Thursday, August 18, 2011

Linking the library

[See Julie Arendt's comment below for a couple of corrections.]

Apparently the Morris library staff is a bit irked at how hard the library is to find from our splendid new website.  They are passing out slips of paper encouraging folks to  email the University Web Advisory Group ( to ask why Morris doesn't qualify for a link. So, let's see, as of 3:56 pm on Thursday, Morris library cannot be found under "About SIU".  It's not under "Academics".  It's not under "Research".  It's not under Info For "Current Students" or "Future Students".  You can, however, find it under info for Faculty and Staff (it's the seventh item under "Academics" on that page; "Office of the Provost" is the first). I suppose faculty and staff may care about the library.

I frankly don't see what the library staff are complaining about. You would have thought they'd have seen the writing on the wall when we left the books out past the Poultry Center. Athletics gets a full tab, top center, equal billing with academics and research. What is there to complain about?

Another little thing that some people will find only a triviality, others will find a telling illustration of the way things work around here.  A more serious analysis follows after the break.

I'm just enough of a webmaster to both forgive whoever designed the new webpage for failing to include the library (while presumably pleasing the administrative types for whom the library was not a priority), but also to know something of the agony caused by a complete campus facelift of this type. We've been through this mess before. The first time on my watch was when Walter Wendler's administration mandated campus use of a god-awful template that required things like links to stirring words "from the Chancellor" and to the latest weather forecast (which I found rather more valuable than the Chancellor's remarks, but still). Far from consulting the people with real expertise in Art and Design, our administration forced them to tear down their own superb website and replace it with the crap SIUC was pushing.

This sort of change is an unfunded mandate--save for the marketing firm--that demands that multiple campus offices "upgrade" their webpages to the brave new standard.  Once one gets below the few centralized pages that Web Services can manage, most websites are maintained by departmental staff who have other things to worry about--and aren't professional webmasters.  Such updates thus require hours upon hours of tedious work, work that could have been spent on other things.  And many things like links to the library will be lost in the ensuing chaos. Multiple links on the sectional website I more or less manage, that of the Classics section, and that of my department, are now down, thanks to changes that were installed from on high, without any warning. Basically it looks like any links to the old SIUC servers have gone down (though this may be an unrelated issue--I don't have enough technical expertise to be sure just what damage I and our office staff have noticed in the last couple of days in indeed due to the overhaul).

Webpages and websites do need to be revamped every so often. But our most recent revamp was not that long ago (December 2009).  And redesign comes at a cost, not only the cost of the outside firm, in this case, but the internal cost as the rest of us try to play catch up. Every new Chancellor we get believes that they have found the silver bullet, the new logo, marketing firm, or slogan that is going to turn things around. So we get to buy new letterhead, pay for new signs, and redo web pages. We've got better things to do, and better things to spend our money on.

I would especially welcome informed comments on this whole topic (web design and implementation) from real webmasters, not phony ones like me.

[Ok, one little concession: while the Chancellor is rather easier to find from our homepage than the library--she is quite prominent on the About SIU page (the second item in the most prominent side bar)--she does not promote herself nearly as much as some administrators do on the pages for their domains. Someone, though, had better get the new logo up on her webpage. That bell tower thing is so 2010.]


  1. One thing I noticed, though I could be wrong, is that the former site took users to a site with the overall SIU information (Board of Trustees, Carbondale campus, med school, not sure about Edwardsville). To get to the Carbondale campus, one had to use Now, the link is specifically the Carbondale campus and redirects to The other campuses are gone from the formerly centralized page. Is it no longer necessary to write Carbondale as part of the organizational affiliation?

  2. A couple clarifications:

    The employees at the library aren't going around passing out slips of paper to tell people to contact the advisory group. We give them out when people complain to us that they can't find our site. Because we don't control the university's Web site, we're giving people the information about whom to contact that might be able to change things.

    This time of year, we're too busy helping students get all of their university and library logins squared away to launch a big lobbying campaign about the Web site.

    The library wasn't under "Current Students" on Friday, but it made it to that page by sometime on Monday. It's in the lower right under "Academics."

  3. Didn't the present Dean of Library Affairs want to make Morris like the Student Center as he stated in his interview? Perhaps you should look up the Web Page for Student Cenner or better still, Starbucks?


    They are a bit better. It's right there on the top tab, although the academics list is unappealing and "Library" is on a left-hand link at the bottom of other stuff.

  5. PS: Didn't you get the message?

    "People don't read any more" -- Steve Jobs, 2008

    But they do swipe fingers and play games. So why don't we turn the Library into a Student Gaming Center or "Saluki App Store"? Then students might come and bring their Angry Birds. Ha, ha.

    Oh, wait, I already see them playing games, watching porn and other things assigned in class. This Library Entertainment Center rocks!

  6. As usual, the Beano has come up with a great idea. Since the "Mighty Quinn" has approved video gambling why not set up machines throughout the Morris Library making it "Vegas-in-Carbondale" that will earn lots of money? Better still, could not those unwanted books and journals be removed from the third and fifth floor so the floors could be renamed "Delyte's Cabaret" with male and female strippers on separate floors. Burly members of the Athletics team could act as floor managers. I'm sure we do not need an outside marketing firm to come up with such an idea that will give SIUC a particular "brand name" and make it "amazing" and "awesome" to quote Rita?

  7. Tony,

    The Carbondale City Council banned video gambling within the city, so you'd have to fight city hall first.

    Video gaming was part of the capital bill from which the money to complete the library is supposed to come. If video gambling means the library will finally have all of its books, I say bring it on!

  8. Well, I'm sure that our administration can win against City Hall as they've done in the past with forced contributions towards the Saluki Way so they should go ahead. I'm sure if there is any question of breaking the law our President can use his plea of "inadvertent" and be restored to the good graces of the community.


I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.