Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

How we broke up with Basecamp

We recently published a blog post outlining our recent decision to drop Basecamp as a project management platform. Several people have asked us to share our new solution(s), and we thought we would take the opportunity to explain at a high level how we approached migrating away from Basecamp.

When DUL decided we would not be renewing our Basecamp subscription, there were about 88 active projects representing work across the entire organization. The owners of these projects would have just over two months to export their content and, if necessarily, migrate it to a new solution.

Exporting Content

Our first step was to form a 3-person migration team to explore different options for exporting content from Basecamp. We identified two main export options: DIY exporting and administrator exporting. For both options, we proactively tested the workflow, made screencasts, and wrote tutorials to ensure staff were well-prepared for either option.

Before explaining the export options, however, we emphasized to staff that they should only export content that is needed for ongoing work or archival purposes. For completed projects that are no longer needed, we encouraged staff to “let it go.”

DIY exporting: We established that any member of a Basecamp project or team could export content from Basecamp. For projects that primarily used Basecamp to create documents or share files, we recommended they use the built-in export functionality within the Docs & Files section of the project. Project members could just go to Docs & Files, click the three dots menu in the upper-right corner, and select “Download this folder.” The download would include all of the same subfolders that were created in Basecamp. Basecamp documents would be saved as HTML files, and additional files would appear in their original format. One note, however, is that the HTML versions of the Basecamp documents would not include the comments added to those documents.

To export documents with their comments, or to export other Basecamp content like Message Boards or To-dos, another option was to save the individual pages as PDFs. While this took more time and didn’t work well for large and complicated projects, it had the added benefit of preserving the look-and-feel of the original Basecamp content. PDF was also preferable to HTML for some situations, like viewing the files in different file storage solutions.

Administrator exporting: If a team really needed a complete export of the current Basecamp content, an administrator for the Basecamp account could generate a full export. This type of export generated an HTML-based set of files that included all components of the project and any comments on documents. Every page available in Basecamp in the browser became a separate HTML file. With this export, however, the HTML files that were created for Docs & Files were stored in the same directory, all in a bunch. End users could still see subfolders when navigating the HTML files in a web browser, but the downloaded files weren’t organized that way anymore.

We decided not to track the DIY exporting but needed to organize the requests for administrator exporting as only a few accounts were “Basecamp Owners.” To organize and facilitate this process, we created an online request form for staff to complete.

To help folks decide what they needed, we created a visual decision tree representing export options.

A flow diagram highlighting the different export options for Basecamp content.

Alternative Project Management Tools

We realized early on that it was out of scope to complete a formal migration from Basecamp to one specific, alternate tool. We didn’t have staff capacity for that kind of project, and we weren’t inclined to prescribe the same solution for every project or team. To promote reliability and additional support systems, we encouraged teams to take advantage of enterprise solutions already supported by Duke University. The primary alternatives supported by Duke at this time were Box and MS Teams. Box had been in use in the Libraries for several years, but MS Teams was newer and not used in as widespread a manner across all staff.

To help folks decide what tool they wanted to use, we created some documentation comparing the various features of Box and MS Teams with the functionality folks were used to in Basecamp. We also created screencasts that demonstrated how one can use Tasks in Box or the Planner app within Teams for managing projects and assignments.

Basecamp to Teams and Box Features
Basecamp Teams Box Others
Campfire Chat Comments on Files, BoxNotes
Message Board Chat (can thread chats in Teams) Comments on Files, Box Notes
To-dos Tasks by Planner and To Do Task List
Schedule Channel Calendar, Tasks by Planner and To Do (timelines and due dates for tasks) Task List (due date scheduling) Outlook: Resource or Shared Calendar
Automatic Check-ins
Docs & Files Files tab (add Shortcut to OneDrive for desktop access) All of Box (add Box Drive for desktop access)
Email Forwards
Card Table Tasks by Planner and To Do MeisterTask

Managing Exported HTML Files

To be honest, having all our Basecamp created documents export as HTML files was challenging. In Box, the HTML files would just display the code view when opened online, and this was frustrating to our colleagues who use Box. While Teams would display the rendered web pages of the HTML files very well, any relative links between HTML files would be broken. For staff who wanted, essentially, a clone of their Basecamp project site, we directed them to use Box Drive or to sync a folder in their Team to OneDrive. When opened that way, the exported files would be navigable as normal, so we saw this as more of a challenge of guiding user behavior rather than manipulating the files themselves. Since we had encountered these issues in our preliminary testing of workflows and exports, we built that guidance into the first explanatory screencasts we made. Foregrounding those issues helped many people avoid them altogether.

