I just found this very interesting website via TangognaT. John Kupersmith, a reference librarian at UC Berkeley has collected usability survey data from various libraries as well as the library terminology used on library websites to create Library Terms That Users Understand. In it, he suggests best practices for library website usability testing and the pros and cons of each approach. There is also a bibliography with links to related articles and websites. It’s a very useful guide to doing some usability testing of your own library website’s terminology. It’s also interesting to see how users responded to words that we librarians might consider perfectly easy to understand.

Like every other decision made in libraries, it is key that we look to patrons when naming things in the library and on the library’s website. What those of us with an MLS take for granted may not be understood by the average library patron. I often wonder if most people who come into a library actually know what sort of things go on at the reference desk, because when I worked at the “Information Desk” upstairs, I did all sorts of work that should have been done at the reference desk downstairs. But people were either too intimidated by the reference desk or they thought an “Information Desk” would better meet their info needs. And before I got involved in libraries, I would have assumed that tech services people fixed and programmed the computers. Not enough libraries do the most simple thing in designing library terminology: ask their patrons. It’s encouraging to see a website such as Kupersmith’s. Hopefully more research like this will be done in academic and public libraries, and our libraries’ terminology will better meet the expectations of our patrons.