My Family Story through the Duke Digital Collections Program

Hello! This is my first blog as the new Digital Production Service Manager, and I’d like to take this opportunity to take you, the reader, through my journey of discovering the treasures that the Duke Digital Collections program offers. To personalize this task, I  explored the materials related to my family’s journey to the United States. First, I should contextualize. After migrating from south China in the mid-1800s, my family fled Vietnam in the late 1970s and we left with the bare necessities – mainly food, clothes, and essential documents. All I have now are a few family pictures from that era and vividly told stories from my parents to help me connect the dots of my family’s history.

When I started delving into Duke’s Digital Collections, it was heartening to find materials of China, Vietnam, and even anti-war materials in the U.S. The following are some materials and collections that I’d like to highlight.

The Sidney D. Gamble Photographs offer over 5,000 photographs of China in the early 20th century. Images of everyday life in China and landscapes are available in this collection.The above image from the Gamble collection, is that of a junk, or houseboat, photographed in the early 1900s. When my family fled Vietnam, fifty people crammed into a similar vessel and sailed in the dead of night along the Gulf of Tonkin. My parents spoke of how they were guided by the moonlight and how fearful they were of the junk catching fire from cooking rice.

The African American Soldier’s Vietnam War photograph album collection offers these gorgeous images of Vietnam. This is the country that was home for multiple generations for my family, and up until the war, it was a good life. I am astounded and grateful that these postcards were collected by an American soldier in the middle of war. Considering that I grew up in Los Angeles, California, I have no sense of the world that my parents inhabited, and these images help me appreciate their stories even more. On the other side of the planet, there were efforts to stop the war and it was intriguing to see a variety of digital collections depicting these perspectives through art and documentary photography. The image below is that of a poster from the Italian Cultural Posters collection depicting Uncle Sam and the Viet Cong.

In addition to capturing street scenes in London, the Ronald Reis Collection, includes images of Vietnam during the war and anti-war effort in the United States. The image below is that of a demonstration in Bryant Park in New York City. I recognize that the conflict was fought on multiple fronts and am grateful for these demonstrations, as they ultimately led to the end of the war.Lastly, the James Karales Photos collection depicts Vietnam during the war. The image below, titled “Soldiers leaving on helicopter” is one that reminds me of my uncle who left with the American soldiers and started a new life in the United States. In 1980, thanks to the Family Reunification Act, the aid of the American Red Cross, and my uncle’s sponsorship, we started a new chapter in America.

Perhaps this is typical of the immigrant experience, but it still is important to put into words. Not every community has the resources and the privilege to be remembered, and where there are materials to help piece those stories together, they are absolutely valued and appreciated. Thank you, Duke University Libraries, for making these materials available.

Wrangling Messy Data with Airtable

The Assessment & User Experience department at Duke University Libraries keeps the libraries’ physical and virtual spaces responsive to user needs by constantly gathering feedback. In additional to our biennial user satisfaction survey, we run usability tests, hold focus groups, and host meetings of our student advisory boards, all in an effort to keep a finger on the pulse of the DUL patrons.

These activities can generate a lot of unstructured data! For example, in a typical meeting of our undergraduate advisory board, we might collect feedback from a dozen or more students, generating seven or more pages of notes and covering a range of topics. We review and act upon some of these comments immediately, but others may influence longer-term planning. As library staff, we know how important it is to store information in a way that promotes future access. This year we decided to pilot a new system for storing and describing our unstructured data.

Airtable logoEnter Airtable. If you’re not familiar, Airtable is a cloud-based database solution. Similar to Google Sheets, Airtable lets you enter and share data in your web browser, but it also offers more powerful features for projects that have messy data or interconnected components. There are many Airtable templates to show off the different features, including project trackers, event planners, and even product catalogs.

