Future Retro: Images of Sound Technology in the 1960s Duke Chronicle

Many of my Bitstreams posts have featured old-school audio formats (wax cylinder, cassette and open reel tape, Minidisc) and discussed how we go about digitizing these obsolete media to bring them to present-day library users at the click of a mouse.  In this post, I will take a different tack and show how this sound technology was represented and marketed during its heyday.  The images used here are taken from one of our very own digital collections–the Duke Chronicle of the 1960s.

The Record Bar

Students of that era would have primarily listened to music on vinyl records purchased directly from a local retailer.  The advertisement  above boasts of “complete stocks, latest releases, finest variety” with sale albums going for as little as $2.98 apiece.  This is a far cry from the current music industry landscape where people consume most of their media via instant download and streaming from iTunes or Spotify and find new artists and songs via blogs, Youtube videos, or social media.  The curious listener of the 1960’s may have instead discovered a new band though word of mouth, radio, or print advertising.  If they were lucky, the local record shop would have the LP in stock and they could bring it home to play on their hi-fi phonograph (like the one shown below).  Notice that this small “portable” model takes up nearly the whole tabletop.

Phonograph

The Moon

Duke students of the 1960s would have also used magnetic tape-based media for recording and playing back sound.  The advertisement above uses Space Age imagery and claims that the recorder (“small enough to fit in the palm of your hand”) was used by astronauts on lunar missions.  Other advertisements suggest more grounded uses for the technology:  recording classroom lectures, practicing public speaking, improving foreign language comprehension and pronunciation, and “adding fun to parties, hayrides, and trips.”

Tape Your Notes

Add a Track

Creative uses of the technology are also suggested.  The “Add-A-Track” system allows you to record multiple layers of sound to create your own unique spoken word or musical composition.  You can even use your tape machine to record a special message for your Valentine (“the next best thing to you personally”).  Amplifier kits are also available for the ambitious electronics do-it-yourselfer to build at home.

Tell Her With Tape

Amplifier Kit

These newspaper ads demonstrate just how much audio technology and our relationship to it have changed over the past 50 years.  Everything is smaller, faster, and more “connected” now.  Despite these seismic shifts, one thing hasn’t changed.  As the following ad shows, the banjo never goes out of style.

Banjo

 

Request for Proposals – The SNCC Digital Gateway

Promotional postcard for One Person, One Vote site.
Promotional postcard for One Person, One Vote site.

Last year we at Duke University Libraries circulated a prospectus for our still-young partnership with the SNCC Legacy Project, seeking bids from web contractors to help with developing the web site that we rolled out last March as One Person, One Vote (OPOV). Now, almost 18 months later, we’re back – but wiser – hoping to do it again – but bigger.

Thanks to a grant from the Mellon Foundation, we’ll be moving to a new phase of our partnership with the SNCC Legacy Project and the Center for Documentary Studies. The SNCC Digital Gateway will build on the success of the OPOV pilot, bringing Visiting Activist Scholars to campus to work with Duke undergraduates and graduates on documenting the historic drive for voting rights, and the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

As before, we seek an experienced and talented contractor to join with our project team to design and build a compelling site. If you think your outfit might be right for the job, please review the RFP embedded below and get in touch.

 

 

FY15: A Year in Digital Projects

We experience a number of different cycles in the Digital Projects and Production Services Department (DPPS). There is of course the project lifecycle, that mysterious abstraction by which we try to find commonalities in work processes that can seem unique for every case. We follow the academic calendar, learn our fate through the annual budget cycle, and attend weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings.

The annual reporting cycle at Duke University Libraries usually falls to departments in August, with those reports informing a master library report completed later. Because of the activities and commitments around the opening of the Rubenstein Library, the departments were let off the hook for their individual reports this year. Nevertheless, I thought I would use my turn in the Bitstreams rotation to review some highlights from our 2014-15 cycle.

Loads of accomplishments after the jump …

Continue reading FY15: A Year in Digital Projects

A Sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South (1956)

The Library is currently in the middle of digitizing sermons from the Duke University Chapel recordings housed in the Duke University Archives, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Within this collection there are audio and video recordings along with printed sermons. While it takes many people to digitize and publish a collection of this size in its entirety, my part is to digitize the printed sermons.

