Proceedings of the Association of College and Research Libraries
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The shift to born-digital and digitized materials has ultimately increased access and convenience for users, but in many ways it has also complicated the process of finding information. While users may struggle with catalog interfaces or reading call numbers, most have a basic understanding of how to locate a physical book. But in the digital environment, users have no built-in model for what sequence of clicks or keywords will get them to the information they need. This problem is exacerbated for specialized areas like government information, where more and more data and documents are readily available online via a variety of public web portals. Libraries often curate these portals using research guides or other domain-specific reference websites, providing major points of access for users. However, designing these specialized sites to be user-centered, rather than domaincentered, presents numerous challenges. For instance, how should the needs of different user groups be balanced? How should complex information be structured to support domain experts, while also helping orient and remove barriers for new users? Answering these questions is especially important to Utah State University Libraries (USU), which serve as a Regional Depository for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). USU’s Government Information Department supports not only our community of 25,000 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students, many of whom learn at a distance, but also local and regional communities as a matter of public access. To be successful, these users need to understand and be able to effectively navigate the “library within a library” that is government information. To support this broad community and their range of needs, our websites need to strike the right balance between straightforward, content-focused design and more supportive, instruction-heavy design.
Kirk, Jennifer P., Alex Sundt, and Teagan Eastman. “Academic libraries, government information, and the persistent problem of jargon.” Proceedings of the Association of College and Research Libraries (April 2019): 892-902.