Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

  • User Engagement
  • Visual Design
  • Organizational Strategy

Website Redesign

Visit the live site

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is more than the sum of its books. It is a community hub, with 19 locations across Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods.

But in being “all things to all people,” the Library’s website ended up trying to be everything for everyone, meaning that it ended up serving no one.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's homepage before Bearded's redesign.
Bearded's redesign of the Carnegie library website - much cleaner design.

The sprawling, desktop-only site consisted of thousands of pages, with just 13 pages making up 99.5% of site traffic. The Library realized that their site had turned into an overwhelming maze, with users unable to find key information. And, with no content management system, the site was time-consuming and clunky to keep current, with all updates funneling through one in-house developer.

What makes Bearded different is the directness and openness, and commitment to the process. This was truly a collaboration that led us to a more comprehensive understanding of how the site works, and how to continue to make it better as we go.

Toby Greenwalt Director of Digital Strategy Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Bearded worked with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to help redefine the role of the library in the digital age, and create a website suited to that purpose.

What Role Do Libraries Play in the Digital Age?

The best way to learn is to listen. We combed through the extensive research compiled by the Library’s team, and did our own. We listened to the Library’s stakeholders and users. We listened to what the site metrics were telling us. And we paid attention to other library websites and to industry studies.

I'm dying to get my hands on the new Kate Atkinson novel. Brianna Bookworm
The library is the only place I can use the internet for free. Offline Owen
I want to get a job, but it's been 20 years. Rachel Resource-Seeker
I want my daugthers to love reading. Diego Dad

We found that users’ number one goal is finding and getting materials — books, movies, music. And that more and more, users are turning to Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and Audible for those items. They like the ease of downloading and streaming content, and also the customized recommendations based on endless data. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh can’t compete with those companies, nor should it. What the Library should do is focus on what makes it so unique and special, which is its people — the community and serendipity that patrons experience at physical library locations.

Our redesign goals? First of all: A responsive site, with a prominent search, that a) wouldn’t leave mobile users hanging, and b) would connect patrons with the stuff they’re looking for. Beyond that: Play up the “library-ness” of the library. Make the web experience as human and friendly and helpful as the in-person library experience.

Streamline. Simplify.

A site structured around an organization’s internal teams and departments, rather than the needs of its users, ends up failing everyone. Bearded worked with the Library to streamline site architecture, so that content maps directly to patron motivations and questions.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh research resources portal

Doing research? No longer do you need to know the difference between a database, a subject guide, a special collection, and a tool. Go to the Research section, and browse or search by subject.

How to find a library branch's hours on the new site

Looking for branch hours? There’s a dropdown of all 19 locations in the footer of every single page of the entire site.

Library event page

Looking for something fun to do with the kids? Check out all events targeted to children in a particular age group, and even see related storytimes, classes, and programs on the same view.

Search bar on the new website

Looking for a book? To top it off, we prioritized search, featuring it prominently on the homepage and in the site header. You can’t miss it.

Humanize the Site

We’ve seen a lot of library websites that don’t look too different than Amazon or Barnes or Noble — lots of images of books. But the books themselves do not make the library. What makes Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh unique is its people.

So we brought the Library’s people into the fold, highlighting staff picks and curated “new and notable” lists on key pages throughout the site. Rather than displaying a book cover to tease a pick, we use the librarian’s first name, their branch, and their smiling face. Instant connection.

Additionally, we’re empowering these staff members to take ownership of the site. Staff have WordPress user accounts, with targeted permission levels, so they can make edits and updates to the content they care about.

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