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Bellingham library website getting makeover, mobile app will be deleted

Some 20 percent of the Bellingham library’s website visitors used mobile devices such as phones and tablets last year, and that figure continues to rise.
Some 20 percent of the Bellingham library’s website visitors used mobile devices such as phones and tablets last year, and that figure continues to rise. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Readers who use the Bellingham Public Library’s online services will find a new website soon, one that debuts just as its mobile app is being discontinued at the end of this year.

“We totally think that the new website will be more mobile-friendly,” said Janice Keller, community relations and programming manager for the Bellingham Public Library. “ It just seemed more customer-efficient and simpler for users to have one place to go.”

One such feature is an improved menu that organizes and displays the library’s educational and research tools when the website debuts the weekend of Dec. 17-18, Keller said. That includes such materials as Consumer Reports and other magazines, national newspapers, online language learning through Mango, genealogy and research databases, among others.

Some 20 percent of the Bellingham library’s website visitors used mobile devices such as phones and tablets last year, and that figure continues to rise.

“They will be easier to find and it will be easier for patrons to understand how useful these free resources are,” Keller said. “We have a wide array of research databases. They’ll be more prominent and easier to find.”

In addition, Keller said, the new website will offer easier accessibility for people with visual and motor-skill impairments.

“We’re aiming to meet standards the federal government has adopted. This is in addition to overall improved access for mobile users,” she said.

Keller said the library will pull the plug on its mobile app Dec. 31. The app was costing $2,995 yearly through a third-party vendor, and library officials thought it would be redundant with the website’s new look and ease of use.

Whatcom County Library System, which shares a catalog with Bellingham Public Library, is ending its use of the app, too. Its fee was $3,995 annually because the county library system is larger.

Both library systems are among Washington state’s most used libraries, in terms of items borrowed, lending rate and turnover of loaned materials.

Whatcom County libraries, at wcls.org, revamped its main website in March as part of a yearlong marketing push to highlight the library’s growing digital offerings. That site is more mobile-friendly, too.

Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, a nonprofit group that raises money to support library services, paid for the new website through a contract not to exceed $30,000 with Big Fresh, a Bellingham-based internet marketing and web design firm.

The library’s current website was developed in 2008 and runs on obsolete software and servers, making maintenance, security and updates a challenge, Keller said.

Some 20 percent of the Bellingham library’s website visitors used mobile devices such as phones and tablets last year, and that figure continues to rise, Keller said.

Library officials note that the website sees nearly as much online traffic as the city of Bellingham’s main web page, cob.org, which had 500,000 unique page views in 2015, compared with bellinghampubliclibrary.org’s 300,000 unique views.

No Bellingham city department receives more online visitors than the library, Keller said.

Bellingham internet marketer Big Fresh’s name was corrected December 6, 2016.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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