MontgomeryBusBoycott

While I didn’t have time to read all of the sermons, a few titles caught my eye.  Moral Crisis in a Troubled South, The Dangerous Gift of Freedom, The South Under God, Demonstrations in the Street and in the House of God, An Address on Occasion of a Memorial Service (for Martin Luther King Jr.), to name a few.  martinlutherkingAll in someway related to the Civil Rights Movement. Here is a link to Moral Crisis in a Troubled South written by Hilrie Shelton Smith and preached in the Duke University Chapel on April 29, 1956.  The sermon speaks directly to the state of race relations in the South in 1955 amid civil rights unrest related to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court decision on Racial Segregation in Schools, and the tragic death of Emmett Till. This sermon speaks of the long road that may be ahead of us to achieve a nation of racial equality. Indeed.

This sermon struck me because of its direct reference to specific events related to the Civil Rights Movement (at least more than the others) and how closely it echoes current events across the nation, particularly the story of Emmett Till’s horrific murder and the fact that his mother chose to have an open casket so that everyone could see the brutality of racism.Emmett Till

I am in awe of the strength it must have taken Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, to make the decision to have an open casket at her son’s funeral.

Duke has many collections related to the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This collection provides a religious context to the events of our relatively recent past, not only of the Civil Rights Movement but of many social, political and spiritual issues of our time.

Please visit Duke Digital Collections to see additional digitized material related to the Civil Rights Movement.

Again, here is a link to the sermon: Moral Crisis in a Troubled South

 

Digital Dogs

In a recent feature on their blog, our colleagues at NCSU Libraries posted some photographs of dogs from their collections. Being a person generally interested in dogs and old photographs, I became curious where dogs show up in Duke’s Digital Collections. Using very unsophisticated methods, I searched digital collections for “dogs” and thought I’d share what I found.

Of the 60 or so collections in Digital Collections 19 contain references to dogs. The table below lists the collections in which dogs or references to dogs appear most frequently.

Digital Collection Number of Items Referring to Dogs
Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s 91
Historic American Sheet Music 40
William Gedney Photographs and Writings 39
R.C. Maxwell Company Outdoor Advertising 27
OAAA Slide Library 24
Sidney D. Gamble Photographs 12
Emergence of Advertising in America 11
Hugh Mangum Photographs 10
Musée des Horreurs 9
AdViews 7
Ad*Access 5
John Paver Papers 5
Documentary Photographs of Early Soviet Russia 4
Broadsides & Ephemera 3
American Song Sheets 3
Michael Francis Blake Photographs 2
Italian Posters 2
Paul Kwilecki Photographs 2
Medicine and Madison Avenue 1

As you might guess, not all the results for my search were actually photographs of dogs. Many from the advertising collections were either advertisements for dog food or hot dogs. There were quite a few ads and other materials where the word “dog” was used idiomatically. The most surprising finding to me was number of songs that are about or reference dogs. These include, “Old Dog Tray” and “The Whistler and His Dog” from Historic American Sheet Music, as well as “A Song for Dogs” and “Bull Dog an’ de Baby” from American Song Sheets.

Here’s a sampling of some photographs of dogs from Digital Collections, and a few cats as well.

Kwilecki

Hugh Mangum Photographs


Sidney D. Gamble Photographs



William Gedney Photographs and Writings







Documentary Photographs of Early Soviet Russia

R.C. Maxwell Company Outdoor Advertising


OAAA Archives

Michael Francis Blake Photographs


How Duke Chronicle Goes Digital

Today we will take a detailed look at how the Duke Chronicle, the university’s beloved newspaper for over 100 years, is digitized. Since our scope of digitization spans nine decades (1905-1989), it is an ongoing project the Digital Production Center (DPC), part of Digital Projects and Production Services (DPPS) and Duke University Libraries’ Digital Collections Program, has been chipping away at. Scanning and digitizing may seem straightforward to many – place an item on a scanner and press scan, for goodness sake! – but we at the DPC want to shed light on our own processes to give you a sense of what we do behind the scenes. It seems like an easy-peasy process of scanning and uploading images online, but there is much more that goes into it than that. Digitizing a large collection of newspapers is not always a fun-filled endeavor, and the physical act of scanning thousands of news pages is done by many dedicated (and patient!) student workers, staff members, and me, the King Intern for Digital Collections.

Pre-Scanning Procedures

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Large format 1940s Chronicles in over-sized archival box

Many steps in the digitization process do not actually occur in the DPC, but among other teams or departments within the library. Though I focus mainly on the DPC’s responsibilities, I will briefly explain the steps others perform in this digital projects tango…or maybe it’s a waltz?

