MIT Libraries Creates Final Resting Place for Failed Apps

University libraries nationwide are attempting to make scholarly research easier, whether with browser extensions or iPad applications. For technologies in the testing stages, though, low usage or lack of support can lead to an early demise.

MIT Libraries has created a place to for these tools after they’ve come face to face with the grim reaper—its Beta Graveyard.

Remlee Green, user-experience librarian at MIT, developed the site to remember search tools that have been discontinued.

“The spirit of experimentation is in trying new things,” Green said. “Even if it wasn’t perfect for us, there are some positives in those tools. We try to find out what works in something that’s broken.”

A headstone-esque screenshot on the site is accompanied by an epitaph commemorating the life of the particular beta.

The resting place is occupied so far by two applications: iGoogle and Facebook tools for searching the libraries’ Web catalog and collection of online journals and databases.

The plan is to annually add betas to the graveyard that either fail or have been surpassed by another superior technology.

Ken Varnum, Web-systems manager at the University of Michigan Libraries, said his institution’s practice is making unsuccessful betas harder to find on its Web site. MLibrary Labs, its testing affiliate, has experimented with betas for a little more than two years.

“We’re not as active developers as MIT, but it’s an example we might want to emulate,” Varnum said. “It’s brave they don’t hide their failures, and leave it so others can build on it.”

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