The more I look at library websites, the more they do indeed seem to wrap a thin layer around a jumble of things which have not been designed for the web. Indeed, the individual pieces have not really been designed as a whole. Consider the not uncommon situation where a user is guided to separate resources for ‘catalog’ and ‘electronic resources’ and is expected to understand what the difference between these is. I have mentioned Krisellen Maloney’s writing on this issue a couple of times as I thought that she expressed the situation very well. The current issue of Information Technology and Libraries has an article by her and a colleague, ‘Beyond information architecture’, which considers this issue again in the context of information architectures.
Library users’ mental models of library processes have fundamentally changed, creating a serious disconnect between how users expect to use a library Website and how the site was designed. In particular, user expectations regarding the number of steps that must be completed have changed. At the same time, library technical infrastructures are composed, in part, of legacy systems that provide great value and facilitate interlibrary resource sharing, but were not designed for the Web environment. It is essential that libraries develop new approaches to the conceptual design of Web sites that support current and future changes to both user behaviors and to library systems architectures. In the long run, these approaches should contribute to the development of a reference model for the description of library services. [Maloney and Bracke. Beyond information architecture. Information Technology and Libraries. December 2004.]
Incidentally, is it not rather sad that I cannot link to an article in a journal published by LITA?