For our messy data, we built a simple spreadsheet that was general enough to collect data from a variety of sources. We included columns like basic demographics, the feedback provided, the original question or prompt, the date when feedback was provided, and how we collected the feedback. Then we took advantage of Airtable’s special features to create a column for topical tags. One of the column types in Airtable is called “multiple select“, which means you can add multiple tags to a single comment. Other spreadsheets can’t understand a list of tags in a single cell, but Airtable treats each tag separately and allows us to group and filter comments by each individual tag.

a screenshot of an Airtable database with tagged comments

The ability to look at comments across different feedback channels in one central location has enormous potential. Instead of having to hunt through old Word documents or emails, we have a single database that can be searched, sorted, or filtered to explore trends in comments over time. When a question comes up about how patrons feels about a particular service or space, we can compile data much more easily, and we no longer have to rely on our memory of what feedback we’ve received and when.

screenshot of Airtable tutorial instructions

Airtable’s free accounts have a limited number of rows allowed in each database,  but they do offer a discount on paid plans to educational institutions. We’re only just starting to explore the potential of Airtable, but so far we’ve been happy with the ability to collect our messy data in one place and organize comments with tags.

Want to learn more? Take a look at our recent tutorial on using Airtable for coding survey data, originally offered at the Designing For Digital 2019 conference.

Bringing 500 Years of Women’s Work Online

Back in 2015, Lisa Unger Baskin placed her extensive collection of more than 11,000 books, manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. In late February of 2019, the Libraries opened the exhibit “Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection” presenting visitors with a first look at the diversity and depth of the collection, revealing the lives of women both famous and forgotten and recognizing their accomplishments. I was fortunate to work on the online component of the exhibit in which we aimed to offer an alternate way to interact with the materials.

Homepage of the exhibit
Homepage of the exhibit

Most of the online exhibits I have worked on have not had the benefit of a long planning timeframe, which usually means we have to be somewhat conservative in our vision for the end product. However, with this high-profile exhibit, we did have the luxury of a (relatively) generous schedule and as such we were able to put a lot more thought and care into the planning phase. The goal was to present a wide range and number of items in an intuitive and user-friendly manner. We settled on the idea of arranging items by time period (items in the collection span seven centuries!) and highlighting the creators of those items.

We also decided to use Omeka (classic!) for our content management system as we’ve done with most of our other online exhibits. Usually exhibit curators manually enter the item information for their exhibits, which can get somewhat tedious. In this case, we were dealing with more than 250 items, which seemed like a lot of work to enter one at a time. I was familiar with the CSV Import plugin for Omeka, which allows for batch uploading items and mapping metadata fields. It seemed like the perfect solution to our situation. My favorite feature of the plugin is that it also allows for quickly undoing an ingest in case you discover that you’ve made a mistake with mapping fields or the like, which made me less nervous about applying batch uploads to our production Omeka instance that already contained about 1,100 items.

Metadata used for batch upload
Metadata used for batch upload

Working with the curators, we came up with a data model that would nest well within Omeka’s default Dublin-core based approach and expanded that with a few extra non-standard fields that we attached to a new custom item type. We then assembled a small sample set of data in spreadsheet form and I worked on spinning up a local instance of Omeka to test and make sure our approach was actually going to work! After some frustrating moments with MAMP and tracking down strange paths to things like imagemagick (thank you eternally, Stack Overflow!) I was able to get things running well and was convinced the batch uploads via spreadsheet was a good approach.

Now that we had a process in place, I began work on a custom theme to use with the exhibit. I’d previously used Omeka Foundation (a grid-based starter theme using the Zurb Foundation CSS framework) and thought it seemed like a good place to start with this project. The curators had a good idea of the site structure that they wanted to use, so I jumped right in on creating some high-fidelity mockups borrowing look-and-feel cues from the beautiful print catalog that was produced for the exhibit. After a few iterations we arrived at a place where everyone was happy and I started to work on functionality. I also worked on incorporating a more recent version of the Foundation framework as the starter theme was out of date.