Supporting Staff through the Transition

Overall, we had a very smooth transition for staff. In terms of time invested in this process, the Basecamp Migration Team spent a lot of time upfront preparing documentation and helpful how-to videos. We set up a centralized space for staff to find all of our documentation and to ask questions, and we also scheduled several blocks of open office hours to offer more personalized help. That work supported staff who were comfortable managing their own export, and the number of teams requiring administrator support or additional training ended up being manageable. The deadline for submitting requests for an administrator export was about one month before the cancellation date, but many teams submitted their requests earlier than that. All of these strategies worked well, and we felt very comfortable cancelling our account on the appointed day. We migrated out of Basecamp, and you can too!

Behind the Scenes of Documenting the Patron Request Workflow

This post was authored by  Behind the Veil/Digital Collections intern Kristina Zapfe.

From the outside, viewing digitized items or requesting one yourself is a straightforward activity. Browsing images in the Duke Digital Repository produces instantaneous access to images from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s collections, and requesting an item for digitization means that they appear in your email in as little as a few weeks. But what happens between placing that request and receiving your digital copies is a well-mechanized feat, a testament to the hard work and dedication put forth by the many staff members who have a hand in digitizing special collections.

I began at Duke Libraries in July 2022 as the Digital Collections Intern, learning about the workflows and pivots that were made in order to prioritize public access to Rubenstein’s collections during pandemic-era uncertainty. While learning to apply metadata and scan special collection materials, I sketched out an understanding of how digital library systems function together, crafted by the knowledge and skills of library staff who maintain and improve them. This established an appreciation of the collaborative and adaptive nature of the many departments and systems that account for every detail of digitizing items, providing patrons access to Rubenstein’s special collections from afar.

I have filmed short videos before, but none that required the amount of coordination and planning that this one did. Once the concept was formed, I began researching Duke University Libraries’ digital platforms and how they work together in order to overlay where the patron request process dipped into these platforms and when. After some email coordination, virtual meetings, and hundreds of questions, a storyboard was born and filming could begin. I tried out some camera equipment and determined that shooting on my iPhone 13 Pro with a gimbal attachment was a sufficient balance of quality and dexterity. Multiple trips to Rubenstein, Bostock, and Perkins libraries and Smith Warehouse resulted in about 500 video clips, about 35 of which appear in the final video.

Throughout this process, I learned that not everything goes as the storyboard plans, and I enjoyed leaving space for my own creativity as well as input from staff members whose insights about their daily work made for compelling shots and storytelling opportunities. The intent of this video is to tell the story of this process to everyone who uses and appreciates Duke Libraries’ resources and say “thank you” to the library staff who work together to make digital collections available.

Special thanks to all staff who appeared in this video and enthusiastically volunteered their time and Maggie Dickson, who supervised and helped coordinate this project.

Looking Back at Summer Camp 2023

Written by Will Shaw on behalf of the Library Summer Camp organizing committee. 

From June to August, most students may be off campus, but summer is still a busy time at Duke Libraries. Between attending conferences, preparing for fall semester, and tackling those projects we couldn’t quite fit into the academic year, Libraries staff have plenty to do. At the same time, summer also means a lull in many regular meetings — as well as remote or hybrid work schedules for many of us. Face-to-face time with our colleagues can be hard to come by. Lucky for all of us, July is when Libraries Summer Camp rolls around.

What is Summer Camp?

Summer Camp began in 2019 with two major goals: to foster peer-to-peer teaching and learning among Libraries staff, and to help build connections across the many units in our organization. Our staff have wide-ranging areas of expertise that deserve a showcase, and we could use a little time together in the summer. Why not try it out?

The first Summer Camp was narrowly focused on digital scholarship and publishing, and we solicited sessions from staff who we knew would already have instructional materials in hand. The response from both instructors and participants was enthusiastic; we ultimately brought staff together for 21 workshops over the course of a week in late summer.
The pandemic scuttled plans for 2020 and 2021 Summer Camps, but we relaunched in 2022 with the theme “Refresh!”—a conscious attempt to help us reconnect (in person, when possible!) after months of physical distance. Across the 2019, 2022, and 2023 iterations, Libraries Summer Camp has brought over 60 workshops to hundreds of attendees.

What did we learn this year?

Professional development workshops are still at the core of Summer Camp. But over the years, Camp has evolved to include a wider range of personal enrichment topics. The evolution has helped us find the right tone: learning together, as always, but having fun and focusing on personal growth, too.

For example, participants in this year’s Summer Camp could learn how to crochet or play the recorder, explore native plants, create memes, or practice ​​Koru meditation. In parallel with those sessions, we had opportunities to discover the essentials of data visualization, try out platforms such as AirTable, discuss ChatGPT in libraries, learn fundraising basics, and improve our group discussions and decision-making, to name just a few.

