The Hawaii State Public Library System serves as a pillar of our community helping to nurture a lifelong love of reading and learning through its physical and digital spaces. Averaging 80,000 visitors a month, the site is a robust and content rich adventure, that has something for people of all ages, needs, abilities, and interests. The site is more than just books — you can access quilt patterns, yearbooks, eBooks, talking books for the visually impaired, take free online classes, learn a new language or visit one of the 10,000 events they put on each year.

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library patrons

Some of the library patrons whose stories are featured.

Designed for people

User Centered Design is the process of designing a website from the perspective of a user. Through collaborative workshops, we uncovered design strategies that would appeal to both the fiercely loyal and new users alike. We used patrons’ personal stories about how the library has impacted their lives, to surface and promote the library’s diverse services, gave it a more friendly, conversational tone, and re-organized everything to reflect how patrons ask questions, making it easier for users to search and find the items they seek.

Many behaviors, one deep need

While creating user personas, we learned that while everyone uses the library for a thousand specific reasons, their positive and negative experiences of the library pivot on a perception of belonging. This insight led to our strategy of narrating the site through a series of stories about belonging and using narrative to expose the library’s hidden resources (books are all about telling stories, and so are websites).

Visual look and brand

The library card is an iconic symbol in Hawaii and enjoys massive brand recognition. Given this, it made sense to use the same elements to create our visual system. We also found an overwhelming sense of fierce brand loyalty among the frequent users so our strategy became to focus on them (and let the others come along).

The library card

The library card is an iconic symbol and a big part of the library’s brand.


The library has been thrilled with the reactions both among the staff, who found the new site instantly easier to use and can now more easily direct patrons to resources, and patrons, who are discovering resources they did not previously know were available. One of the biggest successes has been the event listings that now surface thousands of cultural, community, computer, reading, and instructional events at all the branches on all the islands. And everyone who uses the site seems to find at least one thing they did not previously know the library offered… which was exactly our goal!

Award winning

The redesign has delivered a new standard for library sites nationwide and has been the recipient of five awards, including Best Government Website.