Print catalog for the exhibit
Print catalog for the exhibit

The core feature of the site would be the ability to browse all of the items we wanted to feature via the Explore menu, which we broke into seven sections — primarily by time period, but also by context. After looking at some other online exhibit examples that I thought were successful, we decided to use a masonry layout approach (popularized by sites like Pinterest) to display the items. Foundation includes a great masonry plugin that was very easy to implement. Another functionality issue had to do with displaying multi-page items. Out of the box, I think Omeka doesn’t do a great job displaying items that contain multiple images. I’ve found combining them into PDFs works much better, so that’s what we did in this case. I also installed the PDF Embed plugin (based on the PDF.js engine) in order to get a consistent experience across browsers and platforms.

Once we got the theme to a point that everyone was happy with it, I batch imported all of the content and proceeded with a great deal of cross-platform testing to make sure things were working as expected. We also spent some time refining the display of metadata fields and making small tweaks to the content. Overall I’m very pleased with how everything turned out. User traffic has been great so far so it’s exciting to know that so many people have been able to experience the wonderful items in the exhibit. Please check out the website and also come visit in person — on display until June 15, 2019.

Examples of 'Explore' and 'Item' pages
Examples of ‘Explore’ and ‘Item’ pages

It Takes a Village to Curate Your Data: Duke Partners with the Data Curation Network

In early 2017, Duke University Libraries launched a research data curation program designed to help researchers on campus ensure that their data are adequately prepared for both sharing and publication, and long term preservation and re-use. Why the focus on research data? Data generated by scholars in the course of their investigation are increasingly being recognized as outputs similar in importance to the scholarly publications they support. Open data sharing reinforces unfettered intellectual inquiry, fosters transparency, reproducibility and broader analysis, and permits the creation of new data sets when data from multiple sources are combined. For these reasons, a growing number of publishers and funding agencies like PLoS ONE and the National Science Foundation are requiring researchers to make openly available the data underlying the results of their research.

Data curation steps

But data sharing can only be successful if the data have been properly documented and described. And they are only useful in the long term if steps have been taken to mitigate the risks of file format obsolescence and bit rot. To address these concerns, Duke’s data curation workflow will review a researcher’s data for appropriate documentation (such as README files or codebooks), solicit and refine Dublin Core metadata about the dataset, and make sure files are named and arranged in a way that facilitates secondary use. Additionally, the curation team can make suggestions about preferred file formats for long-term re-use and conduct a brief review for personally identifiable information. Once the data package has been reviewed, the curation team can then help researchers make their data available in Duke’s own Research Data Repository, where the data can be licensed and assigned a Digital Object Identifier, ensuring persistent access.

 

“The Data Curation Network (DCN) serves as the “human layer” in the data repository stack and seamlessly connects local data sets to expert data curators via a cross-institutional shared staffing model.”

 

New to Duke’s curation workflow is the ability to rely on the domain expertise of our colleagues at a few other research institutions. While our data curators here at Duke possess a wealth of knowledge about general research data-related best practices, and are especially well-versed in the vagaries of social sciences data, they may not always have the all the information they need to sufficiently assess the state of a dataset from a researcher. As an answer to this problem, the Data Curation Network, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-funded endeavor, has established a cross-institutional staffing model that distributes the domain expertise of each of its partner institutions. Should a curator at one institution encounter data of a kind with which they are unfamiliar, submission to the DCN opens up the possibility for enhanced curation from a network partner with the requisite knowledge.

DCN Partner Institutions
DCN Partner Institutions

Duke joins Cornell University, Dryad Digital Repository, Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and Pennsylvania State University in partnering to provide curatorial expertise to the DCN. As of January of this year, the project has moved out of pilot phase into production, and is actively moving data through the network. If a Duke researcher were to submit a dataset our curation team thought would benefit from further examination by a curator with domain knowledge, we will now reach out to the potential depositor to receive clearance to submit the data to the network. We’re very excited about this opportunity to provide this enhancement to our service!

