Tech Tips: Come into Our Parlour ... MCL's New Website

Tech Tips
In the past week or so, the Barcelona Football [Soccer] club completed an incredible and unprecedented comeback to defeat Paris Saint-Germain in the EFEA Champions League quarter finals; and the Mid-Atlantic region of the country experienced multiple 60-degree days in the middle of winter (but as I type this, we are awaiting a blizzard that promises 12-16 inches of snow). These are both important, note-worthy stories, in their way.

But if you are reading this post, you are almost certainly from Mercer County, NJ. And if you are from Mercer County, neither of the stories listed above was the top story of the week for you. For you, the undoubted top story (not just top tech story; but rather top story FULL-STOP) of the week was: The Mercer County Library System, quietly and without fanfare, launched its brand-spanking new website on March 2, 2017.

So for the benefit of the two or three of you (at most) who haven’t already heard this news, I will herewith point out some of the more salient new features of the site. The new site is, admittedly, much different-looking from the previous site, which is immediately apparent:

The new site is cleaner and perhaps a bit more understated than the previous site.
Websites, old and new
There’s one important thing in terms of looks the new site has that the previous site did not: the built-in ability to adjust itself to the screen size and orientation of the device upon which it is being viewed. Nowadays, many people, maybe even most people, opt to access the internet on a smartphone or tablet. It is important that websites be adaptable to this new reality to be useful to potential visitors. To the right above, you see what our new site looks like on a typical desktop PC screen. But when you access the site on your smart phone, it will look more like this:
Smartphone 1
Or this:
Smartphone 2

depending on the orientation of the device.

The main menu collapses in on itself, black hole-like, except, unlike with a black hole, the information (i.e., the links) contained therein is still accessible with a tap of your finger. The rest of the page realigns itself into a single (sometimes very long, depending on the amount of information on the page) column so that there is no need for any left-right scrolling. The whole page can be accessed with a few up-down flicks of the thumb or finger.

On most tablets, the new site will look nearly the same as it does on a PC if the tablet is held in horizontal-wide orientation:
Tablet view 1

The main menu spills over on to a second line but the menu-block enlarges to accommodate it: no information is blocked or overlapped. The main body of the site displays pretty much as it would on a PC screen.

When the tablet is held in a vertical orientation, the site displays pretty much as it would on a smart phone when held in the same orientation (which is to say, the way phones are typically held):
Tablet view 2

Again you see the main menu collapsed; and a single vertically-scrollable column of information in the body underneath … you know the drill from the discussion of the main smart phone displays above.

Quite a few substantive things have changed on the new site too, but the Databases page is probably the biggest change. If you are used to the old pages(s), the new one is a little different; but it will definitely be worth your while to explore it and familiarize yourself with it.

On the former, now-retired site, there had to be two databases pages: one listing all of the databases we subscribe to (the Databases Available Within the Library System page) and a second page that listed the subset of those Databases that are also Available from Home or Office.
Old Databases

These could not all be listed on one page under the general heading “Databases” because not all of them are available everywhere. And many of them have entirely different web addresses for home users (these URLs would typically take home users to a splash screen where they would be required to enter their library barcode to verify they were patrons of the library).

But on our new site, all of our subscription databases (and a few useful websites, as well!) are listed on one page because the new database page is sortable by Subject; Type; and Availability—which is nothing short of awesome!
Database page sort
Let’s say you are accessing our Databases page from home, which pretty necessarily means you would be interested only in those databases that will be available to you from home; and further: Let’s assume that you are interested only in seeing subscription databases (i.e., not websites); and maybe the subject you are interested in researching is Careers & Job Hunting.

You are in luck. Because on the new site, you can reduce the databases listed to precisely that limited subset by choosing:

Subject: Careers & Job Hunting
Type: Subscription Databases
Availability: Available Everywhere (i.e., both in-library and from home)

Hit the “Apply” button, and the only links you will see will be ones that meet all of these criteria:
Career Search Sort

Should you decide you’ve narrowed things a bit too much and, on second thought, would like to see both subscription databases and websites relating to careers and job hunting, go back up to the Type sort, change it to “— Any —“ and hit the Apply button:
Career Sort 2

The websites above (and a few others) will now be listed along with the subscription databases you saw in your first sort. I know! Awesome, right? From here, you can probably figure out for yourself the many ways that the new Databases page can be customized to make your research more focused and pointed.

We at the Mercer County Library System hope you will explore our new website and that you will find it even easier to use than the previous iteration.

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