Friday, November 4, 2011

Windows 7 and manual driver installs

Another edition of recording a solution I'll need sometime in the future  but will never remember where I wrote it down.

We've rolled out Windows 7 (64bit) on Library PCs.  A book return workstation stopped working with it's 3M 943 Bookcheck unit. We got a hold of the 64 bit version of the software (yay) and were told it should prompt us to locate the 64 bit driver when we connected the unit. It didn't.

No wuckers, I thought, I'll install the driver manually. But if you locate the device from Devices and Printers, right-click, select Properties, click the Hardware tab, click the Properties button, click the Drivers tab, all the options for manually updating or installing the driver are greyed out - the only option is allowing Windows Update to find the driver (it couldn't).

Much hair ripping out.

Then I tried right-clicking on Computer, selecting Manage, select Device Manager, right click on the device, select the Driver tab and lo and behold exactly the same window - but with all the options available.

Stupid Windows.  3M and AWA support were great.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Google Analytics and Oracle UCM - not playing nicely

Have had a couple of staff report this to me over the last week - but was having trouble replicating the problem. We have an A-Z button on our home page that had this link

I'm using GA to try and track the usage of the button to determine whether it's the best use of that screen real estate.  It's always worked but now it hides the jump to navigation and the dynamically created listing, showing only the H1

But if you remove the GA tracking code and go to it works just fine.  I've used lots of GA tracking on home page links for over a year now and I've never seen this behaviour before. Can't find a mention of it elsewhere in the blogosphere. I don't have time to play with it so all I can do is remove the tracking code and worry about it some other time. Would love to hear if anyone out there knows more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Little things add up in web pages

I fear the content audit of our site is making me a tad obsessive - little things are starting to stick out and I want to hit them with a hammer. 

I'm seeing many example of pages being renewed without any obvious review of content and little things are annoying me, like this line in a big page.
Wikipedia has a very good section on Australian Copyright law. See Wikipedia Online.
Why would you append 'Online' to Wikipedia? Is there a print version? The link doesn't work any more (but not obviously, an auto link checker wouldn't pick up that the intext anchor to Australian_Copyright_Law no longer exists, because the general copyright page in Wikipedia is still there, no error 404).

Then there's the question of the link text's relationship to the actual link.  If your link text is 'Wikipedia Online' then the user expectation (and Google's) is that the underlying link will be to Wikipedia Online, not some sub page. If you're linking to an item on Australian Copyright Law, then that's your link text.

On the plus side I'm a fan of linking to in-depth explanations on sites better equipped to provide current accurate content rather than trying to maintain our own bowdlerised versions of information, especially when the bulk of users won't have any interest in seeing that sort of detail.

My other plus is that the phrase 'check out this ' hasn't been used. I hate that phrase.

I have problems with the pseudo-review phrase 'very good'; would we link to a 'very bad' Wikipedia article?  Are we confident the Wikipedia article will remain good?

So I ended up with:
See Wikipedia for more on Australian Copyright law.
That's about 60% of the text we started with, and no loss of meaning.

The tough thing for us is not only acquiring editing and writing for the web skills, but finding the time to apply them. I hope with this example (yet another in a long series of nags) you might spare five minutes on the next page you review and see if you can improve it even a little.

A gold star if you can  give me an example of where you've used Steve Krug's 'cut out half of the words, then cut out half of what's left' method!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Usability in Real Life

Maybe I'm too immersed in usability considerations, but I see usability issues in almost everything, from television advertisements for 'Johnson's IGA' that don't tell you where it is to keyboards that are impossible to ctrl-alt-del with one hand.

So this morning I see this poster for the Cairns Festival:

and can't help but wonder ...

"What sort of steel pan can go on a grand parade and requires a work shop?"

A misstep we in libraries can make when we write from our perspective and not our (typically novice at researching) users.  The assumption that what is familiar to us is familiar to all is common, and takes a mental commitment to even acknowledge.

So next time a CMS page is due for review pretend you've never worked in your library and see what does and doesn't make sense.

* Yes I found out what it was (I am a librarian, in spite of the denials). A steel pan (more correctly steelpan is what I know as a steel drum (originating in Trinidad and Tobago)
Image courtesy of WikiCommons

If the poster maker had just included one creative commons licenced image, I wouldn't be writing this blog post.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Discovery Tools in all 39 Australian Universities [Part 2]

Well, that didn't take as long as I thought.