Looking forward, the DCN hopes to expand their offerings to include nation-wide training on specialized data curation and to extend the curation services the network offers beyond the partner institutions to individual end users. Duke looks forward to contributing as the project grows and evolves.

Sustainability Planning for a Better Tomorrow

In March of last year I wrote about efforts of the Resource Discovery Systems and Strategies team (RDSS, previously called the Discovery Strategy Team) to map Duke University Libraries’ discovery system environment in a visual way. As part of this project we created supporting documentation for each system that appeared in a visualization, including identifying functional and technical owners as well as links to supporting documentation. Gathering this information wasn’t as straightforward as it ideally should have been, however. When attempting to identify ownership, for example, we were often asked questions like, “what IS a functional owner, anyway?”, or told “I guess I’m the owner… I don’t know who else it would be”. And for many systems, local documentation was outdated, distributed across platforms, or simply nonexistent.

As a quick glance through the Networked Discovery Systems document will evince, we work with a LOT of different systems here at DUL, supporting a great breadth of processes and workflows. And we’ve been steadily adding to the list of systems we support every year, without necessarily articulating how we will manage the ever-growing list. This has led to situations of benign neglect, confusion as to roles and responsibilities and, in a few cases, we’ve hung onto systems for too long because we hadn’t defined a plan for responsible decommission.

So, to promote the healthier management of our Networked Discovery Systems, the RDSS team developed a set of best practices for sustainability planning. Originally we framed this document as best practices for maintenance planning, but in conversations with other groups in the Libraries, we realized that this didn’t quite capture our intention. While maintenance planning is often considered from a technical standpoint, we wanted to convey that the responsible management of our systems involves stakeholders beyond just those in ITS, to include the perspective and engagement of non-technical staff. So, we landed on the term sustainability, which we hope captures the full lifecycle of a system in our suite of tools, from implementation, through maintenance, to sunsetting, when necessary.

The best practices are fairly short, intended to be a high-level guide rather than overly prescriptive, recognizing that every system has unique needs. Each section of the framework is described, and key terms are defined. Functional and technical ownership are described, including the types of activities that may attend each role, and we acknowledge that ownership responsibilities may be jointly accomplished by groups or teams of stakeholders. We lay out the following suggested framework for developing a sustainability plan, which we define as “a living document that addresses the major components of a system’s life cycle”:

  • Governance:
    • Ownership
    • Stakeholders
    • Users
  • Maintenance:
    • System Updates
    • Training
    • Documentation
  • Review:
    • Assessments
    • Enhancements
    • Sunsetting

Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, many of the conversations we had about the framework ended up focusing on the last part – sunsetting. How to responsibly decommission or sunset a system in a methodical, process-oriented way is something we haven’t really tackled yet, but we’re not alone in this, and the topic is one that is garnering some attention in project management circles.

So far, the best practices have been used to create a sustainability plan for one of our systems, Dukespace, and the feedback was positive. We hope that these guidelines will facilitate the work we do to sustain our system, and in so doing lead to better communication and understanding throughout the organization. And we didn’t forget to create a sustainability plan for the best practices themselves – the RDSS team has committed to reviewing and updating it at least annually!

Ad-Blocking … and a Mea Culpa

It’s all but impossible to use the internet and not be aware of the sheer quantity of advertising out there. Some estimates suggest Google alone serves out nearly 30 Billion ads per day; other estimates suggest 300-700 ads are shown per person per day. In trying to get more eyeballs on their images, advertisers have resorted to more and more intrusive ad displays — pop-over ads (so you can’t see content until you close the ad), pop-under ads (so even after you’ve left the site, you’ll see one more ad), animated gifs (the motion naturally causes your eye to look at it), auto-playing (and loud) videos. More recently, ads have even been implicated in malware attacks.

