Early in our user research process for the new library website, faculty and students asked us to present easy to find and consistent information about Stanford's 25 branch, auxiliary, and coordinate libraries. With such a large and complex system of locations, it was important to users, they told us, that hours, location information and basic policies were presented to them in a consistent and highly accessible format.
Over the past two years, the Digital Library Systems and Services department at SUL has developed a user-centered approach to building websites. Our methodology involves early and iterative feedback from the primary audience of SUL’s web resources – academic researchers. The intended result is web applications that help users achieve their research goals while at the same time increasing the efficiency of the software development process (thus, lowering the time to development and the cost).
Our new web presence is thriving!
Guides: The Online Experience Group is thrilled to observe the number of topic and course guides created by SUL staff, over 70 course guides and over 130 topic guides to date! The enthusiasm expressed over the ease of creating guides and adding content has been gratifying. Now that many staff have gotten their feet wet with content creation, we'd like to take this opportunity to once again emphasize adherence to the guidelines articulated in the Content Creation Guide (accessible on the Library Website Training Coursework site and under the website's "My Workbench"). Topic and course guide creators are encouraged to bring their guides into compliance with sections 4 (Style and usage); 5 (Formatting); and 6B (Guidelines specific to topic and course guides). Common errors observed include choice of title; lack of a short description to appear in aggregated search results; and use of title rather than sentence case in headings. If you have questions or need help, please submit a request through the website feedback form (http://library.stanford.edu/ask/email/feedback ).
Training: Please note that the Drupal 7 training offered by IT Services will NOT provide you with skills directly applicable to SUL's website. Staff who need content creation training should contact Ray Heigemeir and/or Sarah Lester to schedule training sessions.
Branches: Preparatory work on branch pages is underway for most branches. This important work includes identifying primary users and their web needs; writing new content and scrutinizing current content in light of "writing for the web" guidelines; and envisioning and charting top-level navigational structures that reflect best practices for web design.
Bug fixes and other improvements: Academic technology is a new choice in the top ribbon, making these pages easier to find; and we continue to work with Chapter 3 on fixes and upgrades.
The new library website has been in place for over two months now, and the team has been busy receiving feedback, fixing bugs, adding new features, and planning ahead. We have established a support contract with Chapter Three, the same firm that engineered the site initially, to provide us with a fixed number of support hours each month. Within that allocation of support hours we first tackle critical bug fixes and then attempt to add new features to enable better service and to support content creators in their work.
October was an exciting and productive month as we added many new features that will make the site more dynamic and interactive. Major patron-facing enhancements to the site include:
- Extensive integration of online chat throughout the site. Online chat reference has always been available on the Ask Us page. Now individual librarians have the ability to make themselves available via chat on their People pages and Subject pages, and branches can offer branch-specific online chat to their patrons. For information on how to configure your personal or branch-specific chat service, email firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Events pages published and integrated with Stanford Events. The new Events page displays any Library event published at events.stanford.edu. If you are interested in submitting events that will appear in the library events feed, please send us a note via the website feedback form.
- Staff Directory. By popular demand, a full staff directory is now available. You can search and filter by name, title or department. The data in the directory comes directly from publicly visible contact information StanfordWho, and reflects staff privacy settings in StanfordYou.
Enhancements supporting content creation include:
- Spell-check has been added to WYSIWYG for all content types.
- Guide authors can now add simple formatting (bold, italics, and hyperlinking) to the annotations field of SearchWorks items.
In addition to these technical improvements, the Library Website Steering Group was assembled and held its first meeting. This group will play a critical role in prioritizing future improvements to the site, and establishing policies and best practices.
November and December hold promise for other new and exciting advances, including Department, Research Service and Special Project mini-sites. Stay tuned, and Happy Thanksgiving!
We have an ambitious set of goals for continuing to improve and enrich the library website in October. These priorities are based on our original project goals and on feedback and suggestions gathered from patrons and staff. Please continue to send us your feedback and encourage others to do so as well.
Our goals for October 2012 are to:
- Participate in the Library Open House, showing students, faculty, and staff how the new site can support their teaching, learning, and research needs. We will also use the Open House as an opportunity to gather feedback on how scholars use the library website.
- Convene a Library Website Steering Group, responsible for evaluating and prioritizing future website work (e.g. new feature and functionality requests, major content additions, etc.). This group will play a crucial role in recommending priorities for development and content work on the new website, and for recommending policies and best practices for the library website.
- Develop a way to allow People associated with Guides to see unpublished Guides in their Workbench. Currently only Authors can see unpublished Guides in Workbench, but we are working on a solution to allow all People who are added to a Guide to be able to see the unpublished Guides in their Workbench to enable easy co-editing and authoring.
- Add spellcheck functionality to the WYSIWYG editor for content creators.
- Enable Follow Us links on library About pages, so we will have consistent, easy way to add Facebook and Twitter links for those libraries who use social media.
- Enable simple formatting (bold, italics, and hyperlinking) in the annotations field of SearchWorks items in Guides
- Update the view of Blog posts by topic to sort in reverse chronological order (most recent first), and to add archives links.
- Work on discovery and design of Collections pages.
- Complete work on Events pages.
- Continue to provide training and guidance to content creators.
- Continue to respond to feedback received from patrons and staff.
Last week Stanford open sourced the code responsible for the Nearby on Shelf feature in SearchWorks as the Blacklight Browse Nearby gem. This feature has been highly sought after by various Blacklight institutions to be contributed back to the community. In keeping with the spirit of the vibrant open source community around Blacklight, Stanford has contributed the development effort to get this codebase available for use and contribution by other Blacklight implementers.
The release of this software was the culmination of a re-write of the SearchWorks code making it an installable package, more generalizable, and suitable in an open source context. Due to that fact, the end product is much more generic that SearchWorks' version (as you can see in the side-by-side screenshots below with SearchWorks being on the right) however it is infinitely more customizable.
The Stanford University Libraries recently launched a redesign of its main library website at http://library.stanford.edu. This is a Drupal 7-based site hosted on Pantheon.
In the future we hope to document more thoroughly the technical approaches we took on several bits of the site, but for now I'll summarize a few of the features this community might be interested with a brief summary of the technical approach taken for each. In no particular order:
The CourseWork site provides documentation, training and forums to support library staff with editing and using the new library website. Announcements and sign-ups for training workshops, notifications about new features and bug fixes, and other key information about the new site will all be available via the CourseWork site.
Signing up for the CourseWork site is the most effective way for you to get all the information and assistance you need to start contributing to the success of the new library website.
See you in CourseWork.