Putting the User First

Cover image of Putting the User FirstWe here in Discovery & Research Services are VERY happy to congratulate our fearless leader, Courtney McDonald, on the publication of her new book! Putting the User First: 30 Strategies for Transforming Library Services, published by ACRL, can (and should! do it!) be purchased via the ALA Store online.

I haven’t had time to read the book yet, but I’ve spent a few minutes skimming through it, so I have some first impressions. It’s a small square book, entirely unintimidating; each of its short chapters explores one thing that you can do to make your library better for its users (patrons, customers, whatEVER). I imagine this as a book you’d have sitting on your desk for a while, and maybe you’d pick it up and read one chapter every morning before diving into the workday. Sort of a “daily meditation” thing, although the whole point of the book is to actually DO something, not just meditate about it. Those who know Courtney will find a familiar voice throughout – conversational, whimsical, but in the end very practical.

Here’s a peek inside the book. This is the content strategy chapter. Yes, I totally cut off the side of the right-hand page. I have no shame – you’ll just have to buy it if you want to see what’s there… :)

Partial view of the "Curate" chapter

Congratulations to Courtney!

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Looking Back, Moving Forward – New Website is Launched!

Today (July 7, 2014) marks the official launch date of the Libraries’ new Drupal-powered website and the decommissioning of our old site, along with the locally-developed content management system that powers it (the Content Manager, or CM). This is a pretty big milestone for us in a lot of ways. The new site will be easier for us to maintain; it will make it easier to manage our content strategically; and most importantly, we think it will be easier for our users to navigate and find the information that they need.

Libraries' home page in 2001

This was our home page in 2001, pre-Content Manager.

We initially launched our old site in 2002. At the time, having a database-driven website and a content management system was a HUGE step forward for us; our previous site had been simply a homepage which linked out to pages on a whole bunch of different accounts housed on IU’s central web server. On that old site, when we wanted to make a change to the site template (like when we added the two round buttons to the left-hand navigation in the image above), someone actually had to email everybody who managed library web pages, send them the HTML for the new template, and ask them to please change all their pages.

We’ve come a long way, baby!

Libraries' home page in Nov. 2002

Home page in Nov. 2002 (first iteration of the Content Manager site)

We made some improvements to the site over the years – including a couple of visual refreshes, implementation of the Google Search Appliance, replacement of the “Find Information” page with the “Resource Gateway,” and the launch of subject pages, which combined the old “Databases by Subject” with the collection pages. But the basic structure of the site, and the content management system behind it, remained pretty much the same.

Libraries' home page in 2007

Home page following the 2007 visual refresh & implementation of subject pages

By the way, I used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to come up with those screenshots. If you want to revisit our old site, that’s the place to go!

And, one last look at the final iteration of the Content Manager-powered site:

Libraries' home page in 2014, pre-migration

Farewell, old site!

Thinking back on the history of our site and how it’s changed since 2002, I decided to look at amazon.com and see what it looked like back then. Over the years, Amazon has changed its site quite a bit – but for the most part its changes have been incremental. You don’t generally go to Amazon and find a completely different site than the one you’re used to using, but they make small changes in design and functionality ALL THE TIME, and those changes add up! Here’s what Amazon’s home page looked like in 2002:

amazon.com home page in 2002

Compare this to the amazon.com of today.

We were playing Everquest and buying Monsters Inc. on VHS…

detail from amazon.com home page, 2002

Those were the days!

Check out the Toshiba Pocket PC. What incredible technology! ;)

Toshiba Pocket PC ad from amazon.com, 2002

Did anybody have one of these?

And of course your 2002 life would not have been complete without Chicken Dance Elmo…

ad for Chicken Dance Elmo toy, amazon.com 2002

CHICKEN DANCE ELMO!

The world has indeed changed since 2002. The Content Manager was a pretty big step forward then, but it’s time to move on! We’re happy to launch the new website and say goodbye to the old – we hope you will be, too.

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New databases for June

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from June 2-30 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

NOTE: While both the new and legacy websites are running in parallel, we will provide database links for both entry points. The first link (with countResources.php in it) comes from the legacy website; the second comes from the new site. If you have questions, please contact Anne, Courtney, or Rachael in DRS.

CINAHL Complete
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=46428697

FOREIGN OFFICE FILES FOR INDIA, PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=45793744

Henry Stewart Talks Introduction to Cheminformatics
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=46215975

IBISWorld
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=46003960

Stalin Digital Archive
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=46641419

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New databases for May

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from May 1-30 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

NOTE: While both the new and legacy websites are running in parallel, we will provide database links for both entry points. The first link (with countResources.php in it) comes from the legacy website; the second comes from the new site. If you have questions, please contact Anne, Courtney, or Rachael in DRS.