So it’s no surprise that ad-blocking technology is now mainstream. All major browsers have multiple ad-blocker plug-ins, and any list of “Best Add-Ons for <browser>” will likely include at least one. By blocking ads, these plugins reduce the annoyance of the ads while also helping protect your privacy by reducing sites’ ability to track you.

As an additional bonus, they can also accelerate your web browsing — by not downloading all that ad content, you’re able to see the “real” content faster. A New York Times article showed that between 33% and 50% of the time to download a page was due to advertising — and in extreme cases, advertising could be 80% or more of the time to download and view a webpage.

In IT-Core Services, we had intended to deploy an ad-blocker to all of the public computers in order to allow our patrons and users to block ads while they were doing work, collecting papers, or doing research on Library computers.  The plugin is called “uBlock Origin” and is one of the leading open-source ad-blockers around.

But … Oops.

We accidentally pushed it to all public AND staff computers several months ago.

Given the very few number of tickets we’ve seen about it, we’re guessing people either didn’t notice, or else welcomed the arrival of uBlock.  We’re now planning on keeping uBlock deployed on all staff and public computers.  We feel that the privacy, performance, and security benefits of uBlock outweigh the desire for a “ad-full” web experience — and you can easily un-block any websites you want to, if you find that the blocker is somehow interfering with that site.

How to Un-Block a Website:

To unblock the websitethat you’re visiting — that is, to show the ads on the page — look for the uBlock logo (a brick-red shield) at the top of the main browser window.  Clicking that logo will pop up a dialog box like this:By clicking on the power-button symbol (circle with the line at the top), you’ll tell uBlock to NOT block ads on that webpage in the future.  You should then reload the page to get the ad-full experience (by default, un-blocking a website does NOT reload or re-display the ads, you must explicitly reload the page).  Note:  if the uBlock logo is grey, or the power-button icon is grey, then the current website is already un-blocked (and the browser is showing you the ads).

How to Un-Block All/Many Websites:

To unblock a lot of websites at once, you have to go to the uBlock “Dashboard” or settings menu.  Again, click on the uBlock shield logo at the top of the browser window, then look for the 3-sliders icon (immediately below the power-button, to the right of the dialog box).  Clicking that will bring up a new virtual webpage with a variety of settings on it:

Click on the “Filter Lists” tab and you’ll see a set of “Filter” checkboxes.  Each checkbox represents a set of websites that are to be blocked (checked) or unblocked (unchecked).  To unblock all websites — to essentially deactivate uBlock Origin altogether — just uncheck all of the Filter sets.  FWIW, most of the filter-sets have Home icons where you can find more info on what that filter-set does (e.g. “Malware Domains” links to a website at malwaredomains.com, which is run and maintained by the company RiskAnalytics).

If you have any questions, please just submit a ticket and someone will get back to you.

(title image is the “Million Dollar Webpage“, I’ll link you to the Wikipedia page rather than the ad-full page!)


UPDATE – 15 Feb 2019 – uBlock and DUL Newsletters:

While a great many websites will work fine with uBlock Origin installed, it turns out the Library’s own newsletter system does NOT!  If you are experiencing problems with the newsletter, go into the uBlock settings (process described above) and go to the “Filter Lists” tab.  One of the filter-sets at the bottom is named “Peter Lowe’s Ad and tracking server list” — this is the one that seems to catch the iContact server used by our newsletter.  If you disable that (the box will be un-checked), then reload the page, you should be back in operation.  Sorry!

We are Hiring: Digital Repository Content Analyst

Duke University Libraries (DUL) is recruiting a Digital Repository Content Analyst to help us ingest and manage content in our digital preservation systems and platforms.  This position will partner with the Research Data Curation Program, Digital Collections Program, and various other departments around the Library and on campus to provide curation and preservation services.  This is an excellent entry level opportunity for anyone who enjoys managing large sets of data and/or files, working with colleagues across an organization, preserving essential data and library collections, and learning new technical skills.