The tally of Federated Search/Discovery Layer tools in use in all 39 Australian universities looks like this:

Not sure that the increased popularity of Primo in non-law teaching universities is causal or not.

Even with universities using the same platform there is not a cookie cutter approach. The use of the tools varies widely in terms of content and presentation.  University of Western Sydney for example, keep their catalogue records out of Summon and use Aquabrowser to visualise the catalogue search results.  The University of Ballarat presents both Metalib 'interfaces' as two separate services: Quicksearch across generic databases and federated searches across databases grouped by subject.

A Tally of 'Meta' Search Tools in Australian Universities

I was passed a list of the discovery tools/federated search engines in use in 29 of Australia's 39 universities (I think the common link is that they all offer Law Degrees, and yes I will hunt down the remaining 10 when I get a chance).

Anyway here's the graph:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Next Summon Upgrade August 2

Andrew Nagy from Serials Solutions advises that the next fortnightly Summon upgrade is due August 2 (US Pacific Time I imagine) so we should see it next Wednesday. As usual there should be no interruption to service availability.

  • Improved Search Results Design – Availability message will now be more accurate for non textual items including print materials. Subject terms are now links to a new search for records with the subject term. Record display has been streamlined to allow for more records to be displayed on the screen.
  • Summon Mobile – The Library Catalog filter will now be available if you have enabled it in the Administration Console. ISBN numbers will no longer be converted into a phone number for iPhone and Android devices. Availability message for catalog records now links to the OPAC. Entire record is now clickable, rather than just the title – enhancing usability.
Newly Indexed Content
  • Cambridge Histories Online – This collection includes over 280 volumes from historical subject areas.
  • Cambridge Collections Online - The Complete Cambridge Companions is a complete collection and as two sub-collections comprising the Cambridge Companions in Literature and Classics and the Cambridge Companions in Philosophy, Religion and Culture.
  • British History Online - A digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust.
  • The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) - the largest professional society in the world for professionals in the field of operations research (O.R.), management science, and business analytics.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cary Gordon on Library Web Site Design and Management

In a response to a question posted to Web4lib on Library Web Site design and management by Michael Schofield, Cary Gordon from The Cherry Hill Company offered the following observations from his experiences. Reproduced with permission (Thanks Cary!).

I have been building websites and web based applications for libraries since 1994 (yipes), and I have some opinions, none of which should shock anyone. Here are a few:

1) Most library home pages are much too dense. I have worked on a few sites that started as elegant designs, then became unusable as more committees got involved.

1a) Lesson from 1: Committees are fine, but it helps to have a single person at the top who will guard the flame.

2) Landing pages should address a specific set of user needs. If you have users with conflicting or disparate needs, create separate landing pages for them.

3) There is some confusion between usability and user experience (UX).

You can have a fabulously usability standard compliant site and still deliver a terrible user experience.

4) Build your site for the users you have, not the user you would build, if you could. You know what they want. Really, you do.

4a) This is not to say that you shouldn't highlight great resources at your library, just that you should not let them get in the way of someone trying to find out when you are open.

5) Building a site that is friendlier to different kinds of devices than you think you need is probably a really good idea.

In an ideal world, we would be able to figure out what we need from logs and analytics. Unfortunately, these tools can't usually tell  us about what we don't have. Likewise, if you don't have a mobile friendly site, the user agent count isn't going to reflect the amount of traffic your site would get, were it friendlier to those clients.

I think that it is a good idea, albeit sometimes disappointing, to limit the scope of a new site to what you can maintain. To me, it is better to not have a feature than to have a feature that is disused or out of date. It doesn't bode well to go to an event calendar on a library website and see that the last entry was two years ago.

I think that these items can help:

1) Commit a specific amount of dedicated staff time to maintaining your website.

2) If possible, use a content management system that is set up in such a way that contributors and editors can concentrate on content rather than code. In other words, Ruby on Rails, which is great, is probably not a viable choice unless you have strong RoR resources on staff.

3) Unless you have staff with nothing else to do, if you do not have dedicated IT staff, have your website hosted by a reliable company.

There are reliable hosting companies starting at about $10/mo, and fully managed hosting available from about $75/mo.

4) If you use a CMS or other software, invest staff time, and money, if necessary, in training, and make sure that the training is appropriate to what you are trying to accomplish.

5) Don't lock in to any more dedicated workflow than you really need or can support in practice.

