Monday, February 25, 2013


The list of library tech peeps was starting to get a bit unwieldy, so I forked it! Sheet 1 of the list is website and user experience types, while sheet 2 is digital projects/eResources/systems/repository types. I know there's some overlap, so when in doubt, I tried to think if I would classify that particular person as "front-end" or "back-end." And yes, I do giggle whenever I think of someone as a "back-end" person. I AM TEH MAHTYUR.

If you think I've mis-classified you, or if I have your link(s) wrong, just let me know, and I'll fix it ASAP, because I now have a Gdrive app on my phone so I can be fly on the fly. Waitwhat? Shuddup it's Monday and I've had 3 cups of coffee already.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Catching Up On the World of Library WebTech

So, I thought myself fairly knowledgeable in the area of library technology. Turns out, every aspect of library technology has its own communities, its own published body of knowledge, its own go-to gals and guys. Yes, you say, well, duh. I thought much of my experience in social media and online marketing would carry over into my new web services position, but I'm finding out that this is a wonderful new pond, with wonderful new fish.

As I learn of this stuff, so shall you, because I'm pedantic like that. I mean generous. Whatevs. Either way, I am starting a list for myself of web services-type librarians. I'm mostly concerned with blogs I should be reading, people I should be following on Twitter, and library websites I should look to for best practices. You should help me with this endeavor, because you're a nice person, and you totally just thought of someone or something I left off the list.

Who is missing from this list? Let me know in the comments!

PS - If you're having trouble viewing the silly embedded spreadsheet, you can view the full spreadsheet here.

PPS - Yes, I should have linked those twitter usernames. I will. Tomorrow. [DONE]

PPPS - I split the list into 2 lists.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


My dear friend and partner-in-crime, Lisa Rabey, commented the other day that I have been hot and heavy with the link-posting of late. Admittedly, I'm in an odd position here at my new job, as our director is on leave, and so I'm kind of on my own, so I've been filling in time (between new website mockups) with catching up on my RSS feeds. This is a good thing for me, since I've switched focus from reference/instruction/marketing to web services, so I feel like I need to get the lay of the land before doing anything major with the site. That being said, Lisa asked if I could do a post with all the links I've tweeted recently, in one place, and because she's my buddy (and because she is a WordPress guru, and I will need her help with that, as well as a little RSS project I'm working on) I am going to oblige her. Just this once.


The Researching Librarian: Web resources helpful for librarians doing research | | I'm tenure-track at my new job, so it's publish-or-perish for me! This site is a good place to get started, including grant sources and a list of LIS-related journals.

How bad research gets published (and promoted) | | A 2010 groundbreaking article, with research sponsored by NASA, gets published in a highly-respected journal. Within days, it faces serious scrutiny and we now know that it was totally wrong. But the work was peer-reviewed. How do so many experts make such a big mistake?

Gaming Google Scholar Citations, Made Simple and Easy | | In a recent paper uploaded to the arXiv, ”Manipulating Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics: simple, easy and tempting,” researchers find that the effort required to radically alter citation counts to one’s papers (and thus increase one’s h-index) are open to anyone who can cut, paste, and post.

Amusing titles affect the perception of research in a negative way | | Apparently trying to be funny with your research paper titles can lead to decreased confidence in your data. Or something like that. This article didn't have a very amusing title, so I just assumed it was all true. The author later tweeted a link to this article, which says that certain subject areas actually do enjoy a little "linguistic playfulness." I don't really want to know where library science falls on this spectrum, but I suspect it falls firmly in favor of puns.

Cool Tools

Bookish Uses Big Data and Real Editors to Help Pick Your Next Book |

This GIF Search Engine Is Everything You've Ever Wanted | | Here ya go: You're welcome.

Job/Internship Opportunities

NY Public Library internship: Timothy Leary Papers |

The White House Is Looking for a Few Good Coders |


Using technology to spark interaction in class |


The psychology of the to-do list |

The psychology of Tetris |


Learn more about Black History Month with 12 free lecture clips from The Great Courses |

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just one more thing...

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's post on Harvard's library site... They have a really sleek user feedback system. When you click on the "Tell Us" button at the top of the page, you get the following javascript pop up:

I love that it not only gives you a place to provide feedback, but also tracks and reports on known issues. This saves time for both the user, and the helpdesk, since the helpdesk is used to receiving untold numbers of reports on the same printer being broken, or the wireless being down. This system allows users to see what issues are currently being dealt with before submitting their comment. Users can also comment on or "vote up" issues without having to submit a new ticket.

I did a little snooping around in the code, and it would seem that they are using (and correct me if I'm wrong here) an online helpdesk system called UserVoice. I like not only the functionality of the software, but also the sleek way it integrates into your website, and provides a social aspect to the online helpdesk. Nicely done, all around!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Harvard Library: a closer look

I took a look at the Harvard Library website over the weekend, to pick apart the elements of the site that I really like. First and foremost, I love the minimalist layout and color scheme. The white background makes it look less boxy, and the sections are separated by horizontal lines instead of rectangular borders. I know library websites are chock full of content that we want our users to be aware of, but when there's too much content on a page, I find I can't focus on anything.

When it comes to details, I like the mix of text and images. They use icons in the upper right corner to draw attention to popular services (1). I think these are fairly good icon choices, but in general you have to be careful with them. You can get creative, but don't use an icon that's commonly known for one thing, for something else. For example, a wrench or gear(s) is often used for "settings," so this icon can cause confusion when linking to something else. I think they're ok here, though, since they include easy-to-read labels under the icons. (Joshua Porter just posted on the use of labels with icons. How fortuitous!)

