Document Type


Original Presentation Date



Presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association (MLA). Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Date of Submission

June 2016


Objectives: In order to better address the information needs of unaffiliated public health and primary care professionals, librarians undertook a project to strengthen usability and refine the content of a freely available website maintained by the library. Collaboration with an advisory committee of local and state health care professionals allowed librarians to schedule focus groups and usability testing with diverse groups.

Methods: While a freely available, library maintained website had a long history, usability testing had not been done after a platform upgrade. Outside funding provided library staff with resources to engage with community groups focused on supporting public health and primary care professionals. An advisory committee of stakeholders was formed to support the project. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches, including focus groups and usability testing, were used to collect and analyze data. Focus groups provided feedback on usability as well as suggestions for content. Feedback was transcribed to provide effective information for website updates and regularly shared with the advisory committee for review and input. Project librarians further researched content suggestions. Website content and navigation will be updated based on feedback and reviewed by the advisory committee. Other funding opportunities will be sought to further publicize an updated website.

Results: Feedback from multiple focus groups provided project librarians with information about how practitioners used the website. Feedback exposed issues related to the website that could easily be corrected and others that would need more in depth work. In addition, feedback on content demonstrated the need for resources on mental health and other topics. Usability testing was limited but structured task completion questions provided an overview of navigation and general design flaws that needed to be addressed. Preliminary consultations with library web designers generated an action plan for improving site design and navigation. Most focus group sessions concluded with a brief training period in which project librarians answered questions from participants about the site and demonstrated how to use site resources.

Conclusions: Project librarians gathered valuable information using the methods described. This was the first time the website had undergone any type of user testing and the project librarians concluded that further iterations of the site should be tested by practitioners. Unexpected benefits of the project include relationships built with practitioners through focus groups and the advisory committee. Future funding will be sought to finalize website improvements and begin efforts to train and promote the use of the site.

Is Part Of

VCU Libraries Faculty and Staff Presentations