I started coding sites by hand, moved to external content management systems (like Fusion), server side includes, bespoke CMS in ColdFusion and Java, and eventually to Drupal. I think that Drupal is a great solution, because it is built by its community and the strong peer support from its library user community.

Drupal is not, of course, the only solution, there being over 1,000 competing systems. As I asserted earlier, I think that most libraries should use a content management system. That would include Drupal, WordPress, SilverStripe and many others. I personally prefer free and open-source solutions to commercial products and products that have broad adoption to those that get little play. I like to look at the ratio of sales staff to programmers and support. Of course by those standards, the big ILS products look scary.

Virtual servers are an interesting topic, but I think that it is more important to broach the question of whether you plan to do your own system administration or not. We run our own data center in downtown Los Angeles (with a small branch in San Francisco), and will probably continue to do so for a while, but it seems pretty clear that eventually, it will be more economical to move this to "the cloud."

For us, this will really be a bottom line focused change, since we will still need a system administrator on staff, and we only spend a tiny amount of time on-site, with most of that devoted to equipment upgrades and replacement that we wouldn't need in the cloud.



Report back on latest round of usability testing

At the end of June I ran another set of Usability tests with students.  The main goal was to compare the student experience six months after the first round,  now that we've addressed some of the issues highlighted back then.

The full report (and the videos, session reports and other associated materials) are on the JCU Library Intranet.

What did we learn?
  • That the changes we made almost all led to improvements in the site's usability.
  • On the issues where we had not yet made changes there was no significant change in performance with one exception (see The Exception below)
  • Summon/One Search on the home page was used by all the testees (one used it to track down a libguide), as opposed to the previous catalogue search that was all but ignored in the first round.
  • Terminology remains an issue, without successful information literacy training students don't make the mental connection between 'articles' and 'databases' and are far more likely to click on 'ejournals' to find articles on a subject. Reserve Online is still meaningless to them.
  • Contacts still needs some work - task was performed with more success, but by paths not affected by our changes. Unlike the first round these testees went to the service to find the contact, unlike the first round who generally went to the generic contacts and tried to find those related to the service.
  • Libguides seems to be accepted and utilised by students
  • Remote access is still initiated by students as a separate process
  • The form task (make a suggestion for purchase) once again displayed a 100% fail rate.
  • That the DIY usability testing methodology has been validated as a method for identifying problems and measuring the effectiveness of our solutions.
The Exception
All the students knew how to change their passwords, almost certainly because the email changeover to Live@EDU at the start of the year required them to go to that page to test and/or change their passwords.

Now What?
Now I press on with developing a draft Information Architecture to resolve the issues identified that could not be fixed with page and link label edits. Using what we've learned from this testing, user surveys, feedback, usage stats and the Card Sorting Exercise.

My first card sort

I carried out my first Card Sorting Exercise ever!  The full report describes the process and lists what we learned and more issues we should consider in light of that. All the related documentation is available on the JCU Library Intranet.

The main points are:
  • We should seriously consider landing pages for specific groups of users e.g Academic staff, post grad researchers, undergrads etc
  • Grouping pages on organisational lines is fraught with error
  • The language used in link labeling can discourage parts of the audience from clicking
  • Assignment and Study seem to be the best words to substitute for what librarians would call 'Information Literacy'
  • Terminology is still an issue e.g. isn't a 'Reference Work' something you use to help you format your references?
The card sort took a little longer than I thought, next time I might schedule an hour and a half to allow for introduction and form filling, so I can still get people out 15 minutes early.
I was struck too by the quantity of services we are providing and that many had no real relevance to the 'sortees', so I found myself explaining what ERA was. Will have to broaden my volunteer-catching net.
I'd like to do another round of card sorting to see if the patterns I see emerging are real or mere coincidence.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More Summon Tweaks coming

Andrew Nagy from Serials Solutions has previewed some changes to the summary results information to aid users in selecting articles without having to click on preview. These include some text from the abstract and any available subject headings.
In addition the text of the format icon's fulltext overlay will say 'online' in stead of 'full text' to hopefully resolving the issue of 'Full text' being an inappropriate label for streaming media for example.
You can preview upcoming changes at any time using

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summon Format Icons part 2

Suzy followed up with a key:

Column 1
.icon-journalarticle, .icon-journal
.icon-newspaperarticle, .icon-newspaper
.icon-patent, .icon-patents
.icon-report, .icon-reports

Column 2
.icon-researchguide, .icon-webresource
.icon-musicmanuscript, .icon-musicscore

Column 3
.icon-videodvd, .icon-dvd

Summon Format Icons

The lovely Suzy Shepherd from Griffith passed on a link gleaned from the Summon style sheets that shows the format icons used in Summon:

Summon usually overlays (via CSS) a 'Full text' icon: on the chosen format icon to indicate the items immediate availability online.  But sometimes the phrase 'full text' doesn't cut it for some formats, for example Naxos audio streams.