Each proposed project must first be approved by the Advisory Council for Digital Collections (ACDC), a team that reviews each project for its strategic value. Then it is passed on to the Digital Collections Implementation Team (DCIT) to perform a feasibility study that examines the project’s strengths and weaknesses (see Thomas Crichlow’s post for an overview of these teams). The DCIT then helps guide the project to fruition. After clearing these hoops back in 2013, the Duke Chronicle project started its journey toward digital glory.

We pull 10 years’ worth of newspapers at a time from the University Archives in Rubenstein Library. Only one decade at a time is processed to make the 80+ years of Chronicle publications more manageable. The first stop is Conservation. To make sure the materials are stable enough to withstand digitizing, Conservation must inspect the condition of the paper prior to giving the DPC the go-ahead. Because newspapers since the mid-19th century were printed on cheap and very acidic wood pulp paper, the pages can become brittle over time and may warrant extensive repairs. Senior Conservator, Erin Hammeke, has done great work mending tears and brittle edges of many Chronicle pages since the start of this project. As we embark on digitizing the older decades, from the 1940s and earlier, Erin’s expertise will be indispensable. We rely on her not only to repair brittle pages but to guide the DPC’s strategy when deciding the best and safest way to digitize such fragile materials. Also, several volumes of the Chronicle have been bound, and to gain the best digital image scan these must be removed from their binding. Erin to the rescue!

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Conservation repair on a 1940s Chronicle page
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Conservation repair to a torn 1940s Chronicle ad

 

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1950s Duke Chronicle digitization guide

Now that Conservation has assessed the condition and given the DPC the green light, preliminary prep work must still be done before the scanner comes into play. A digitization guide is created in Microsoft Excel to list each Chronicle issue along with its descriptive metadata (more information about this process can be found in my metadata blog post). This spreadsheet acts as a guide in the digitization process (hence its name, digitization guide!) to keep track of each analog newspaper issue and, once scanned, its corresponding digital image. In this process, each Chronicle issue is inspected to collect the necessary metadata. At this time, a unique identifier is assigned to every issue based on the DPC’s naming conventions. This identifier stays with each item for the duration of its digital life and allows for easy identification of one among thousands of Chronicle issues. At the completion of the digitization guide, the Chronicle is now ready for the scanner.

 

The DPC’s Zeutschel OS 14000 A2

The Scanning Process

With all loose unbound issues, the Zeutschel is our go-to scanner because it allows for large format items to be imaged on a flat surface. This is less invasive and less damaging to the pages, and is quicker than other scanning methods. The Zeutschel can handle items up to 25 x 18 inches, which accommodates the larger sized formats of the Chronicle used in the 1940s and 1950s. If bound issues must be digitized, due to the absence of a loose copy or the inability to safely dis-bound a volume, the Phase One digital camera system is used as it can better capture large bound pages that may not necessarily lay flat.

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Folders each containing multiple page images of one Chronicle issue

For every scanning session, we need the digitization guide handy as it tells what to name the image files using the previously assigned unique identifier. Each issue of the newspaper is scanned as a separate folder of images, with one image representing one page of the newspaper. This system of organization allows for each issue to become its own compound object – multiple files bound together with an XML structure – once published to the website. The Zeutschel’s scanning software helps organize these image files into properly named folders. Of course, no digitization session would be complete without the initial target scan that checks for color calibration (See Mike Adamo’s post for a color calibration crash course).

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The Zeutschel’s control panel of buttons
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The Zeutschel’s optional foot pedals

The scanner’s plate glass can now be raised with the push of a button (or the tap of a foot pedal) and the Chronicle issue is placed on the flatbed.  Lowering the plate glass down, the pages are flattened for a better scan result. Now comes the excitement… we can finally press SCAN. For each page, the plate glass is raised, lowered, and the scan button is pressed. Chronicle issues can have anywhere from 2 to 30 or more pages, so you can image this process can become monotonous – or even mesmerizing – at times. Luckily, with the smaller format decades, like the 1970s and 1980s, the inner pages can be scanned two at a time and the Zeutschel software separates them into two images, which cuts down on the scan time. As for the larger formats, the pages are so big you can only fit one on the flatbed. That means each page is a separate scan, but older years tended to publish less issues, so it’s a trade-off. To put the volume of this work into perspective, the 1,408 issues of the 1980s Chronicle took 28,089 scans to complete, while the 1950s Chronicle of about 482 issues took around 3,700 scans to complete.

