Curating content and form

Reading Cindy Romaine’s article “The Consumer Electronics Show – insights for SLA” on SLA’s Future Ready 365, the phrase that stands out for me is: “Data devices, or form factors, were very elegant and restrained. It seemed that there was an effort not to overwhelm the consumer with technical options, but to simplify and curate”.

Through collection management and selection, librarians curate content for their patrons. But just as a museum curator not only selects artworks for an exhibition but also takes care of showcasing them (by painting the wall where a painting is hung, for example), so librarians should not only focus on curating content but also curate form.

In my view, the presentation of our well-curated content should be as “elegant and restrained” in design as the devices Cindy talks about. No doubt our discovery systems offer a wealth of technical options (navigating, faceting, word/tag cloud etc.), but librarians should curate these options and where possible simplify so as not to try to do too much and overwhelm the users (who might just – unconsciously – shy away from a library catalog they don’t understand as intuitively as their electronic devices).

The simplicity and functionality of handhelds, cell phones or tablets shape user experience just as much as the web sites they visit, so aspects like these have to be factored in when thinking about catalog interfaces, and curation is as important for form as for content.

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