Like any good Summer Camp, we wrapped things up with a closing circle. We shared our lessons learned, favorite moments, and hopes for future camps over Monuts and coffee.

One group of people having a conversation at a circular table and one group of people having a conversation while standing.
Photo by Janelle Hutchinson, Lead Designer and Photographer, Duke University Libraries.
A large group of people having a conversation while one person stands around the group.
Libraries staff reflect on Summer Camp 2023 over snacks and coffee. Photo by Janelle Hutchinson, Lead Designer and Photographer, Duke University Libraries

What’s next?

After its third iteration, Summer Camp is starting to feel like a Duke Libraries tradition. Over 100 Libraries staff came together to teach with and learn from each other in 25 sessions this year. Based on both attendance and participant feedback, that’s a success, and it’s one we’d like to sustain. It’s hard not to feel excited for Summer Camp 2024.

As we look ahead, the organizing committee—Angela Zoss, Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Kate Collins, Liz Milewicz, and Will Shaw—will be actively seeking new members, ideas for Summer Camp sessions, and volunteers to help out with planning. We encourage all Libraries staff to reach out and let us know what you’d like to see next time around!

2.5 Years in the Life of Digital Collections

Admit it, you have been wondering what your favorite digital collections team has been up to. Well after 2.5 years, the wait is over.

So. Many. Digitization. Requests.

When I last shared a digital collections update, it was the end of 2020, and the digital collections team was focusing on managing and refining our folder level patron request digitization workflow. This workflow has two main goals:

  • simplify the patron request process in the Rubenstein Library;
  • preserve and make accessible files from patron requests in the Duke Digital Repository (DDR).

Note that in this context, our patrons are generally folks that want to access Rubenstein Library materials without making the trip to Durham. Anyone, regardless of their researcher or academic status, can request digital copies of Rubenstein collections.

Moving digitization requests through this workflow continues to be the major focus for the digital collections team and the Digital Production Center (DPC). Given the folder level nature of the process (whole folders of manuscript material at preservation quality), more requests are digitized by the DPC than under our previous workflow. Additionally, the new request process became an essential tool to serving remote researchers during the pandemic. It continues to be a valuable service, and we have not seen demand lessen significantly since the peak of the pandemic. Below is a chart showing the number of patron requests managed by the DPC since before the pandemic (note that we track our statistics by fiscal year or FY, which in Duke’s case is July – June).

FY18 FY19 FY20 FY21 FY22 FY23
# of requests 81 77 39 394 438 469
Files produced 1,323 676 1092 79,519 74,517 73,705

Patron requests received and files produced from said requests by the DPC.

As a result of the new patron request workflow, the digital collections team has made portions of hundreds of collections accessible in the digital repository. We also see new materials from the existing collections requested periodically, so individual digital collections grow over time. Our statistics for new digital collections are in the chart below.

FY21 FY22 FY23
New digital collections from patron requests 36 154 119
Additions to existing collections from patron requests 4 12 6
Print items digitized for patron requests 16 21 30
Non-patron based new digital collections 131 15 80
Additions to digital collections (not patron request oriented) 4 4 5

Numbers of collections launched in the Duke Digital Repository since 2020.

The patron request workflow, like all other digital collections projects, is carried out by the cross-departmental Duke Libraries Digital Collections Implementation Team (DCIT). DCIT members include representatives from Conservation Services, Digital Curation Services, the Digital Production Center, a Digital Projects Developer (from the Assessment and User Experience Strategy department), Rubenstein Library Research Services, and Rubenstein Library Technical Services. The group’s membership shows how varied the needs are to develop and sustain digital collections. 

Not Just Patron Requests

Although the digital collections team shelved strategic projects when the pandemic began, we have still managed to complete some project work. One of our highest priorities in this area has been the Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South: Digital Access to the Behind the Veil Project Archive project (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities). Work on this project was just featured on Bitstreams, so I won’t share too many details here. Stay tuned for more news about this incredible effort.

We have also been making slow progress on the “Section A” mass digitization project. This project is named for an old Rubenstein Library shelving location, and contains over 3000 small manuscript collections.  Many of the collections document life in the South in the 19th Century. Since 2020, we have been able to make 210 Section A collections accessible online. Many of these were scanned before the pandemic began, however the DPC continues to scan Section A when time permits. We have also seen at least 25 Section A collections come all the way through the patron request workflow, and there are more in progress.  I’ve included embedded links to 3 Section A collections below.

 

 

Here are a few other project highlights from the past 2.5 years.