 

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A 1940s Chronicle page is placed on the flatbed for scanning

 

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Scanning in progress of the 1940s Chronicle page
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Target image opened in Adobe Photoshop for color calibration

Every scanned image that pops up on the screen is also checked for alignment and cropping errors that may require a re-scan. Once all the pages in an issue are digitized and checked for errors, clicking the software’s Finalize button will compile the images in the designated folder. We now return to our digitization guide to enter in metadata pertaining to the scanning of that issue, including capture person, capture date, capture device, and what target image relates to this session (subsequent issues do not need a new target scanned, as long as the scanning takes place in the same session).

Now, with the next issue, rinse and repeat: set the software settings and name the folder, scan the issue, finalize, and fill out the digitization guide. You get the gist.

 

Post-Scanning Procedures

chrondigblog_qcrotate
Rotating an image in Adobe Photoshop

We now find ourselves with a slue of folders filled with digitized Chronicle images. The next phase of the process is quality control (QC). Once every issue from the decade is scanned, the first round of QC checks all images for excess borders to be cropped, crooked images to be squared, and any other minute discrepancy that may have resulted from the scanning process. This could be missing images, pages out of order, or even images scanned upside down. This stage of QC is often performed by student workers who diligently inspect image after image using Adobe Photoshop. The second round of QC is performed by our Digital Production Specialist Zeke Graves who gives every item a final pass.

At this stage, derivatives of the original preservation-quality images are created. The originals are archived in dark storage, while the smaller-sized derivatives are used in the CONTENTdm ingest process. CONTENTdm is the digital collection management software we use that collates the digital images with their appropriate descriptive metadata from our digitization guide, and creates one compound object for each Chronicle issue. It also generates the layer of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) data that makes the Chronicle text searchable, and provides an online interface for users to discover the collection once published on the website. The images and metadata are ingested into CONTENTdm’s Project Client in small batches (1 to 3 years of Chronicle issues) to reduce the chance of upload errors. Once ingested into CONTENTdm, the items are then spot-checked to make sure the metadata paired up with the correct image. During this step, other metadata is added that is specific to CONTENTdm fields, including the ingest person’s initials. Then, another ingest must run to push the files and data from the Project Client to the CONTENTdm server. A third step after this ingest finishes is to approve the items in the CONTENTdm administrative interface. This gives the go-ahead to publish the material online.

Hold on, we aren’t done yet. The project is now passed along to our developers in DPPS who must add this material to our digital collections platform for online discovery and access (they are currently developing Tripod3 to replace the previous Tripod2 platform, which is more eloquently described in Will Sexton’s post back in April). Not only does this improve discoverability, but it makes all of the library’s digital collections look more uniform in their online presentation.

Then, FINALLY, the collection goes live on the web. Now, just repeat the process for every decade of the Duke Chronicle, and you can see how this can become a rather time-heavy and laborious process. A labor of love, that is.

I could have narrowly stuck with describing to you the scanning process and the wonders of the Zeutschel, but I felt that I’d be shortchanging you. Active scanning is only a part of the whole digitization process which warrants a much broader narrative than just “push scan.” Along this journey to digitize the Duke Chronicle, we’ve collectively learned many things. The quirks and trials of each decade inform our process for the next, giving us the chance to improve along the way (to learn how we reflect upon each digital project after completion, go to Molly Bragg’s blog post on post-mortem reports).

If your curiosity is piqued as to how the Duke Chronicle looks online, the Fall 1959-Spring 1970 and January 1980-February 1989 issues are already available to view in our digital collections. The 1970s Chronicle is the next decade slated for publication, followed by the 1950s. Though this isn’t a comprehensive detailed account of the digitization process, I hope it provides you with a clearer picture of how we bring a collection, like the Duke Chronicle, into digital existence.

Inspiration from Italy

One project we’ve been working on recently in the Digital Projects Department is a revamped Library Exhibits website that will launch in concert with the opening of the newly renovated Rubenstein Library in August. The interface is going to focus on highlighting the exhibit spaces, items, and related events. Here’s a mockup of where we hope to be shortly:

Exhibits Teaser

On a somewhat related note, I recently traveled to Italy and was able to spend an afternoon at the Venice Biennale, which is an international contemporary art show that takes place every other year. Participating artists install their work across nearly 90 pavilions and there’s also a central gallery space for countries that don’t have their own buildings. It’s really an impressive amount of work to wander through in a single day and I wasn’t able to see everything, but many of the works I did see was amazing. Three exhibits in particular were striking to me.