The Arabidopsis information resource.
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44535641
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/tair

Arte Publico Hispanic Historical Collections Series 1
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=45373737
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/arte-publico-series1

Bankscope
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44744873
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/bankscope

China Statistical Yearbooks Database-English
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=45583714
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/china-stat-yearbooks-english

China Statistical Yearbooks Database-Simplified Chinese
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=45583716
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/china-stat-yearbooks-chinese

The Latino-Hispanic American Experience: Leaders
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=45373736
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/latino-hispanic-leaders

Oxford Journals Online Archive-Medicine
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44954374
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/oxford-medicine-archive

Oxford Journals Online Current-Medicine
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44954375
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/oxford-medicine-current

PhilPapers: Philosophical Research Online
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44535642
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/philpapers

Sovetskaia Kul’tura Digital Archive
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=45163866
http://new.libraries.iub.edu/resources/da-sk

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Confab Central 2014: Big Thoughts on Digital Governance

sign reading "Welcome to Confab Central"Following last year’s most excellent experience at Confab, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend again this year (now rebranded as “Confab Central,” as Confab Events has expanded to offer events for several specific audiences) but was a little nervous that it wouldn’t be as good an experience the second time around. I needn’t have worried. While there were perhaps fewer presentations that blew my mind, every session I attended was solid and gave me something to think about, and there was a great mix of inspiration, big-picture strategic thinking, and hands-on tactical ideas to bring home via one’s to-do list – as well as networking opportunities with hundreds of very smart, very friendly content strategists.

Thanks to a Professional Development Grant from the IU Bloomington Professional Staff Council, this year I was able to attend one of the optional full-day workshops presented the day before the conference proper began. These workshops ran from 9:00-5:00 with a lunch break (during which, thanks to aforementioned networking opportunities, the learning did not stop) – so it really was a full day of filling up my brain with new ideas and big thoughts. I knew I should’ve emptied out some of those memorized 1970s song lyrics ahead of time in order to make some extra brain space.

My workshop was “Doing the Right Thing: Web Governance for Your Organization,” presented by Lisa Welchman. As we’ve been so focused here on planning the launch of the Libraries’ new website, I’ve had many thoughts about governance at that level – who should be responsible for what content (things like library services, “About the Libraries,” the home page, etc. often require input from multiple sources, but someone has to be the final arbiter of what gets published), how CMS training should be managed, whether at least some content needs to be approved prior to publication, whether anyone other than the content creator/owner should have the authority to delete content if for example it turns out to be duplicative or is so outdated as to be less than confidence-inspiring, and so on. These are all nuts-and-bolts, tactical questions – and as it turned out, Ms. Welchman’s workshop focused on much more big-picture, strategic issues.

Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t useful. I learned a TON, and thinking about the big questions of governance at the organizational level definitely helps me to understand how the local/tactical issues should be approached. I may not have the authority to say “okay, you associate deans, go into a room and don’t come out until you’ve outlined a digital strategy for the Libraries” – but thinking strategically is useful for anyone at any level, I believe.

As Welchman began describing what she meant by “governance,” I realized that here in the Libraries, this structure is incredibly large and complicated. We’re talking not just about the content creators, editors, coders, etc. who make the Libraries’ website happen – but also about other digital presences (social media, LibGuides, digital collections, this blog), and about responsibilities that fall under the purview of Library Technologies Core Services, UITS, etc. all the way up to the Vice President for IT. The Libraries’ digital strategy and policies are governed both by the Libraries’ mission and overall strategic plan and by larger University-wide strategies and policies. Our governance structure is also influenced by people and groups outside of IU, such as the consultants with whom we contracted to help migrate our website and even those responsible for outside services we use. (As an example, some social media services make it difficult to change the name of an account, so if you want to change your branding from “Herman B Wells Library” to “IUB Libraries” it can be tricky.)

Clearly, we’re not talking about a “web team” of half a dozen people who could sit down in a room together!

So I didn’t come away from this workshop with a to-do list of actionable ideas, but with a better understanding of some strategic concepts:

  • Governance as the mechanism by which strategy is implemented
  • The difference between standards (guidelines for getting work done) and policy, which is set at a much higher level of the organization (“if you break it someone might get sued”)
  • Lisa Welchman: “I don’t believe in ‘best practices.’ I believe in stuff that works.” You should learn about best practices, but then adhere only to the ones that actually make sense for your work.
  • The difference between policy authorship and policy stewardship – oftentimes the part of an organization that is really good at writing policy is different from the part that is really good at managing existing policy.
  • Best ways to communicate standards to your community – this is something that is very applicable to my day-to-day work managing web content that is created by dozens of authors. When you create a new “best practice” you need to communicate the standard for it, provide a deadline for compliance, and then measure compliance in a structured manner.