Deed of manumission freeing Sue, an enslaved woman, and her daughter Margaret, Georgetown, South Carolina, 1815 October 6
Deed of Manumission from the American Slavery Digital collection
Migrants and refugees walk to a waiting bus after arriving on a rubber dinghy on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos, January 29, 2016.
Image from the Darrin Zammit Lupi digital collection

Looking ahead

Digital Collections has a lot to look forward to in 2023-2024. Along with the John Hope Franklin Research Center we expect to wrap up the Behind the Veil grant in 2024 (lots more news to come on that). The digital collections team also plans to continue refining the patron request workflow. We are hoping to find a new balance in our portfolio that allows us to continue serving the needs of remote researchers while also completing more project based digitization. How will we actually do that without significantly changing our staffing? When we figure it out, we will be happy to share.

In the meantime, all digital collections are available through the Duke Digital Repository.
Happy Browsing!

 

Two Years In: The Finish Line Approaches for Digitizing Behind the Veil

Behind the Veil Digitization intern Sarah Waugh and Digital Collections intern Kristina Zapfe’s efforts over the past year have focused on quality control of interviews transcribed by Rev.com. This post was authored by Sarah Waugh and Kristina Zapfe.

Introduction

The Digital Production Center (DPC) is proud to announce that we have reached a milestone in our work on Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South: Digital Access to the Behind the Veil Project Archive. We have completed digitization and are over halfway through our quality control of the audio transcripts! The project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will expand the Behind the Veil (BTV) digital collection, currently 410 audio files, to include the newly digitized copies of the original master recordings, photographic materials, and supplementary project files.

The collection derives from Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South. This was an oral history project headed by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies from 1993 to 1995 and is currently housed in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library and curated by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture. The BTV collection documented and preserved the memory of African Americans who lived in the South from the 1890s to the 1950s, resulting in a culturally-significant and extensive multimedia collection. 

As interns, our work focused on ordering transcripts from Rev.com and performing quality control on transcripts for the digitized oral histories. July 2023 marked our arrival at the halfway point of completing the oral history transcript quality control process. At the time of writing, we’ve checked 1727 of 2876 files after a year of initial planning and hard work. With over 1,666 hours worth of audio files to complete, 3 interns and 7 student workers in the DPC contributed 849 combined hours to oral history transcript quality control so far. Because of their scope, transcription and quality control are the last pieces of the digitization puzzle before the collection moves on to be ingested and published in the Duke Digital Repository

We are approaching the home stretch with the deadline for transcript quality control coming in December 2023, and the collection scheduled to launch in 2024. With that goal approaching, here is what we’ve completed and what remains to be done.

Digitization Progress

A graphic showing the statistics of the Behind the Veil project alongside a tablet device of the Duke Libraries Behind the Veil webpage. Under Audio, the text reads: 1,577 tapes, 2.876 audio files, and 2,709 files transcribed. Under the word Admin Files, it reads: 27,737 image files, under the Prints and Negatives heading it reads, 1,294 image files. On the right side of the graphic, headings for Video, Project Records, and Photo Slides are here and under Video it reads 14 tapes, 14 video files, under Project Records, it reads 9,328 image files, and under Photo Slides, it reads 2,920 image files.

As the graphic above indicates, the BTV digitization project consists of many different media like audio, video, prints, negatives, slides, administrative and project related documents that tell a fuller story of this endeavor. With these formats digitized, we look forward to finishing quality control and preparing the files for handoff to members of the Digital Collections and Curation Services department for ingest, metadata application, and launch for public access in 2024. We plan to send all 2876 audio files to Rev.com service by the end of August and to perform quality control on all those transcripts by December 2023.

Developing the Transcription Quality Control Process

With 2876 files to check within 19 months, the cross-departmental BTV team developed a process to perform quality control as efficiently as possible without sacrificing accuracy, accessibility, and our commitment to our stakeholders. We made our decisions based on how we thought BTV interviewers and narrators would want their speech represented as text. Our choices in creating our quality control workflow began with Columbia University’s Oral History Transcription Style Guide and from that resource, we developed a workflow that made sense for our team and the project. 

Some voices were difficult to transcribe due to issues with the original recording, such as a microphone being placed too far away from a speaker, the interference of background noise, or mistakes with the tape. Since we did not have the resources to listen to entire interviews and check for every single mistake, we developed what we called the “spot-check” process of checking these interviews. Given the BTV project’s original ethos and the history of marginalized people in archives, the team decided to prioritize making sure race-related language met our standards across every single interview.

A few decisions on standards were quick and unanimous—such as not transcribing speech phonetically. With that, we avoided pitfalls from older oral histories of African Americans, like the WPA’s famous “Slave Narratives” project, that interviewed formerly-enslaved people, but often transcribed their words in non-standard phonetic spellings. Some narrators in the BTV project who may have been familiar with the WPA transcripts specifically requested the BTV project team not to use phonetic spelling. 