It's common practice these days, but I'll mention it anyway: I like having the search box function front and center (2). I think this site does the service one better though, in including a "What am I searching?" feature. Library collections can be confusing, and often we have different search functions for different collections (catalog for books, integrated search for databases, digital repository for archives, discovery service for everything...) I know not everyone will read the text, but it's concise enough not to be obtrusive, and adds useful information for anyone willing to scan over it.

The scrolling news items at the bottom of the page (3) offer another graphical element on an otherwise sparse page, and allow you to highlight events, collections and perhaps even offer a place for alternate entry points to resources for specific communities or to commonly-asked-about services. For example, you could create one specifically for students or faculty, or have one for using Blackboard, logging onto the campus network, or finding textbooks in the library. 

The drop-down links at the top of the page (4) use symbols to denote internal links (which open in the same window) and external links (which open in a new window/tab.) This is especially important in library sites, as many resources we offer are provided by third-party vendors, and it can be disconcerting to click on a link and be faced with a different website, with a completely different look and feel from your own. 

I'm just gonna go ahead and say it. I like deep footers (5). It was at a workshop a few years ago, where a presenter was talking about the NYPL migrating to Drupal, where I first met the deep footer (you can see it in action here), and though I can't remember if it clicked for me right away, or if it upset my 2002 web developer sensibilities, I now think of it as a great, unobtrusive way to add relevant links to your site. I like it especially as a place for all your social media links/icons, as well as for links to content that your users might find useful, but that are outside your own site. For academic libraries, those links might be to the school registrar, the writing and/or tutoring center, and the academic calendar. Especially since many university home pages are catered towards prospective students, rather than current students, these links can help position the library's homepage as a portal for students who want to access information and resources for the school as a whole. 

Finally, I like that when you scroll over the drop down link boxes, you can not only click on the links that appear in that drop down menu, but also the main category under which they are grouped. This gives you a landing page for each category, and a chance to help guide users who want more information on that category, or aren't sure which link they need in the group. The only thing that threw me a bit, was that the landing page links did not match up more closely with the options in the drop down (6). This creates a bit of a logical disconnect in terms of "training" users on navigation. (ie- If they visit the landing page on their first visit, does that help them understand and be able to use the quick navigation on their next visit?)

One final note regarding accessibility: When I learned html (many moons ago) you used the "alt" attribute for both accessibility and as a way to provide information via mouse-over text (or "tooltips".) While poking around in the code of this site, I noticed that they were using both an "alt" *and* a "title" attribute with most of the images. Apparently, it's now standard to include both of these, as not all browsers will render the "alt" tag as a tooltip if the "title" is absent (which used to be the case.) So you want to include an "alt" description for accessibility (and for images that don't display) and a "title" description with whatever information you want the user to see when they mouse over the link or image. For a more thorough explanation of the alt vs title attribute, see: 

To learn more about how screen readers treat various html elements, I found this resource helpful: (If your library uses LibGuides, they also have an accessibility page, with info on what they do, and what you need to do, to ensure 508 compliance:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Onward Toward the Next Next Gen Library Website

I want to do a series of posts on designing and building a website for an academic library. I'm mostly doing it for myself, as a way to organize my thoughts on the process (since I will be building a library site this semester,) but I thought it might also be useful to share some of the resources I am and will be collecting. And, of course, it's always helpful to have a place to think out loud, so you can get feedback from outside sources.

I do want to make a point before I get started though; these posts are meant to be critique, not criticism. (Or, at least *constructive* criticism.) I don't want to tear anyone down, or poke fun at anyone's efforts. I understand how hard it is to get things done in libraries, given our limited budgets, and the multiple roles everyone on staff must play. Rarely does a library have the staff or the money to hire a specialist to design and build a website, and even when they do, it's hard to find someone with that skill set who also understands libraries and library culture. I feel lucky that I'm in the unique position of having been a reference and instruction librarian for 7 years, and am now in a job that allows me to use the insights I gained working directly with faculty and students to make our website work better for them.

If sacrifices must be made, due to the afore-mentioned budget and time constraints, I can give you a wee piece of advice on the topic: sacrifice style for function, every time. Choose the easiest-to-use software, and make the most popular resources and services the easiest to find. People may snicker at your color choices (I recommend checking out design seeds to help with that) but that's much better than them being frustrated by not being able to find what they're looking for. Snarky users are not necessarily unhappy users. Frustrated users are pretty much *always* unhappy users.

In searching around, I found (and was directed to) several library sites (both academic and public) that I like, and am using for inspiration. Check out:

Harvard Library
Salt Lake City Public Library
Detroit Public Library

I'll tell you why I like them. With the rise in popularity of open source content management systems like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, websites got very "boxy." Because these CMS's are organized around interchangeable modules, people tend to just drop those module boxes into their site like a puzzle. The above-three sites (at least 2 of which use Drupal) get around that boxy look by using a white background, so the content boxes blend into the rest of the site. This style also works well with responsive design, which uses stylesheets to create a website that is automatically optimized for whatever screen-size or orientation it is viewed at. The trend towards ubiquitous computing means sites have to be able to easily "jump" from desktop to laptop to tablet to smartphone with minimal sacrifices to functionality.

I think for the next couple of posts I might actually pick one site for each, and go over what I like about it. In the mean time, if you're just getting started with web design (or even if you're an old pro,) I highly recommend taking a look at Hongkiat, which has great design and technical tips, as well as tutorials and guides for all aspects of web design and development.