Ideal applicants have been exposed to technical systems and file management techniques such as command line scripting, can communicate functional system requirements between groups with varying types of expertise, enjoys working with different types of data/collections, and loves solving problems.  The successful candidate will join the highly collaborative Digital Collections and Curation Services department (within the Digital Strategies and Technology Division) at DUL.

For a full job description please see https://library.duke.edu/about/jobs/digitalrepositorycontentanalyst. To apply, submit an electronic resume, cover letter, and list of 3 references: https://hr.duke.edu/careers/apply – refer to requisition #401537489. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

Something Good

One of the highlights of the Association of Moving Image Archivists’ annual conference is “Archival Screening Night,” where members of the AMIA community showcase recently-discovered and newly-restored film and video footage. The event usually takes place in a historic movie theater, with skilled projectionists that are able to present the film materials in their original format, on the big screen. At the most recent AMIA conference, in Portland, Oregon, there was a wide array of impressive material presented, but one film in particular left the audience speechless, and is a wonderful example of how archivists can unearth treasures that can alter our perspective on human history, and humanity itself.

The film, “Something Good – Negro Kiss” was made in 1898. It’s silent, black & white, and is less than a minute long. But it’s groundbreaking, in that it shows the earliest known depiction of an African-American couple kissing, and stands in opposition to the racist, minstrel-show portrayals of black people so common in the early days of American filmmaking. The couple embrace, kiss, and sway back and forth in a playful, spontaneous dance that comes across as genuine and heartwarming. Although it may not have been intentional, the short film seems to be free of negative racial stereotypes. You can watch it here:

Dino Everett, an archivist at the University of Southern California’s Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, recently discovered the 35mm nitrate film within a batch of silent films once owned by a Louisiana collector. Unique perforation marks helped him to identify the film’s age, and Allyson Nadia Field, of the University of Chicago, was able to help track down the history: where it was shot (Chicago), who the filmmaker was (William Selig), and what the original title of the the film was (Something Good). The actors have been identified as Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown. The film has now been added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The film is likely an homage to “The Kiss” (also known as the May Irwin Kiss), a film made in 1896, with a white couple kissing. It was one of the first films ever shown commercially, and is the very first kiss on film. Even though the couple was white, and the kissing is remarkably tame by today’s standards,  it created a lot of controversy at the time, because kissing in public was prohibited by law.  The Catholic church and newspaper editorials denounced “The Kiss” and called for censorship and prosecution.  Although there is no documented history yet about the public reaction to “Something Good – Negro Kiss,” one can only imagine the shock and scandal it must have caused, showing an African-American couple kissing each other, only two years later.

Change and the Bridges’ Transition Model

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca The Younger

We’ve all dealt with new beginnings. Take moving to a new city, for example. You’re excited about exploring the new city; getting to know it better, but you’re afraid at the same time. You miss your seeing your old friends. You were an expert of your old home town; you knew the quickest routes to work or the best hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It’s going to take time to be comfortable in your new city. You’ll have to rely on your navigation system to get you from place to place without getting lost. You’ll need to try a whole bunch of new restaurants before you find your new favorite. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable in your new place.

Perhaps your new beginning is a new child being added to your family. You’re overjoyed with the new addition, full of anticipation at what the future will bring, but perhaps you’re morning the loss of one-on-one date nights with your significant other or feel clueless on how to best care for your child. It will take you time to learn how to meet the needs of your new child and balance that with the needs of your significant other. Eventually, parenting will be come old-hat to you and you’ll be comfortable as a parent (as much as one can…).

The Bridges’ Transition Model is a diagram that shows how we move through the transition from old to new. It shows three stages of a transition; the endings, the neutral zone and the new beginnings. Let’s take a look at the above two examples in relation to the three stages

Stage 1 – Ending, Losing and Letting Go

The Endings in the examples above are leaving your friends, losing expertise in knowing how to get around your old city, feeling afraid that you won’t be successful in your new home, morning the loss of your one-on-one time with your significant other, and feeling afraid that you might do something wrong when caring for a new child. It’s important to recognize the feelings of ending, losing and letting go so that you can proceed to the Neutral Zone.