Other choices took more discussion: we agreed on capitalizing “Black” when describing race, but we had to decide whether to capitalize other racial terms, including “White” and antiquated designations like “Colored.” Ultimately, we decided to capitalize all racial terms (with the exception of slurs). The team did not want users to make distinctions between lower and uppercase terms if we did not choose to capitalize them all. Maintaining consistency with capitalization would provide clarity and align with BTV values of equality between all races.

Using a spot-check process where we use Rev’s find-and-replace feature to standardize our top priorities saved us time to improve the transcripts in other ways. For instance, we also try to find and correct proper nouns like street names or names of important people in our narrators’ communities, allowing users to make connections in their research. We corrected mistakes with phrases used mainly in the past or that are very specific to certain regions, such as calling a dance hall a “Piccolo joint” from an early jukebox brand name. We also listened to instances where the transcriptionist could not hear or understand a phrase and marked it as “indistinct,” so we can add in the dialogue later (assuming we are able to decipher what was said). 

While we developed these methods to increase the pace of our quality control process, one of the biggest improvements came from working with Rev. If we were able to attain more accurate transcripts, our quality control process would be more efficient. Luckily, Rev’s suite of services provided us this option without straying too far from our transcription budget.

Improving Accuracy with Southern Accents Specialists

When deciding on what would be the best speech-to-text option for our project’s needs, we elected to order Transcript Services from Rev, rather than their Caption Services. This decision hinged on the fact that the Transcript Services option is their only service that allows us to request Rev transcriptionists who specialize in Southern accents. Many people who were interviewed for Behind the Veil spoke with Southern accents that varied in strength and dialect. We found that the Southern accent expertise of the specialists had a significant impact on the accuracy of the transcripts we received from Rev. 

This improvement in transcript quality has made a substantial difference in the time we spend on quality control for each interview: on average, it only takes us about 48 seconds of work for every 60 seconds of audio we check. We appreciated Rev’s offering of Southern accent specialists enough that we chose that service, even though it meant that we had to then convert their text file format output to the WebVTT file format for enhanced accessibility in the Duke Digital Repository.   

Optimizing Accessibility with WebVTT File Format

The WebVTT file format provides visual tracking that coordinates the audio with the written transcript. This improvement in user experience and accessibility justified converting the interview transcripts to WebVTT format. Below is a visual of the WebVTT format in our existing BTV collection in the DDR. Click here to listen to the audio recording.

We have been collaborating with developer Sean Aery to convert transcript text files to WebVTT files so they will display properly in the Duke Digital Repository. He explained the conversion process that occurs after we hand off the transcripts in text file format.

“The .txt transcripts we received from the vendor are primarily formatted to be easy for people to read. However, they are structured well enough to be machine-readable as well. I created a script to batch-convert the files into standard WebVTT captions with long text cues. In WebVTT form, the caption files play nicely with our existing audiovisual features in the Duke Digital Repository, including an interactive transcript viewer, and PDF exports.”  Sean Aery, Digital Projects Developer, Duke University Libraries

Before conversion, we complete one more round of quality control using the spot-checking process. We have even referred to other components of the Behind the Veil collection (Administrative and Project Files Administrative Files) to cross-reference any alterations to metadata for accuracy.

Connecting the Local and Larger Community

Throughout the project, team members have been working on outreach. One big accomplishment by project PI John Gartrell and former BTV outreach intern Brianna McGruder was Behind the Veil at 30: Reflections on Chronicling African American Life in the Jim Crow South.” This 2-day virtual conference convened former BTV interviewers and current scholars of the BTV collection to discuss their work and the impact that this collection had on their research. 

We also recently presented at the Triangle Research Libraries Network annual meeting, where our presentation overlapped with some of what you’ve just read in this post. It was exciting to share our work publicly for the first time and answer questions from library staff across the region. We will also be presenting a poster about our BTV experience at the upcoming North Carolina Library Association conference in Winston-Salem in October.

A image of two people standing a podium with a screen behind them. Four people in the front row look out at them.
Sarah Waugh and Kristina Zapfe presenting at the 2023 TRLN Annual Conference.

As we’ve hoped to convey, this project heavily relies on collaboration from many library departments and external vendors, and there are more contributors than we can thoroughly include in this post. Behind the Veil is a large-scale and high-profile project that has impacted many people over its 30-year history, and this newest iteration of digital accessibility seeks to expand the reach of this collection. Two years on, we’ve built on the work of the many professionals who have come before us to create and develop Behind the Veil. We are honored to be part of this rewarding process. Look for more BTV stories when we cross the finish line in 2024. 