Garden of Eden

The first I’ll highlight is the work of Joana Vasconcelos, titled Il Giardino dell’Eden, which was housed in a silver tent of a building from one of the event sponsors, Swatch (the watch company). As I entered I was immediately met with a dark and cool space, which was fantastic on this particularly hot and humid day. The room was filled with an installation of glowing fiber optic flowers that pulsated with different patterns of color. It was beautiful and super engaging. I spent a long time wandering through the pathway trying to take it all in.

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

Autonomous Trees

Another engrossing installation was housed in the French Pavilion; Revolutions by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. I walked into a large white room where a tree with a large exposed rootball was sitting off to the side. There were deep meditative tones being projected from somewhere close by. I noticed people were lounging in the wings of the space, so I wandered over to check it out for myself. What looked like a wooden bleacher of sorts actually turned out to be made of some sort of painted foam. So as I stumbled and laughed when I tried to first walk on it, like many others who came into the space later, I plopped down to soak in the exhibit. I noticed the deep tones were subtly rhythmic and they definitely gave off a meditative vibe, so it was nice to relax a bit after a long day of walking. But then I noticed the large tree was not where it had been when I first entered the room. It was moving, but very slowly. Utterly interesting. It almost seemed to levitate. I’d really like to know how it worked (there were also two more trees outside the pavilion that moved in the same way). Overall it was a fantastic experience.

Red Sea of Keys

My favorite installation was in the Japanese Pavilion; The Key in the Hand by Chiharu Shiota. The space was filled with an almost incomprehensible number of keys dangling from entangled red yarn suspended from the ceiling of the room. There were also a few small boats positioned around the space. My first instinct was that I was standing underneath a red sea. It’s really hard to describe just how much ‘red’ there actually is in the space. The intricacy of the threads and the uniqueness of almost every key I looked at was simply mind blowing. I think my favorite part of the exhibit was nestled in a corner of the room where an iPad sat looping a time compressed video of the installation of the work. It was uniquely satisfying to watch it play out and come together over and over. I’m not sure how to tap into that experience for exhibits in the library, but it’s something we can certainly aim for!

The Key in the Hand

The Key in the Hand

The Key in the Hand

The Key in the Hand

Fugitive Sheets Wrapup at TRLN 2015

Rachel Ingold (Curator for the History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Library) and I co-presented yesterday at the TRLN Annual Conference 2015 in Chapel Hill, NC:


Raising the Bar for Lifting the Flaps: An Inside Look at the Anatomical Fugitive Sheets Digital Collection at Duke

Sean Aery, Digital Projects Developer, Duke
Rachel Ingold, Curator for the History of Medicine Collections, Duke

Duke’s Digital Collections program recently published a remarkable set of 16th-17th century anatomical fugitive sheets from The Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections. These illustrated sheets are similar to broadsides, but feature several layers of delicate flaps that lift to show inside the human body. The presenters will discuss the unique challenges posed by the source material including conservation, digitization, description, data modeling, and UI design. They will also demonstrate the resulting digital collection, which has already earned several accolades for its innovative yet elegant solutions for a project with a high degree of complexity.


Here are our slides from the session:

For more information on the project, see Rachel’s post introducing the collection and mine explaining how it works. Finally, Ethan Butler at Cuberis also posted a great in-depth look at the technology powering the interface.

The Beauty of Auto Crop

One of the most tedious and time-consuming tasks we do in the Digital Production Center is cropping and straightening still image files. Hired students spend hours sitting at our computers, meticulously straightening and cropping extraneous background space out of hundreds of thousands of photographed images, using Adobe Photoshop. This process is neccessary in order to present a clean, concise image for our digital collections, but it causes delays in the completion of our projects, and requires a lot of student labor. Auto cropping software has long been sought after in digital imaging, but few developers have been able to make it work efficiently, for all materials. The Digital Production Center’s Zeutschel overhead scanner utilizes auto cropping software, but the scanner can only be used with completely flat media, due to its limited depth of field. Thicker and more fragile materials must be photographed using our Phase One digital camera system, shown above.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 4.32.26 PM
Capture One’s Cultural Heritage software includes the auto crop feature.

