Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How big is Summon right now?

I just noticed that the number of items Summon says we have within and outside of our collection.

Within our collection there are are:
65,022,106 items
  • 51,749,144 journal articles
  • 11,824,532 newspaper articles
  • 629,475 trade publication articles
  • 408,957 books
  • 159,911 audio recordings
  • 143,292 book reviews

With a language breakdown of
  • English (63,431,926)
  • French (166,902)
  • German (126,925)
  • Spanish (60,797)
  • Japanese (45,541)
  • Chinese (39,077)

When you extend the search outside of our collection you get
495,415,785 items

  • 112,587,009 journal articles
  • 361,490,384 newspaper articles
  • 3,884,816 patents
  • 3,551,703, theses
  • 851, 262 books

With a language breakdown of:
  • English (473,599,062)
  • Japanese (5,571,128)
  • Spanish (5,247,447)
  • German (3,243,938)
  • French (2,791,481)
  • Portuguese (1,685,196)
That's a propos of nothing really except that it just struck me how big it is.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Google Scholar Widget with EZproxy

I've updated the Google Scholar widget we use in LibGuides and other places so that it automatically uses EZproxy. This means that the 'Find It @ JCU' link will appear regardless of whether the user has set their Scholar preferences to show JCU's openurl link resolver.

I tried this in the past but found that form inputs wouldn't pass through from the form through EZproxy to Scholar. But Helen Hooper raised the issue again so I took another look and found OCLC has instructions for allowing a form to use the ezproxy prefix in a form action.

Even better is that because the master code is stored in a LibGuides content box, and our LibGuides link to it AND because the gadget code I distribute is called from LibGuides I've managed to update all instances of the code with one edit. Chuffed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Web Usability with (almost) no resources

Just starting a review of JCU Library's web presence. I'm adopting the Steve Krug methodology of user involvement early, often, regular, in small numbers.

I've been researching intently on different approaches and Krug's pragmatism is very appealling. I'm not a web usability consultant with a team and $100,000 contract (I've worked in that situation in the past - but as the client). I'm just a wee library tech head with wide ranging responsibilities and no dedicated staff. I can draw on my colleagues to help but they too have wide ranging responsibilities and little time to dedicate to other projects.

Simple points Krug makes:
  • Usability testing can be done in house (it's not rocket surgerytm)
  • Any testing is better than no testing
  • 3 users will tell you 80% of what 20 users will tell you
  • Don't sweat on demographics/user selection:
    • Big problems will be big problems for everyone
    • There is no such thing as a typical user
    • Two male first year law students from a non-English speaking background could be as different to each other as they are from any other demographic slice
  • One user test early is worth one hundred late
  • Never stop testing
He convincingly argues why user testing has primacy over:
  • Analytics: can tell you a great deal about what people are doing on your site, but not why they are doing it e.g. are they spending a lot of time on one page because it's exactly what they are looking for or because it's completely confusing and takes a long time to digest?
  • Focus Groups: great for sampling users opinions and feelings in the abstract, but not great for determining whether your site actually works
  • User Surveys: asking people to remember what they did, when, and how often will result in a cleaned up, fuzzy version of what actually happened. Nothing beats observing in real time.
This is a new approach for us which will be evaluated after the implementation of the resulting redesign. If successful it offers a new way to approach our web presence that incorporates:
  • A continuous improvement model
  • A user centred approach
  • An evidence-based approach
We stand to learn a lot more about our users than we already know. This is a chance to remove our preconceptions from the equation, to get user input when we have conflicting opinions. I've often wondered when marking arbitrary decisions about web content arrangement whether I'm seeing the big picture or if I'm just sitting too close to the screen.

Step One is defining the site's main purposes. Stay tuned for what we come up with and more about Step Two...