A cruisy Saturday shopping tripJune 7th, 2012
Are you getting excited about the re-opening of the Wellington National Library Building after its refurb? As someone who’s spent a lot of time there as a staff member and a customer, I’m really looking forward to it.
I’m especially looking forward to the opening of the digital spaces on the ground floor where the Lifelines table - a digital project I’ve been working on over the last year - will be finally released into the wild.
Get started with Lifelines by saying who you are or where you're from.
Lifelines will give people visiting the Library an opportunity to discover the content in our collections through their own personal history – the times they have lived in, their family name and the places in New Zealand they know.
It’s not a tool for researching family history though – it’s a way of looking through the richness of images related to those themes, making interesting discoveries about their time and place, and occasionally finding something that makes a personal connection.
Browsing the racks
There’s no search box and no keyboard in Lifelines. It’s operated by touch, with an interface that enhances the sense of browsing. Our early prototype testing has shown that it has the potential to lead browsers into unexpected pathways and places, and provide that delightful sense of new discovery.
All hands on touchscreen: trialling the Lifelines table. Photo by Stuart King.
Browsing and searching are quite different activities that often take place in the same arenas. For example two of my favourite activities – visiting a library and shopping for clothes – both lend themselves to browsing and searching.
Taking some time
Am I looking for something specific - a new pair of jeans perhaps, or books on growing organic veg in a garden box? Maybe I just want to get a sense of what’s on offer, and am happy to flick through the items on the rack or on the shelves, occasionally pulling one out to take a closer look – holding it up against my frame and checking it out in the mirror, or reading the blurb – while I try to figure out if it might be “me”.
Browsing through your people and places. Photo by Stuart King.
When I’m in searcher mode I’m goal focused – I want what I want, and I want to get it as quickly as possible with minimum distractions. When I’m browsing I’m looking for diversion, possibilities, and the richness of the experience.
I want the items I’m looking through to be pleasing and interesting in their own right. If it’s digital content I’m browsing that normally means fascinating images that are full of details and diversions.
Hitting the critical mass
Providing a good browsing experience for physical collections has been something that walk-in libraries have long aimed to provide, recognising the value for their visitors of delightful serendipitous discovery.
Making a personal connection. Photo by Stuart King.
Online library tools initially focused on searching, with text based systems and word matching being the order of the day. Now with a critical mass of historical and contemporary items in digital form we need to – and can – provide options for digital browsing. Library visitors are in for rich experiences that provide delight and diversion as they expand their knowledge of what’s available.
Get a taste for Lifelines by browsing through our online images. Let us know what you find!