Recently, Digital Transitions, who is the supplier of Phase One and it’s accompanying Capture One software, announced an update to the software which includes an auto crop and straightening feature. The new software is called Capture One Cultural Heritage, and is specifically designed for use in libraries and archival institutions. The auto crop feature, previously unavailable in Capture One, is a real breakthrough, and there are several options for how to use it.

First of all, the user can choose to auto crop “On Capture” or “On Crop.” That is, the software can auto crop instantly, right after a photograph has been taken (On Capture), or it can be applied to the image, or batch of images, at a later time (On Crop). You can also choose between auto cropping at a fixed size, or by the edge of the material. For instance, if you are photographing a collection of posters that are all sized 18” x 24,” you would choose “Fixed Size” and set the primary crop to “18 x 24,” or slightly larger if you want your images to have an outer border. The software recognizes the rectangular shape, and applies the crop. If you are photographing a collection of materials that are a variety of different sizes, you would choose “Generic,” which tells the software to crop wherever it sees a difference between the edge of the material and the background. “Padding” can be used to give those images a border.

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The Digital Production Center’s Phase One camera system.

Because Capture One utilizes raw files, the auto crops are non-destructive edits. One benefit of this is that if your background color is close to the color of your material, you can temporarily adjust the contrast of the photograph in order to darken the edges of the object, thus enhancing the delineation between object and background.  Next apply the auto crop, which will be more successful due to it’s ability to recognize the newly-defined edges of the material. After the crops are applied, you can reverse the contrast adjustment, thus returning the images to their original state, while still keeping the newly-generated crops.

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Temporarily increasing the contrast of your images can help the auto crop feature find the edges of the object.

Like a lot of technological advances, reliable auto cropping seemed like a fantasy just a few years ago, but is now a reality. It doesn’t work perfectly every time, and quality control is still necessary to uncover errors, but it’s a big step forward. The only thing disconcerting is the larger question facing our society. How long will it be before our work is completely automated, and humans are left behind?

Who, Why, and What:  the three W’s of the Duke Digital Collections Mini-Survey

My colleague Sean wrote two weeks ago about the efforts a group of us  in the library are making towards understanding the scholarly impacts of Duke Digital Collections.  In this post, I plan to continue the discussion with details about the survey we are conducting as well as share some initial results.

Surveying can be perilous work!
Surveying can be perilous work!

After reviewing the analytics and Google Scholar data Sean wrote about, our working group realized we needed more information.   Our goal in this entire assessment process has been to pull together scholarly use data which will inform our digitization decisions, priorities, technological choices (features on the digital collections platform), and to help us gain an understanding of if and how we are meeting the needs of researcher communities.    Analytics gave us clues, but we still didn’t some of the fundamental facts about our patrons.   After a fervent discussion with many whiteboard notes, the group decided creating a survey would get us more of the data we were looking for.  The resulting survey focuses on the elemental questions we have about our patrons:   who are they, why are they visiting Duke Digital Collections, and what are they going to do with what they find here.

 

The Survey

Creating the survey itself was no small task, but after an almost endless process of writing, rewriting, and consultations with our assessment coordinator we settled on 6 questions (a truely miniature survey).  We considered the first three questions (who, why, what) to be most important, and we intended the last three to provide us with additional information such as Duke affiliation and allow a space for general feedback.  None of the questions were considered “required” so respondents could answer or skip whatever they wanted; we also included space for respondents to write-in further details especially when choosing the “other” option.

Our survey in its completed form.
Our survey in its completed form.

The survey launched on April 30 and remains accessible by hovering over a “feedback” link on every single Digital Collection webpage.  Event tracking analytics show that 0.29% of the patrons that hover over our feedback link click through to the survey. An even smaller number have actually submitted responses.  This has worked out to 56 responses at an average rate of around 1 per day.  Despite that low click through rate, we have been really pleased with the number of responses we have had so far.  The response rate remains steady, and we have already learned a lot from even this small sample of visitor data.  We are not advertising the survey or promoting it, because our target respondents are patrons who find us in the course of their research or general Internet browsing.

Hovering over the help us box reveals expectations and instructions for survey participants.
Hovering over the help us box reveals expectations and instructions for survey participants.