I’ll continue to review my notes from this workshop and from the rest of Confab Central – watch for future blog posts featuring more of my 2014 takeaways.

Besides the snacks, that is. Once again, Confab did not disappoint in the food department – they take really good care of us there! One of my takeaways may have been a few pounds, due to deliciousness like this in between sessions:

menu for afternoon snack at Confab Central, featuring local cheeses

Those Minnesotans, man. They know how to throw a party extremely useful professional conference.

As a side note, Lisa Welchman’s book, Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, is due out from Rosenfeld Media in the near future. It should be worth a look.

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Your Website is a Verb: Some follow-up resources

My thanks to the wonderful folks at Confab Central for the opportunity to present my lightning talk “Your Website is a Verb: Persuading Librarians to Let Go.” For anyone who might be interested in looking into the topic a little further, here are a few readings I’ve found particularly enlightening.

Confabber Hilary Marsh has some slides on Content Strategy for Library Websites which help outline the specific problems we face in this environment.

Amanda Costello’s Confab 2013 presentation “I Don’t Have Your Ph.D.: Working with Faculty & the Web” was important in shaping my thoughts about working with librarians, who are a lot like teaching faculty; I’ve used several of her tips with success.

Aaron Schmidt maintains (correctly, I believe) that Library Websites Should Be Smaller. And in “Give Them What They Want,” he also looks at what might happen if the library website disappeared (noooooooo!) and what that tells us about our users’ needs. The latter article is more relevant to public library sites than to academic/research libraries, but it’s a useful perspective nonetheless.

Rebecca Blakiston at the University of Arizona has a very good article on Developing a Content Strategy for an Academic Library Website. If you’re not affiliated with a library that subscribes to the journal this is published in, see if you can get it via Interlibrary Loan or something. (IU folks, you should be able to access the article.)

I mentioned briefly (heck, everything was brief, that’s the whole point of a lightning talk) that one of the special problems libraries face is our plethora of subscription-based vendor-provided resources, with their dizzying multitude of different interfaces and options. This strays beyond content strategy a bit, but this article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed talks about discovery tools – one of the big guns we drag out in an attempt to tackle this problem. It also features IU’s own assessment librarian (go Andrew!). As Researchers Turn to Google, Libraries Navigate the Messy World of Discovery Tools.

Finally, I keep coming back to good old Ranganathan and his Five Laws of Library Science – especially “Save the time of the reader.” Claire Rasmussen wrote a fantastic post on the Brain Traffic blog a couple of years ago that literally had me bouncing up and down in my seat with how nicely it ties together the basic principles of librarianship and those of content strategy. Plus, best title ever: Do It Like a Librarian: Ranganathan for Content Strategists.

disorderly, overstuffed bookstore shelves

how not to do it! photo credit – flickr/ jessica

You can find the slides from my lightning talk at https://iu.box.com/webverb.

Update: Slides are also available on Slideshare – http://www.slideshare.net/annehaines/your-website-is-a-verb-persuading-librarians-to-let-go

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The Future of Academic Libraries: Our Role

download

In a recent piece published on the Huffington Post College Blog, librarians Jane Carlin (University of Puget Sound) and Barb Macke (University of Cincinnati), tackled one of the biggest questions facing the future of academic libraries: Do they need to keep collecting books?

Although these two librarians admit their bias (as most of us in the library world foster) toward the physicality of actual books, they examine the situations that are consistently facing academic libraries in the 21st Century.  These center on the lack of usage for physical books by student patrons and the new demands for library spaces.  They also focus on the “Three C’s” of academic library services as dictated by student visitors.

These include Collaboration (creating collaborative spaces in academic libraries for students and faculty), Creation (making the academic library the center of knowledge creation on campus), and Contemplation (creating that “awe” moment in reading rooms or library facilities that enriches academic programs).  In addition to these three criteria, the authors encourage academic libraries to look to the future of academic models, shifting from collection-based experiences to engagement-based experiences with an emphasis on advanced technology, special collections and flexible environments.

This engagement-based path of academic libraries, in lieu of massive print collections, has also been under scrutiny due to unclear, and often unfair, copyright laws that govern the ways in which academic libraries can share and utilize subscriptions to ebooks.  A recent effort led by library directors from 66 small academic libraries, known as the “Oberlin Group,” has attempted to fight back against publisher restrictions on sharing ebooks between institutions.  The ability to utilize inter-library loan allows smaller academic libraries to build competitive collections without spending the same amounts of money as large research universities.

