Op-Ed

Library’s gift to you: Fresh, mobile-friendly website delivering key services

The Bellingham Public Library’s fresh, easy-to- use updated website helps meet the library’s mission: Connecting our community with each other and the world to read, learn meet and discover.
The Bellingham Public Library’s fresh, easy-to- use updated website helps meet the library’s mission: Connecting our community with each other and the world to read, learn meet and discover. The Bellingham Herald

Here’s the gift we are offering our community during this winter holiday season: We’ve improved the Bellingham Public Library’s website to help you more easily discover and use all our free library resources!

Why would we consider a service as basic and commonplace as a website to be a gift to the community? Because our website serves many important functions to many people, and because updating it took the dedication of many to accomplish.

Key to service delivery

Our website is vital to delivering library services, and is among the top-visited sites in the city of Bellingham government. In 2015, the library received about 300,000 unique page views, more than any other individual city department webpage.

Libraries are in the midst of a renaissance, fueled by rapid advances in technology and changes in the communities we serve. No longer just places for printed books and in-person reference help, public libraries offer free services that transform lives. We support digital literacy and lifelong learning, contributing to education, employment, civic engagement and personal empowerment. Many of these services are delivered online.

In addition, many of our more traditional services are now available online as well. Patrons search our catalog, read eBooks and eMagazines, track their borrowing, pay fines, ask research questions, search our databases, reserve meeting rooms, place holds and much more – all from their computers and mobile devices.

Our success at serving all these needs depends on us having a reliable, easy-to-use website, and our new site meets those goals.

Important changes

The biggest change has already happened, and you can view it now at bellinghampubliclibrary.org. The site features a fresh, colorful new mobile-friendly design with updated photography, more intuitive, easier-to-use navigation and improved search capabilities. It is more accessible and inviting for users of all abilities, interests and ages, designed to help all our patrons easily find what they are looking for online.

Our website improvements are designed to be mobile-friendly and provide convenient, seamless access to our library catalog. We also are using this opportunity to discontinue our Library Now app, a paid service that has been a helpful patron resource. Our updated mobile-friendly website and improvements to our library catalog are expected to provide improved mobile convenience and function without the additional cost to the library of a special app.

We are particularly proud of our work in making our online services more accessible to people using mobile devices and to people with visual disabilities. Much of our behind-the-scenes work on the new site was to meet these needs, and we will continue to hone these improvements in the months ahead.

Improvements planned in 2017 include updates to our calendar of events and room reservation systems. Meanwhile, we are proud to say that the first phase of our new website, launched earlier this month, was completed on-time and under budget.

Dedicated supporters

Special thanks to the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, a dedicated volunteer organization that funds many special projects. Outside consultant costs for the website were paid for entirely by the Friends. We could not have made these improvements without the Friends financial support.

Thanks also to our local consulting team at Big Fresh and to the Bellingham Information Technology Services Department, our partners in planning and launching the updated site.

We also are grateful for the support of many local photographers whose contributions help make the new website shine: Paul Conrad, Paul Leeson, Kenni Merritt, Radley Muller, Linda Wright, and various Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition participants.

Our website was last re-designed in 2008. The internet has changed a lot since then, and so has our library and our community!

Our gift to you this winter holiday season is a beautiful, easy-to-use new website. The mission of the Bellingham Public Library is connecting our community with each other and the world to read, learn, meet and discover. Our new website goes a long way toward helping us achieve this mission. Please let us know what you think.

Pamela Nyberg Kiesner is the director of the Bellingham Public Library and the chair of the Library Council of Washington.

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