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[GUEST POST] Is your library search bar friendly?

Don Yarman is the Deputy Director of Delaware County Public Library.

Probably by now, you’re using a web browser that has a search box in the upper right-hand corner. Do you use it? You should; it’s handy and it’s awesome.

I used to hate it. I already had the Google toolbar and Google is my default start page. Why on earth do I need three ways to search Google when I open my browser? I’ve got Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, IMDB, and Wikipedia bookmarked already – I can just go to those sites if I want to search them.

Then I discovered the Firefox extension “Add to Search Bar.” After you load that into your copy of Firefox, all you need to do is right-click on a website’s search box, and that search becomes readily accessible from that box. It has changed my life.*

My favorite use for it is library catalogs. Since the search terms stay present in the box, I can first search my own library catalog, then the library nearest my house, then the biggest library in my region. Beyond that, I can search our first-source ILL lender, WorldCat, and Amazon. All this without retyping my search terms: I just pick a different target and press Enter.

Add to Search Bar doesn’t work with all search targets. The new Ohio Web Library search isn’t compatible, but you can still add OWL to your search bar by clicking the link on the resources page.

“So what does this mean to me, Don?”

  • Browsers have a search box right there in the user’s face. Sure, lots of people never move it off Google. But if they do, you want your library to be there.
  • Power users can figure out how to add our catalogs on their own, but we should make it easy for them and create prominent “Install the Library Catalog Search Plugin” links.**
  • Toolbars are handy, and great marketing, but they take up valuable screen real estate that could be used for displaying content. If your library has developed a toolbar, good for you; but make sure that your catalog can alternatively be added to the existing browser search box instead of making users add a special box just for you.

Last word: a theme that Mean Laura keeps bringing up here is that the web is no longer about “pages” – it’s about services and content that may or may not be tied to particular pages and sites. This is a fairly easy way for us to put our services where our users can more easily take advantage of them.


* You can also add search engines to IE; instructions can be found under the “Find More Providers…” option. More difficult than the Firefox right-click, but you might not be a Firefox fan. You would be wrong, but it’s a free country.

** I know what you’re saying, “Physician, heal thyself. Your library doesn’t have one of those links.” Shut up. We’re working on it.