Stage 2 – The Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone in the examples is the time where you rely on the GPS or Waze to help you get around. You may find yourself frustrated at having to try so many restaurants to find the perfect taco and margarita. You’ll try every trick in the book to find the one that works to put your child to sleep, and that may make you angry.

Stage 3 – The New Beginning

The New Beginnings are exciting. Imagine your happiness at finally finding the perfect taco. You get a diaper on the right way the first time. You get your child to use the toilet for the first time. You know “I’ve got this”, and are more than happy to celebrate.

Let’s take a look at another change and the transitions that go along with that – the new library services platform implementation – FOLIO (you knew I was going to say that, right?).

Stage 1 – Ending, Losing and Letting Go

The end is coming for all those years and work we’ve put into our current system. I don’t expect many of us will be sad, but we’ll all feel disoriented as we try to learn our new workflows.

Stage 2 – The Neutral Zone

As we become more familiar with FOLIO, we may be frustrated that a process takes longer than it used to, because we haven’t mastered the new workflow. Some of us may feel resentful as we were experts and now we’re beginners again. Morale may go down. We need to recognize that we’re all going through this transition together and respect how others are feeling. We need to give encouragement and celebrate progress.

Stage 3 – The New Beginning

In this stage, we see the end of the frustration as we become experts again. Morale goes up. We’re excited because we understand our new workflows and they’re making sense to us.

As we move through the transition to FOLIO or any other new system, we need to take time to recognize how a big change affects us. The change may affect us differently, and it’s important to honor the feelings and trust each other that we’ll work through this transition together and come out stronger by the end.

New Duke Libraries catalog to go live January 16

The wait is almost over!  After over two years of hard work by library staff at Duke, NCCU, NCSU, and UNC, we’ll be launching a new catalog for researchers to use to locate and access books, DVDs, music, archival materials, and other items held here at Duke and across the other Triangle Research Libraries member libraries (NCSU, NCCU, UNC).  The new collaboratively developed, open-source library catalog will replace the decade-old Duke Libraries catalog and Search TRLN catalog.    

What to expect from the new catalog

While the basic functionality of the catalog remains the same – researchers will be able to search across the 15 million+ items at Duke and area libraries – we think you’ll enjoy some nice enhancements and updates to the catalog:  

  • a more modern search interface
  • prominent filters to modify search results, including an option to narrow your search to items available online
  • a more intuitive button to expand search results to include items held at UNC, NCCU, and NCSU
  • updated item pages with easier access to request and export materials
  • improved access to an item’s availability status and its location  
  • more user-friendly options to email, text, or export citation information
  • improved display of multi-part items (click “View Online” to access individual episodes)
  • more robust Advanced Search with options to search by Publisher and Resource type (e.g., book, video, archival material)
Screenshot of full item page.
Item pages have been updated and include a sidebar with easy access to Request and Email/Text options.

You might notice some differences in the way the new catalog works.  Learn more with this handy new vs. old catalog comparison chart.  (Note that we plan to implement some of the features that are not currently available in the new catalog this spring – stay tuned for more info, and let us know if there are aspects of the old catalog that you miss.)  And if you run into trouble or have more questions about using the new catalog, check out these library catalog search tips, or contact a librarian for assistance.   

Screenshot of Search Tips webpage
Get tips for using the new catalog.

We welcome your feedback

While the new catalog is fully functional and boasts a number of enhancements, we know there is still work to be done, and we welcome your input.  We invite you to explore the new catalog at https://find.library.duke.edu/ and report problems or provide general feedback through this online form.  We’ll continue to conduct user testing this spring and make improvements based on what we learn – look for the “Free Coffee” sign in the Perkins Library lobby, and stop by to tell us what you think.  

Want more info about this project?  Learn about the vision for developing the new catalog and the work that’s been completed to date.

Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team