, taking a stab at satisfying the tastes of a modern authence. That's ridiculous, right? Wrong. These reinventions appease a new readership while telling a classic story. Although Austen may not approve of this retelling, some argue that her modern audience's tastes should trump her personal feelings.

What do Jane Austen, zombies, and vampires have to do with library website redesign? Although I didn't find such dangerous characters when I recently revamped an art library website, I did need to consider reworking a classic in terms of the appetite of a modern audience. Here is my story.

LESSONS FROM OTHERS

I am in the final stages of redesigning a library website that has three very distinct branches from the main library: social services, health professions, and visual arts. The directive I was given before I began the redesign process was to create a unified look to all of the Hunter College Libraries websites (http://library.hunter.cuny.edu).

I began by searching the internet for examples from other college or university libraries that had branch libraries. How did they design a site that took the unique needs of their branch libraries into account? In the University of Minnesota's Libraries, I found an interesting model (www.lib.umn.edu). The university has one main humanities and social sciences library, Wilson Library, and 33 subject- specific libraries. Some subject-specific libraries are located within Wilson Library. Others are scattered across the three Twin Cities campuses, and one is located in Chaska, Minn.

The library link on the University of Minnesota's homepage brings the user to the main University of Minnesota Libraries webpage. However, only when users click on the "Libraries Hours" or "About Us" links do they see a listing of all 34 libraries. Clicking on links for individual libraries, I realized that only 28 use the same University of Minnesota Libraries template, although they vary menu-bar options slightly and change the masthead photo to reflect their subject specialty.

What about the other five? I wondered about the impact of their different approaches. I understand that the needs and missions of individual branch library stakeholders can affect the design of the branch websites. This was clearly the case for Anderson Horticultural Library, because it strayed from the unified look of the system of libraries. I found it jarring. I felt lost. This inspired me to remain steadfast in my goal to unify Hunter's branch libraries, using the same template as the main library. I wanted an original Jane Austen approach, with no zombies added to appease a modern audience. But it didn't work out that way.

A SIDE ORDER OF ART PLEASE

After including the social services library and the health professions library in the main design of our redesigned website, I was informed that the visual arts library was going to need its own unique design and wouldn't be included in our template. When I found this out, I wanted to write my own mashup of the first line of Austen's novel that would read, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single design is to be used for the Hunter College Libraries web presence." However, I abandoned the template and started the process of designing a website for the visual arts library.

Thanks to a donation from Judith and Stanley Zabar, a larger space for the visual arts library was created, complete with comfortable and attractive furniture, computers, and a noncirculating collection of books. …

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