Web Accessibility at Duke Libraries and Beyond — a Quick Start Guide

Coming on board as the new Web Experience Developer in the Assessment and User Experience Services (AUXS) Department in early 2022, one of my first priorities was to get up to speed on Web Accessibility guidelines and testing. I wanted to learn how these standards had been applied to Library websites to date and establish my own processes and habits for ongoing evaluation and improvement. Flash-forward one year, and I’m looking back at the steps that I took and reflecting on lessons learned and projects completed. I thought it might be helpful to myself and others in a similar situation (e.g. new web developers, designers, or content creators) to organize these experiences and reflections into a sort of manual or “Quick Start Guide”. I hope that these 5 steps will be useful to others who need a crash course in this potentially confusing or intimidating–but ultimately crucial and rewarding–territory.

Learn from your colleagues

Fortunately, I quickly discovered that Duke Libraries already had a well-established culture and practice around web accessibility, including a number of resources I could consult.

Two Bitstreams posts from our longtime web developer/designer Sean Aery gave me a quick snapshot of the current state of things, recent initiatives, and ongoing efforts:

Repositories of the Library’s open source software projects proved valuable in connecting broader concepts with specific examples and seeing how other developers had solved problems. For instance, I was able to look at the code for DUL’s “theme” (basically visual styling, color, typography, and other design elements) to better understand how it builds on the ubiquitous Bootstrap CSS framework and implements specific accessibility standards around semantic markup, color contrast, and ARIA roles/attributes:

Screenshot of Duke Libraries' public website Gitlab repository
The repo is your friend

Equipped with some background and context, I found I was much better prepared to formulate questions for team meetings or the project Slack channel.

Look for guidelines from your institution

Duke’s Web Accessibility Initiative establishes clear web accessibility standards for the University and offers practical information on how to understand and implement them:

Duke Accessibility "How To..." page

The site also offers guides geared towards the needs of different stakeholders (content creators, designers, developers) as well as a step-by-step overview of how to do an accessibility assessment.

Duke Accessibility "Key concepts for web developers" page

Know your standards

Duke University has specified the Worldwide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0, Level AA Conformance (WCAG 2.0 Level AA) as its preferred accessibility standard for websites. While it was initially daunting to digest and parse these technical documents, at least I had a known, widely-adopted target that I was aiming for–in other words, an achievable goal. Feeling bolstered by that knowledge, I was able to use the other resources mentioned here to fill in the gaps and get hands-on experience and practice solving web accessibility issues.

Screenshot of WCAG 2.0 standards document
RTFM, ok?

Find a playground

As I settled into the workflow within our Scrum team (based on Agile software development principles), I found a number of projects that gave me opportunities to test and experiment with how different markup and design decisions affect accessibility. I particularly enjoyed working with updating the Style Guide for our Catalog as part of a Bootstrap 3–>4 migration, updating our DUL Theme across various applications — Library Catalog, Quicksearch, Staff Directory — built on the Ruby on Rails framework, and getting scrappy and creative trying to improve branding and accessibility of some of our vendor-hosted web apps with the limited tools available (essentially jQuery scripts and applying CSS to existing markup).

Build your toolkit

A few well-chosen tools can get you far in assessing and correcting web accessibility issues on your websites.

Browser Tools

The built-in developer tools in your browser are essential for viewing and testing changes to markup and understanding how CSS rules are applied to the Document Object Model. The Deque Systems aXe Chrome Extension (also available for Firefox) adds additional tools for accessibility testing with a slick interface that performs a scan, gives a breakdown of accessibility violations ranked by severity, and tells you how to fix them.

Color Contrast Checkers

I frequently turned to these two web-based tools for quick tests of different color combinations. It was educational to see what did and didn’t work in various situations and think more about how aesthetic and design concerns interact with accessibility concerns.

Screenshot of WebAIM color contrast checker
While this color combo technically passes WCAG 2.0 AA and uses colors from the Duke Brand Guide, I probably won’t be using it any time soon

Style Guides

These style guides provided a handy reference for default and variant typography, color, and page design elements. I found the color palettes particular helpful as I tried to find creative solutions to color contrast problems while maintaining Duke branding and consistency across various Library pages.

Keyboard-Only Navigation

Attempting to navigate our websites using only the TAB, ENTER, SPACE, UP, and DOWN keys on a standard computer keyboard gave me a better understanding of the significance of semantic markup, skip links, and landmarks. This test is essential for getting another “view” of your pages that isn’t as dependent on visual cues to convey meaning and structure and can help surface issues that automated accessibility scanners might miss.

Respectfully Yours: A Deep Dive into Digitizing the Booker T. Washington Collection

Post authored by Jen Jordan, Digital Collections Intern.

