Library websites often include widgets of various sorts. Hours widgets, chat widgets, and so on. Often these are built by outside vendors, and plopped into library pages by librarians. The intention, I suppose, is to provide functionality that the librarians may not want build themselves.

I have contradictory feelings about widgets. First, the bad things:

  • Widgets are usually not custom-built and therefore are often visually inconsistent with the page on which they are found. For this reason, they are often unintentionally conspicuous. Having multiple widgets on the page only amplifies the inconsistencies.
  • We generally don’t have control over vendor-provided widgets. We may be able to make changes via an admin panel, or by writing some CSS, but much of the widget is often only accessible by digging into the JavaScript. Most librarians will balk at this.
  • Widgets bring unnecessary complexity into a site. Complexity is unambiguously the enemy of a well-functioning site.

On the other hand,

  • Widgets provide functionality that you don’t have to build yourself. Maybe you don’t have the time or JavaScript skills to build particular functionality, but a widget helpfully offers a shortcut to get the needed content on the page.

What does this mean for the Kingsborough library? Our page currently has four widgets: a chat widget (built by Springshare), a room reservation widget (also built by Springshare), a search widget (built by our university’s central Office of Library Services), and an hours widget (that I built myself). If you wanted to, you could count a couple of other things, like modals, as widget-like too. While this is probably a common setup, in my opinion it may already be far too much. Short of advocating for greater digital minimalism, I think the best I can do is to attempt to smooth out the CSS to make it as seamless-looking as possible.

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