Initial Results

Before I start discussing our results, please note that what I’m sharing here is based on initial responses and my own observations.  No one in digital collections has thoroughly reviewed or analyzed this data.  Additionally, this information is drawn from responses submitted between April 30 – July 8, 2015. We plan to keep the survey online into the academic year to see if our responses change when classes are in session.

With that disclaimer now behind us, let’s review results by question.

Questions 1 and 4:  Who are you?

Since we are concerned with scholarly oriented use more than other types in this exercise, the first question is intended to sort respondents primarily by academic status.   In question 4, respondents are given the chance to further categorized their academic affiliation.

Question 1 Answers # of Responses %
Student 14 25%
Educator 10 18%
Librarian, Archivist or Museum Staff 5 9%
Other 26 47%
55 100

Of the respondents who categorized themselves as “other” in question 1, 11 clarified their otherness by writing their identities in the space provided.  Of this 11, 4 associated themselves with music oriented professions or hobbies, and 2 with fine arts (photographer and filmmaker).  The remaining 5 could not be grouped easily into categories.

As a follow up later in the survey, question 4 asks respondents to categorize their academic affiliation (if they had one).  The results showed that 3 respondents are affiliated with Duke, 12  with other colleges or universities and 9 with a K-12 school.   Of the write-in responses, 3 listed names of universities abroad, and 1 listed a school whose level has not been identified.

Question 2:  Why are you here?

We can tell from our analytics how people get to us (if they were referred to us via a link or sought us out directly), but this information does not address why visitors come to the site.  Enter question 2.

Question 2 Answers # of Responses %
Academic research 15 28
Casual browsing 15 28
Followed a link 9 17%
Personal research 24 44%
Other 6 11%
54

The survey asks that those who select academic research, personal research, and other to write-in their research topic or purpose.  Academic research topics submitted so far primarily revolve around various historical research topics.  Personal research topics reflect a high interest in music (specific songs or types of music), advertising, and other various personal projects.  It is interesting to note that local history related topics have been submitted under all three categories (academic, personal and other).  Additionally,  non-academic researchers seem to be more willing to share sharing their specific topics; 19 of 24 respondents listed their topics as compared to 7 out of 15 academic researchers.

Question 3:  What will you do with the images and/or resources you find on this site?

To me, this question has the potential to provide some of the most illuminating information from our patrons. Knowing how they use the material helps us determine how to enhance access to the digitized objects and what kinds of technology we should be investing in.  This can also shed light on our digitization process itself.  For example, maybe the full text version of an item will provide more benefit to more researchers than an illustrated or hand-written version of the same item (of course we would prefer to offer both, but I think you see where I am going with this).

In designing this question, the group decided it would be valuable to offer options for the those who share items due to their visual or subject appeal (for example, the Pinterest user), the publication minded researcher, and a range of patron types in between.

 

Question 3 Answers # of Responses %
Use for an academic publication 3 6%
Share on social media 10 19%
Use them for homework 8 15%
Use them as a teaching tool in my classes 5 9%
Personal use 31 58%
Use for my job 2 4%
Other 10 19%
53

The 10 “other” respondents all entered subsequent details; they planned to share items with friends and family (in some way other than on social media), they also wanted to use the items they found as a reference, or were working on an academic pursuit that in their mind didn’t fit the listed categories.

Observations

As I said above, these survey results are cursory as we plan to leave the survey up for several more months.  But so far the data reveals that Duke Digital collections serves a wide audience of academic and non-academic users for a range of purposes. For example, one respondent uses the outdoor advertising collections to get a glimpse of how their community has changed over time. Another is concerned with US History in the 1930s, and another is focused on music from the 1900s.

The next phase of the the assessment group’s activities is to meet with researchers and instructors in person and talk with them about their experiences using digital collections (not just Duke’s) for scholarly research or instruction.  We have also been collecting examples of instructors who have used digital collections in their classes.  We plan to create a webpage with these examples with the goal of encouraging other instructors to do the same.  The goal of both of these efforts is to increase academic use of the digital collections (whether that be at the K-12 or collegiate level).

 

Just like this survey team, we stand at the ready, waiting for our chance to analyze and react to our data!

Of course, another next step is to keep collecting this survey data and analyze it further.  All in all, it has been truly exciting to see the results thus far.  As we study the data in more depth this Fall, we plan to work with the Duke University Library Digital Collections Advisory Team to implement any new technical or policy oriented decisions based on our conclusions.  Our minds are already spinning with the possibilities.

Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team