Hello, readers. This marks my third, and final blog as the Digital Collections intern, a position that I began in June of last year.* Over the course of this internship I have been fortunate to gain experience in nearly every step of the digitization and digital collections processes. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate most about the different workflows I’ve learned about is how well they accommodate the variety of collection materials that pass through. This means that when unique cases arise, there is space to consider them. I’d like to describe one such case, involving a pretty remarkable collection. 

Cheyne, C.E. “Booker T. Washington sitting and holding books,” 1903. 2 photographs on 1 mount : gelatin silver print ; sheets 14 x 10 cm. In Washington, D.C., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In early October I arrived to work in the Digital Production Center (DPC) and was excited to see the Booker T. Washington correspondence, 1903-1916, 1933 and undated was next up in the queue for digitization. The collection is small, containing mostly letters exchanged between Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, and a host of other prominent leaders in the Black community during the early 1900s. A 2003 article published in Duke Magazine shortly after the Washington collection was donated to the John Hope Franklin Research Center provides a summary of the collection and the events it covers. 

Arranged chronologically, the papers were stacked neatly in a small box, each letter sealed in a protective sleeve, presumably after undergoing extensive conservation treatments to remediate water and mildew damage. As I scanned the pages, I made a note to learn more about the relationship between Washington and DuBois, as well as the events the collection is centered around—the Carnegie Hall Conference and the formation of the short-lived Committee of Twelve for the Advancement of the Interests of the Negro Race. When I did follow up, I was surprised to find that remarkably little has been written about either.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is little time to actually look at materials when we scan them, but the process can reveal broad themes and tone. Many of the names in the letters were unfamiliar to me, but I observed extensive discussion between DuBois and Washington regarding who would be invited to the conference and included in the Committee of Twelve. I later learned that this collection documents what would be the final attempt at collaboration between DuBois and Washington.

Washington to Browne, 21 July 1904, South Weymouth, Massachusetts

Once scanned, the digital surrogates pass through several stages in the DPC before they are prepared for ingest into the Duke Digital Repository (DDR); you can read a comprehensive overview of the DPC digitization workflow here. Fulfilling patron requests is top priority, so after patrons receive the requested materials, it might be some time before the files are submitted for ingest to the DDR. Because of this, I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of the BTW collection in late January. By then I was gaining experience in the actual creation of digital collections—basically everything that happens with the files once the DPC signals that they are ready to move into long term storage. 

There are a few different ways that new digital collections are created. Thus far, most of my experience has been with the files produced through patron requests handled by the DPC. These tend to be smaller in size and have a simple file structure. The files are migrated into the DDR, into either a new or existing collection, after which file counts are checked, and identifiers assigned. The collection is then reviewed by one of a few different folks with RL Technical Services. Noah Huffman conducted the review in this case, after which he asked if we might consider itemizing the collection, given the letter-level descriptive metadata available in the collection guide. 

I’d like to pause for a moment to discuss the tricky nature of “itemness,” and how the meaning can shift between RL and DCCS. If you reference the collection guide linked in the second paragraph, you will see that the BTW collection received item-level description during processing—with each letter constituting an item in the collection. The physical arrangement of the papers does not reflect the itemized intellectual arrangement, as the letters are grouped together in the box they are housed in. When fulfilling patron reproduction requests, itemness is generally dictated by physical arrangement, in what is called the folder-level model; materials housed together are treated as a single unit. So in this case, because the letters were grouped together inside of the box, the box was treated as the folder, or item. If, however, each letter in the box was housed within its own folder, then each folder would be considered an item. To be clear, the papers were housed according to best practices; my intent is simply to describe how the processes between the two departments sometimes diverge.  

Processing archival collections is labor intensive, so it’s increasingly uncommon to see item-level description. Collections can sit unprocessed in “backlog” for many years, and though the depth of that backlog varies by institution, even well-resourced archives confront the problem of backlog. Enter: More Product, Less Process (MPLP), introduced by Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner in a 2005 article as a means to address the growing problem. They called on archivists to prioritize access over meticulous arrangement and description.  

The spirit of folder-level digitization is quite similar to MPLP, as it enables the DPC to provide access to a broader selection of collection materials digitized through patron requests, and it also simplifies the process of putting the materials online for public access. Most of the time, the DPC’s approach to itemness aligns closely with the level of description given during processing of the collection, but the inevitable variance found between archival collections requires a degree of flexibility from those working to provide access to them. Numerous examples of digital collections that received item-level description can be found in the DDR, but those are generally tied to planned efforts to digitize specific collections. 

Because the BTW collection was digitized as an item, the digital files were grouped together in a single folder, which translated to a single landing page in the DDR’s public user interface. Itemizing the collection would give each item/letter its own landing page, with the potential to add unique metadata. Similarly, when users navigate the RL collection guide, embedded digital surrogates appear for each item. A moment ago I described the utility of More Product Less Process. There are times, however, when it seems right to do more. Given the research value of this collection, as well as its relatively small size, the decision to proceed with itemization was unanimous. 