Does it confuse patrons? Do they understand what the little sun is telling them?  Is there a better wording? Like say 'Click to view' or 'Available Now'?

What do you think? Are 'full text' and 'online' libraryspeak?

The other issue Suzy highlighted was that  Summon isn't consistent and from the user perspective uses three different icons for effectively the same thing:
  1. Book 'full text'
  2. eBook 'full text'
  3. eBook
So the Summonclients list is back on the format vs delivery topic I blogged about this time last year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Summon and the new ProQuest non-issue

A little bit of traffic on the Summonclients list this morning about what might be the affect on Summon of switching over to the new ProQuest interface. Which made me wonder just how broadly people have grasped that Summon is not a federated search engine. It does not search other databases in real time.

If there were any Summon problems at all with the new ProQuest they would either be:
  1. A new record export/import issue between Proquest and Serials Solutions (given they are the same company it's no stretch to imagine that these were, or would be, sorted quickly) - which in any case would not affect Summon's functionality, just its currency.
  2. Linking to full text on ProQuest via OpenURL might fail.  Which isn't a Summon issue but a link resolver issue, and again, if you were using SS's 360 Link you'd expect that to already be sorted. The whole point of using the the OpenURL protocol is so that any citation source can be linked to the relevant target regardless of platform.
 The second point also highlights a mindset I've noticed among professionals of thinking that your link resolver is part of your discovery tool.  To an end user it probably appears it is, but in terms of diagnosing the source of a problem I think it's crucial that librarians understand the linkages between data sources and the applications that sit on top of them.

That understanding isn't just crucial to problem diagnosis, it's imperative to see possibilities for creating new services to fill specific needs. For me librarians are the drivers for identifying client needs. I'm blessed with a group of colleagues who don't accept the status quo and will say 'why can't it do this?'

That attitude meshes so well with the Summon rapid development model.  Which again impressed me this week by solving the 'author ordering' issue, which I'd reported maybe 6 weeks earlier. I assume a whole bunch of other institutions reported the same issue, which pushed it to the top of the development queue.  And we didn't have to wait for the next version to be rolled out third quarter of next year.  So far I'm liking the 21st Century.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CCA-Educause 2011 - the game has changed part 1

It's the end of the second day of CCA-Educause 2011 and time to reflect a little.

The plenary sessions in particular have been brilliant, my faves:
  • Bryan Alexander (Director for Research at the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education) did the futurist thing and offered five scenarios that we could be living by 2015 depending on decisions being right now, an entertaining speaker brimming over with thought provoking ideas
  • HG Nelson (Sportscaster extraordinaire)
    regaled us with the benefits of adopting his "five pillars", with outside the square ideas that included turning the grounds into market gardens, floating humanities department on the stock exchange and encouraging students to gamble on their academic success
  •  Diana Oblinger president and CEO of EDUCAUSE took us on lightening survey of the changing geography in higher ed provision in the USA, things are changing and changing quickly
  • Richard N. Katz former vice president of EDUCAUSE took an even broader look at the changes in higher ed, focussing more on the threats to traditional views of what academia is, like the increasing commodification of education

    Lost internet last night so I've added some day 3 stuff as well!

    Saw a really brief preview of Office 365 which is the next step in the development of live@edu and thrusts it into the google docs space (but it looks more like the office suite in a web browser) and also integrates with Sharepoint, IM and video IM. A startling leap in functionality - I hope we get it soon and it's not an expensive upgrade. I think we get it all except sharepoint as is.

