Search Interface Public Libraries


A (brief) history

Interface: a definition


+ modes of information seeking

+ cognitive load


+ usability testing


+ faceted searching

+ displaying results

Challenges for libraries

+ public libraries

+ academic libraries

The future/Conclusion


Libraries have vested interest in interface design. As Kitalong, Hoeppner, and Scharf assert, "library searching is less familiar than Google searching to most users and therefore may be more intimidating to the average user in the this age of ubiquitous Internet access" (2009; p. 178). Points of consideration for interface design in public and academic library settings are highlighted below.

Public Libraries

According to the 2006 Census, the number of people aged 65 and over increased by more than 446,700 compared with 2001, topping the 4 million mark for the first time (4.3 million) (StatsCan). This statistic carries significant implications for public libraries, who serve users of all ages. In his article Interface Design and Engagement with Older People, Hawthorn explains that user-centered design often falls short when applied to older users (2007, p. 335). The approach assumes that "the users are not unlike the designer, certainly with fewer design skills but with a basic minimum of computer knowledge, a common language, [etc.]" (2007, p.335). Unlike younger users, older users were not born digital and often lack the shared knowledge and language, referred to by Hawthorn, needed to make their needs and opinions known. Companies such as Microsoft have attempted to address the issue; in March of 1995 it released Bob, a nontechnical or metaphorical interface which replicated the inside of a house (

(Microsoft Bob)

The 'dumbed down' interface incurred negative response from older users though, aptly illustrating that a fine line exists between being user-friendly and just plain pedantic. As Hawthorn says, "useful interaction with representative older users during the development of designs [...] requires approaches outside the scope of typical user centered design" (2007, p. 335).

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Search Interface: In Your Face
By Lindsay Tripp and Neil MacDonald
LIBR 557: Information Retrieval Concepts and Practice
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC
December 4th, 2009