Massachusetts Libraries
welcome screen for Massachusetts Libraries. Text: Get access to everything we offer. Enter a library name, part of a name, zip code, or a city or town in Massachusetts.
(Forbes Library, Northampton, or 01063). Below this is a zip code search form.
Callan Bignoli (Web Coordinator, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners)


Who: MBLC = Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
  • Agency of state government that oversees & supports libraries
  • Grants, advisory services, resource sharing
    What: Portal to library resources
  • Find local library info & catalog
  • Access to article databases
  • Ebook collections
  • Search for literacy and citizenship classes, early childhood programs, etc.
zip code-based library search results with map markers and text details like address and phone number of library

Why: One-stop shopping for patrons
(no statewide discovery platform yet) photo showing all of the various online library services available to the average Massachusetts patron - Commonwealth Catalog, local catalog, local library and network, ebook collections, and so on. a frustrated user looks like her brain is going to explode as she contemplates it all.

Our Users

artistic rendering of a family of cats, all different colors and sizes with different facial features and details (Source: Bemain@deviantArt)

Everybody! (...but specifically, Massachusetts residents new to using library services)

v1.0: 2008 - 2011/12ish

the old homepage of Massachusetts Libraries, from 2008 to 2012

v1.1: 2011/12ish - 2016

the old homepage of Massachusetts Libraries, from 2012 to 2016

Accessing resources

to access many things on the old website, you had to enter your library card number

Do you know your 14-digit library card number?

Lots to maintain

long lists of external links on pages like recommended reads and job hunting/career resources

The mobile experience

the old mobile experience of the website. mostly not readable or usable on tablets, mobile phones, or even computers with smaller screens

New site launched September 14, 2016

screenshot of new website. four main sections: research and articles, digital collections, books and ebooks, and your local library

Key features

  • Responsive redesign
  • Instant access to databases (for geolocated MA residents - introduced in 2009 version)
  • Library card login still available to MA patrons visiting other states
  • Easy (we hope!) access to local & statewide catalogs, plus ebook collections
  • Zip code-based search for nearby programs & classes

The guts

screenshot of SecureCRT, editing php code in Vi right on the web server


Different scenarios for different users

  • geolocated vs. not
  • logged in with card vs. not
  • selected a home library vs. skipped
  • ebook access varies from library to library

Site map

site map showing subpages of the four main menu sections of the website

Also: ComCat info page (books_and_ebooks/comcat) and "Hours and More"/home library detail page

Design specs

  • Font: Open Sans
  • Color scheme & logo: Follows current MBLC branding guidelines
  • Images: Kept to a minimum. Used to help with navigation, explanation, branding, etc.

Analytics (Sept. 2015 - Sept. 2016)

  • Unique visits: 57,822
  • Visit duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds / 4.39 pages
  • Bounce rate: 10.27%
  • Geography: 92% U.S., 72.46% Massachusetts, 10.56% Boston

Usability study goals

Improve user experience useful, usable, desirable are the three legs of the user experience table

Is it useful?

  • Does the site help people find out what's available through Massachusetts libraries?
  • Does it help them access library collections and online content?
  • What's missing? What should we add next?

Is it usable?

  • Does the terminology make sense?
  • Is the experience similar to "the rest of the Web?"
  • Where are the pain points in the handoffs between the portal and the sites it links to?
  • How can we help orient new library users?

Is it desirable?

  • Do people want to use this site? Why or why not?
  • If they don't, what would change that?
  • Would they prefer to get this info another way (via Google or their local library website, etc.)?
  • Also: When do people want to use this vs. their library or network website? For what types of info? (certain things, like literacy, ESOL, etc. searches, are only available on the portal)

Study goals, continued

  • Assess this site's relationship to the external resources it links to (catalogs, database collections, etc.). Can users navigate back and forth between the two? What's jarring or unexpected for them?
  • Improve simplicity and predictability so users feel like they "get it" and are in control
  • Improve accessibility

Study goals, continued

  • Ensure bugs in content presentation are fixed across various device types, operating systems, and browsers
  • Improve findability and SEO - metadata recommendations very much welcomed!
  • Overall: Let us know if we're on the right track!

Potential test prompts

  • Find out how to sign up for a library card
  • Find your local library's website, operating hours, and directions
  • Choose a home library & switch to a different one
  • Search for classes and programs near you
  • Find information about accessibility options in MA public libraries

Test prompts, continued

  • Starting with the links on the portal...
  • find a book or DVD in your local catalog
  • find a book or DVD in the statewide Commonwealth Catalog
  • find ebooks - either a specific title and/or titles on a specific topic
  • find articles from The Boston Globe


Reach out
good luck kitty