    ECU have done some usability testing of Summon, one finding I found amusing was that although the google-like interface gave the students confidence to search, it can't give them the ability to search, they still get stuck on alternative keywords, narrowing searches, realizing what they are seeing, determining format

    Lisa Cluett presented on an ALTC funded project in WA to promote emerging technology awareness in a more organic manner than the traditional formal top-down approach we usually get with IT training.  It runs with the idea that learning is viral (and they use that theme a lot). People who spread knowledge are known as 'infectors' rather than early adopters, or trainers or experts.  One of the ideas is that the best person to learn from is someone who knows a little bit more than you rather than a heck of a lot more than you.  One task they perform as part of their 'incubation' is survey students for the technologies they like, use, feel comfortable with, don't feel comfortable with, bring on campus - that last one was important - lots of students had laptops but few of them bought them on campus.

    Stick around for part 2 when I get my notes off the ipad and list all the new buzzwords I learnt and the sites and services I noted I had to check out.


    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Summon Statistics at last!

    The Summon admin module is now available in the Serials Solutions Client Center - complete with usage statistics. YAY!

    I have had a bit of a play and my findings and the first snapshots are available on our Intranet (sorry JCU Library staff only) but the granularity offered is pretty impressive.

    What I did find particularly interesting is how much more used the service is compared to X Search (our branding of 360 Search) - even though we never had an official launch or any sort of a marketing push. Even the inclusion of it in our information literacy has been left up to presenters.

    Another positive is that the Brisbane and Singapore campuses are big users comparatively speaking. Use is rising all the time - it will be interesting to see if making it the default search box on the home page kicks up use signficantly, and if there is any flow on to fulltext downloads through 360 Link (aka Find It) use and the institutional repository running on eprints.

    The number of searches per session has also increased over 360 Search - not sure how to interpret that.

    On the down side there is no indication of facet use, or even advanced search use (well not one that was obvious to me) making it difficult to guage how intuitive those tools are to use.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Firefox 3.6.16 and freezing PDFs

    I've had a couple of reports of PDFs freezing in Firefox, by either not loading or locking up as you scroll pages.

    It seems to have just started so is probably part of the latest release which has automatically upgraded recently.

    So far I've found two things to try that seem to work. One is to kick up the Offline Storage setting to 100mb as per the instructions put together by Jason at 404 Tech Support. Click on the image below to see how to change this setting:

    The other thing that has worked a couple of times is to go to Tools - Add-ons - Plugins and disable previous and alternative versions of Adobe Reader plugins.

    The GATCF PCs are unaffected (using Foxit).

    On a vaguely related note - don't upgrade to Firefox 4 if you use Webreporter - it doesn't work according to HORIZON-L

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Horizon Report 2011 - are we getting closer to a tipping point?

    Just found this in draft in blogger, publishing it before blogging about CCA-Educause 2011 and being embarrassed by how wrong I was!

    Educause's latest Horizon Report has just been released, identifying technologies emerging in the short in medium term that will have significant impact on the higher education sector.

    I usually head straight for the 'within 12 months' section – QULOC-ICT maintains a watching brief on whatever is listed, but this year I found the trends section thought-provoking. In my library career the changes I've seen are largely in the delivery of services, not in the services themselves, so a print index arguably delivered the same service as Summon does now and IM reference is still recognisably reference.

    Now I think in the academic library sector we approaching a point where the services we deliver will change to meet the massive changes in clients and stakeholder expectations and needs, and the technologies they use.

    We saw hints of the changing landscape in our last JCU Library Planning Day, with Helen Hooper's presentation on the work done embedding information literacy into coursework (and her recent success with ICAS) and the focus on research services. We've always managed resources, and access to them, but we will also be managing relationships, trust, and sense-making increasingly.

    Ubiquitous access not just to resources but to services and coaching will be the default; ubiquitous in terms of time of day and week, but also regardless of the device being used to for access, or the location of the client.

    We will need to be increasingly flexible, rapidly forming collaborative teams across traditional library silos, often geographically disparate, and with partners outside our institutions to implement projects; and then just as rapidly fold the team when the project goals have been achieved.

    Our skills in digital media have to be hyped up so we can fulfil our curatorial role, our ability to advise and help clients using these technologies, and to construct materials to provide continuously available coaching.

    Evaluation of new services and resources has to be built into delivery at the design phase, not tacked on as an afterthought. We need to be able to quickly determine impact to rapidly detect problems, continuously improve services, and demonstrate to budget setters, strategy setters and policy makers the ROI of the service.

    For the record the two technologies approaching mainstream this year according to the Report are electronic books and mobile devices. Over the next horizon are augmented reality and game-based learning (2-3 years) and in 4-5 years they are predicting wide use of gesture-based computing and learning analytics.