I have spent a majority of my professional life focused on two areas: learning and instruction & the web. I find these areas to be the most fascinating to me, and I love them equally, though they might not appear related at first glance.
Much of traditional library instruction is teaching people how to navigate and use the library website. How to find databases, how to pick a database from the list, how to search within it: none of these are skills that make sense outside of our own constructed online environment. Of course, instruction also includes finding and evaluating information on the general web, critical thinking, thesis formation, and other skills, but a bulk of our instruction has focused on the library’s website and the websites of the third party products we offer our communities.
Usability testing has always been fun for me, either from a web perspective or an instructional one. Usability testing is extremely valuable as an instructor. In really watching and hearing our users navigate our tools, we learn about how people approach the site and we see the common pitfalls users might make. This is a goldmine for instructors. When you see the same miss-step time and time again, you know you have something worth talking about in class.
Of course, this information is useful to a web professional as well. They see this issue and can actually fix it. Win win for everyone. My teaching was more effective, once the change was made the website was more intuitive, and the user had a better chance of success in their work at either point.
Much of the web (at least on the design side) is about how to set up a space where people can get what they need as easily as possible. I have found this to be, essentially, an instruction task. How do you set up a site so that it teaches the user how to use it? How do you frame the information in a way that is intuitive to its users? These questions can be informed by good instructional design, the feedback from users, and judicious use of analytics data.
Wether it’s using the website to find information (we teach people how to), to market what we do (the website teaching people about what we’re up to), or just informing people about the organization (signals sent through design and selection of images and creation of video), it’s all about teaching the users in one form or another. And that is why, in my own head, I have a hard time keeping the web distinct from the instruction mission of a library.