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Web writing tip: Just give them the fish

You've probably heard the proverb, "Give a patron a resource, and you satisfy his curiosity for today; show him how to find a resource, and you teach him to learn for a lifetime."* Be careful about applying this advice to your library's website. Sometimes you should just give the patron the resource, in the form of a direct link.

Imagine a brief article for the library's homepage about a new online resource subscription. Which version do you think will entice more patrons to try it?

  1. We are pleased to offer a new resource to help answer any question you could possibly think of. Use it to find directions for any task, get a new and better job, and make the correct decision in every situation. To get started, click the "Resources" link above, then scroll to the bottom of the page and click the link that says "Magical Font of All Knowledge."
  2. Would you like to find directions for any task, get a new and better job, and make the correct decision in every situation? Try Magical Font of All Knowledge, a new resource that we are pleased to offer. Magical Font of All Knowledge can help answer any question you could possibly think of. Learn more.**

Blurb A is what you should teach patrons when they visit the library and say, "I'm really interested in using Magical Font of All Knowledge. Can you remind me how to find it?"

Blurb B makes the resource easy for casual website visitors to try because the links are right there. Website visitors are usually in a hurry, and they are unlikely to fish around to find resources unless they absolutely have to. Direct links increase the odds that visitors will try the resource.

* It's an old information literacy proverb, right? I'm sure that's how it went.

** Imagine all these links pointed to the authentication URL for the database. I wish it existed. Database vendors, are you listening?

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