So what does this mean for DRS?  As students and academic libraries begin to shift away from collection-based attraction, online environments become much more important.  If the interactions that students and faculty are having with resources are increasingly online, then it is up to people like us to make sure that finding and using resources online is just as intuitive as taking something off of a shelf.  It is important for everyone involved in academic libraries to understand the foundational changes that are going on in our industry.  Here at IU, these changes are becoming more apparent with the creation of the Scholars’ Commons, which is currently undergoing construction.

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New databases for April

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the Resource Gateway from April 1-30 (and some for which the vendor has changed). You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject pages. If you have questions about a particular resource, please consult its “About” file to find contact information for the resource advocate. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month.

Art Source
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44326513

Manos Teatrales
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44118163

Memoria Centroamericana
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44118165

Opening the Archives Project
http://www.libraries.iub.edu/scripts/countResources.php?resourceId=44118164

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Your Website is a Verb: Persuading Librarians to Let Go

Loyal readers of this blog (hi Mom!) will recall that last year I attended an amazing content strategy conference, Confab. I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to attend again this year – and in fact, thanks to a Professional Development Grant from the IU Bloomington Professional Staff Council, this time around I get to include a full-day workshop the day before the conference proper. So excited!

So when the Confab organizers sent out a call for lightning talk proposals – five-minute talks, using twenty slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds – I decided to throw my hat in the ring. Lo and behold, when I was on vacation last week – I was in the middle of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, of all places, when I happened to check my email – I got the amazing news that my proposal had been accepted. (The Johnny Cash Museum is very very cool, by the way. Highly recommended.) I’ll be presenting along with six other content strategists on May 8th – here’s the list of topics, and here’s the proposal I submitted (the rule was that it had to be three sentences):

Your Website is a Verb: Persuading Librarians to Let Go

In a large academic research library, “KEEP ALL OF THE THINGS” is a legitimate part of our mission. While that’s a useful mission when it comes to books, it spells disaster for a website, something that became both painfully clear and critically important to address during a recent CMS migration. I’ll talk about persuading librarians – a tough crowd – to let go of some of their content in the interest of providing an active and engaging experience for their users, and I promise not to invoke that song from “Frozen” in the process.

I’m super excited, a little terrified (last year every presenter at Confab was amazing, so they have high standards), and really looking forward to hearing what the other presenters have to say!

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The Faces of DRS presents : Rachael Cohen

The Discovery and Research Services (DRS) department is the new kid on the block in the Wells Library, so we’re pretty keen to show everyone who we are and what we do. The Faces of DRS (formerly DUX), reDUX’s recurring feature, is intended to do just that. Each post will introduce one department member to give the readers some insight into what the department is all about and how we fit into library world. So without further ado, let’s find out what makes DRS tick!
Rachael Cohen, Digital User Experience Librarian

Rachael Cohen
Digital User Experience Librarian

Rachael Cohen is the Digital User Experience Librarian, which is a brand new position here in Discovery and Research Services. A Minnesota native, Rachael was first trained in the arts of educational media and technology combined with computer science and information systems.  This gave her both the technical skills and foundational experience in public services that would guide her towards her epic journey into Library Land.

Her greatest adventures in discovery-swordsmanship training first took place in the mystical realm of the Wells Library, where she met many of the wisest library wizards, elves, and catladies. An MLS/MIS student of the-then School of Library and Information Science at IU, Rachael tailored her graduate school experience to engage in a variety of practical applications of patron-focused academic librarianship. From serving as a gateway of knowledge for library visitors as a reference assistant, instruction assistant, and cataloger, to supporting manuscript preparation and running an RPS library, Rachael bridged all of these experiences when she joined our formally-named Digital User Experience department to help develop the new IUCAT and OneSearch@IU. She was perfect for this thanks to her keen ability to translate techspeak into a patron-driven design and implementation.

Then, she graduated from SLIS, and was swept away to the land of bitter cold Grand Forks. For a year, Rachael operated the Grand Forks Air Force Base Library as the Library Director. Not only did she do everything under the sun as collection manager, instructor, technology specialist, marketing and outreach extraordinaire, Rachael also commanded the troops for transforming the library into an information commons. Working with military personnel, she faced the challenge of learning a new language and set of sensibilities, which has helped prepare her for future battles.

In January, Rachael came back home to Indiana University. Now, along with her tech-wizardstaff, she wields a sharp(ened) sword that is forged with the magic of discovery to slay (troubleshoot) any enemy (problem) to ensure the digital livelihood of library patrons. We couldn’t be happier for Return of the Rachael at DRS, especially as we endure through the Age of Web Migration.

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