Hekman Library launches redesigned website

The Hekman Library at Calvin College is the largest private library in Michigan and offers instant access to over two million books, articles, government documents and recordings.

However, sorting through the collection can be a bit daunting. To make discovery simple and intuitive, the library staff completely redesigned the Hekman website this summer.

Using analytics software, the library staff discovered that about 90 percent of website visitors were looking for books or articles. With that in mind, they designed the new website to help students discover these resources.

Glenn Remelts, Calvin’s library director, explained the creation of the new website. “We thought, okay, let’s make discovery front and center. That was our goal: to make discovery obvious and to make it easy.”

To make that goal a reality, library programmers Dan Wells and Remy Steed worked through the summer to build the new site from the ground up.

The new website features a large “Search Start” box on its home page. Using this search tool, students can easily explore multiple collections and databases without re-entering their search terms or switching between webpages.

Remelts explained, “All you have to do is just put your phrase in, click ‘Books’ or click ‘Articles’ and the system starts to do everything for you.”

The simplification of the library’s discovery tools has not come at the expense of more advanced features. Directly below the main search box, the new website features familiar links to lists of databases organized by subject and an A to Z index of all available databases.

In addition, there is a new database search tool which instantly suggests helpful databases based on database name or subject area.

In a recent library newsletter, Remelts wrote, “We sought to blend the ease of Google with the sophistication and distinctiveness of the library’s research tools. In other words, we wanted to make discovery easy for those who only need ‘good enough’ searches and to keep the sophisticated, better-than-Google research tools prominently displayed for those needing advanced searches.”

While the new website is a step forward, quality academic research may still seem a daunting task for those unversed in the library’s resources.

“With these new research databases now, it’s so easy to find a thousand items,” Remelts said. “So what do you do with those thousand? You have to discern; you have to figure out how to determine, out of these thousand, the 10 best?”

To help students sift through the myriad of research materials, the library has a dedicated staff of research librarians. Students can meet with these librarians at the second floor research assistance desk, or, if they are deep in research elsewhere, students can text the research librarians or instant message them via the library website.

By combining these accessible aids with its vast collection, the Hekman Library benefits both beginners and experienced researchers.

In a recent academic bulletin, Remelts wrote, “It is difficult to serve the needs of the novice and the expert with the same website but we believe this redesign moves us closer to improving the journey of discovery for everyone.”

For more information regarding the library’s resources, visit the Hekman Library Open House on Thursday, Sept. 12 from 3-5 p.m.