The website for a repository is often the first, and sometimes only, interaction a potential user will have with the institution and the collections. It is important to make this exchange a positive one for the user by ensuring the site is easy-to-use and provides plenty of information both about the repository’s rules and services, as well as the collections and events connected to them. This paper will analyze the online portal for the University of Arizona Special Collections to determine whether it succeeds in meeting these necessary criteria and providing an engaging experience for their community of users.
The initial site of the University of Arizona Special Collections webpage (http://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/) is laid out very simply with a statement of who the repository is and what they do, a photograph and a description of the exhibit currently being featured in the gallery, “I’m For Stew: The Life and Times of Stewart Lee Udall.” This exhibit appeals to a variety of audiences based on the synopsis of Udall’s life, including politicians, environmentalists, civil rights advocates, the University of Arizona community (Udall was an alum), Arizona residents in general as he was a native.
The left side of the website has a navigation bar to easily maneuver through the website. This navigation bar is broken down into six categories: general information, collections, and reference services, searching tools, reproductions and public programs.
The “general information” section provides all manners of information that is important to know before visiting the repository, including hours, contact information for the department, collection use information and frequently asked questions. Accessing the frequently asked questions page, patrons can get answers about parking and location, but also can read the several pages of the collection development policy, the reading room policy and even to get contact information for appraisers in the Arizona area. The collection development policy is a very interesting read and very informative for potential visitors as it highlights the Special Collections’ focus on the University’s students and faculty, the regional and subject focus of the materials they have historically collected and a list of subjects the repository plans to continue to collect going forward. This whole section provides an idea of what inexperienced users can expect from the archive, the rules governing use of the materials, and informs all users about who and what the University of Arizona Special Collections is all about.
The next section is the Collections section, which contains links to “Book,” “Manuscript,” “Digital” and “Photographic and Graphic” pages describing collections. Using these links, site visitors can get an idea of the different materials housed at the special collections. This section, which should ideally be the strongest as it is supposed to inform viewers of the material available in the Special...