Top 10 Academic Library Websites 2014

Here are my favorite academic libraries of 2014. I expected this year’s sites to be:

  • Unified – I wanted a seamless, integrated research experience.  I looked for cross-platform search tools, integration with courses,  and built-in, non-siloed research guides.
  • Instructive – I wanted the site to teach me how to be a better researcher.  I looked for embedded information literacy instruction and point-of-need help features.
  • Accessible – I wanted the site to be accessible by anyone from any device.

Here are the 2014 winners:

1) North Carolina State University

  • The NCSU Library has long been user-focused – as evidenced by their many user studies.
  • Their search tool searches across both resources and services, and has a powerful suggest-as-you-type feature that allows users to get quickly to what they need.
  • Courses are well-integrated into the site, with Course Tools that include both suggested resources and reserves.
  • The library’s research Guides are also well-integrated, keeping users on the library site.
  • Point-of-need help such as “What am I searching?”  next to search boxes and “Help Finding Articles” on the articles page.
Detail of NCSU search box showing suggestions

Detail of NCSU search dropdown

2) Cornell University 

  • This is my pick for this year’s Best Large Research library website.
  • This year they launched a new custom-built single search tool that searches across the library’s resources, website, and LibGuides.
  • The site supports their entire research community: while well-equipped for advanced researchers (check out the Current Awareness page with good tips on keeping up with scholarly journals), it also has plenty of built-in help for beginners, including an excellent Introduction to Research page.

3) Portland State University

  • This library is all about teaching users how to become better researchers: I love their interactive and modular DIY Library teaching tool.  The site is also packed with tutorials, how to’s, and workshops.
  • I also like the ease of course reserves searching, and prominence of course information.
PSU's Library DIY interactive tutorial

PSU’s Library DIY interactive tutorial

4) Wake Forest University

  • This site is my pick for Most Accessible – this was the only library I found that got a perfect score when tested for conformity with website accessibility standards.
Wake Forest University Library homepage

Wake Forest University Library homepage

5) Ithaca College 

  • A small college (<7000 FTE) with a great website.  Responsive, modern, and intuitive.   Featured on this list four years in a row!
  • Social interaction is encouraged by their home page”Talkback.”
  • Nicely integrated research and course guides.
  • Help is embedded throughout the site – see the Help Finding Articles link on the articles page, or call numbers explained on the books page, or “Why do we cite?” on the citation page.
  • They also have a great modular research tutorial, Research 101, that walks students through the research and search process.

6) Brigham Young University

  • Recently re-designed:  Modern, attractive, and fully responsive.
  • Non-bibliographic content such as library services and even librarian’s names are included in their single search tool.
  • Instructive:  I like the Articles page, with the prominent text “why should I also try databases and journals?”
BYU articles page

BYU articles page

7) Champlain College

  • This small college (<3000 FTE) is my pick for Best Small Library website.
  • Lots of help – this site is clearly focused on helping students through the entire research experience, with easy-to-find help for everything from writing an annotated bibliography to evaluating sources.
  • Research How Tos
  • Mobile friendly

8) University of Minnesota

UMN e-books help page

UMN e-books help page

9) University of British Columbia

  •  Jargon-free site: uses familiar language such as “Use the Library” and “Get Research Help.”
  • Their guides for library users help new users get started, and they’ve created customized guides for Undergraduates, Graduates, Faculty, Distance Students, and even Staff and Community.

10) McGill University

See also:

Top 10 Academic Library Websites 2013

Usable Libraries of the Week 2014


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