Icons Add Interest to Your Web Design

If you didn’t notice it, there’s a new OPAC (that’s a snazzy library acronym for Online Public Access Catalog), or catalog, for the IU Libraries.  It’s called New IUCAT, and it can be accessed here.  I hope you’ll use it, as it’s decidedly more user-friendly than the classic IUCAT, and it’s got lots of nifty graphics.  Actually, that’s what this post is about.  One of my minor, though unexpectedly overwhelming, tasks regarding this migration to a new catalog is to try to find some icons to represent the various media formats available in the Libraries’ collections.  When you search New IUCAT, you have the ability to limit your search to certain formats.  There’s certainly a lot of stuff in these here libraries!  See:

format icons

“What the heck,” you might ask, “is ‘realia’?”  Well, it’s games, mostly.  If, for instance, an IU library circulates Bananagrams (a game I killed at back home over winter break, by the way), they are cataloged as realia, and are represented by a little icon of . . . um . . . something.   Other icons are clearer, though, and reveal to the youngest of IU Libraries users what, for instance, the ancient artifact called a videocassette looks like.

At this time, I’m still looking high and low for icons for streaming video and floppy disks. It’s, as I said, overwhelming trying to find just the right icon.  I’ve been scouring the Internet for open-source, royalty-free icon sets to fill in the format gaps.  There are plenty available for purchase, too, but with so many creative people offering the use of their (oftentimes pretty incredibly awesome) designs for free, there’s not much need to cough up cash if you’re after something cool.

For instance, I came across several sites that aggregate these widely and freely available designs, often with lists compiling the most “amazing” and “excellent” sets one can find on the Web.  If you’re interested, here’s a particularly good collection, rounded up by Naldz Graphics.

Icons are a great way for web designers to add character to their content, to establish a tone, to craft a personality for their site that just might set it apart from the competition.  They’re also a nice way to add some flair to your desktop if, say, the Indiana winter’s gotten you down and you’ve been spending more time staring at your computer screen than you’d like.  Take a look at these familiar icons, with a twist:


Of course, you must be careful when downloading any files to your computer.  Make sure you are downloading from a reputable site, scanning for viruses, etc.  And always read the fine print.  Just because an icon set is ostensibly free doesn’t necessarily mean its creator does not require some sort of attribution for its use.  Be careful and courteous out there, and have fun.  And also let me know if you find a really neato icon for a floppy disk!

The Pew Internet & American Life project and New IUCAT Beta

The Pew Internet & American Life project has released a new report entitled: Younger Americans’ Reading and Library Habits

You can find it here

You can see a summary here and/or download the full report.

This report covers the reading habits of 16 – 29 year olds, including the primary demographic for IU students.  The report mainly focuses on reading and how these demographics use e-books at a public library, but it also offers guidance about how discovery tools can be used. With IU about to launch a new discover library catalog interface I thought I would point out how New IUCAT Beta will address some of these suggestions.

Book covers – Many readers like to see what the book looks like as it inspires them to read it. New IUCAT Beta will contain Book covers supplied by Google Books. Eventually we hope to expand into DVD and CD covers as well.

Ease of finding books – New IUCAT Beta has easy to use facets to help users limit to just ebooks, or just print books, whatever the user prefers.

Ease of accessing e-materials – The New IUCAT Beta will allow users to have a one-step access to e-materials available to them. When they find an item they want, all they have to do is click on the URL. From there a login screen will pop up, the user logs in, and they now have access to their materials. There will no longer be a laborious login users have to get through.

List of new books – with the New IUCAT Beta users can RSS searches, allowing them to be notified when new books are added.

These are just some of the features the New IUCAT Beta has to offer users. Its an exciting and important change for IU, students, staff, and researchers.