Itemizing the collection was fairly straightforward. Noah shared a spreadsheet with metadata from the collection guide. There were 108 items, with each item’s title containing the sender and recipient of a correspondence, as well as the location and date sent. Given the collection’s chronological physical arrangement, it was fairly simple to work through the files and assign them to new folders. Once that was finished, I selected additional descriptive metadata terms to add to the spreadsheet, in accordance with the DDR Metadata Application Profile. Because there was a known sender and recipient for almost every letter, my goal was to identify any additional name authority records not included in the collection guide. This would provide an additional access point by which to navigate the collection. It would also help me to identify death dates for the creators, which determines copyright status. I think the added time and effort was well worth it.

This isn’t the space for analysis, but I do hope you’re inspired to spend some time with this fascinating collection. Primary source materials offer an important path to understanding history, and this particular collection captures the planning and aftermath of an event that hasn’t received much analysis. There is more coverage of what came after; Washington and DuBois parted ways, after which DuBois became a founding member of the Niagara Movement. Though also short lived, it is considered a precursor to the NAACP, which many members of the Niagara Movement would go on to join. A significant portion of W. E. B. DuBois’s correspondence has been digitized and made available to view through UMass Amherst. It contains many additional letters concerning the Carnegie Conference and Committee of Twelve, offering additional context and perspective, particularly in certain correspondence that were surely not intended for Washington’s eyes. What I found most fascinating, though, was the evidence of less public (and less adversarial) collaboration between the two men. 

The additional review and research required by the itemization and metadata creation was such a fascinating and valuable experience. This is true on a professional level as it offered the opportunity to do something new, but I also felt moved to try to understand more about the cast of characters who appear in this important collection. That endeavor extended far beyond the hours of my internship, and I found myself wondering if this was what the obsessive pursuit of a historian’s work is like. In any case, I am grateful to have learned more, and also reminded that there is so much more work to do.

Click here to view the Booker T. Washington correspondence in the Duke Digital Repository.

*Indeed, this marks my final post in this role, as my internship concludes at the end of April, after which I will move on to a permanent position. Happily, I won’t be going far, as I’ve been selected to remain with DCCS as one of the next Repository Services Analysts!    

Sources

Cheyne, C.E. “Booker T. Washington sitting and holding books,” 1903. 2 photographs on 1 mount : gelatin silver print ; sheets 14 x 10 cm. In Washington, D.C., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Accessed April 5, 2022. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672766/

 

Wars of Aliens, Men, and Women: or, Some Things we Digitized in the DPC this Year

Post authored by Jen Jordan, Digital Collections Intern. 

As another strange year nears its end, I’m going out on a limb to assume that I’m not the only one around here challenged by a lack of focus. With that in mind, I’m going to keep things relatively light (or relatively unfocused) and take you readers on a short tour of items that have passed through the Digital Production Center (DPC) this year. 

Shortly before the arrival of COVID-19, the DPC implemented a folder-level model for digitization. This model was not developed in anticipation of a life-altering pandemic, but it was well-suited to meet the needs of researchers who, for a time, were unable to visit the Rubenstein Library to view materials in person. You can read about the implementation of folder-level digitization and its broader impact here. To summarize, before spring of 2020 it was standard practice to fill patron requests by imaging only the item needed (e.g. – a single page within a folder). Now, the default practice is to digitize the entire folder of materials. This has produced a variety of positive outcomes for stakeholders in the Duke University Libraries and broader research community, but for the purpose of this blog, I’d like to describe my experience interacting with materials in this way.

Digitization is time consuming, so the objective is to move as quickly as possible while maintaining a high level of accuracy. There isn’t much time for meaningful engagement with collection items, but context reveals itself in bits and pieces. Themes rise to the surface when working with large folders of material on a single topic, and sometimes the image on the page demands to be noticed. 

Even while working quickly, one would be hard-pressed to overlook this Vietnam-era anti-war message. One might imagine that was by design. From the Student Activism Reference collection: https://repository.duke.edu/dc/uastuactrc.

On more than one occasion I’ve found myself thinking about the similarities between scanning and browsing a social media app like Instagram. Stick with me here! Broadly speaking, both offer an endless stream of visual stimuli with little opportunity for meaningful engagement in the moment. Social media, when used strategically, can be world-expanding. Work in the DPC has been similarly world-expanding, but instead of an algorithm curating my experience, the information that I encounter on any given day is curated by patron requests for digitization. Also similar to social media is the range of internal responses triggered over the course of a work day, and sometimes in the span of a single minute. Amusement, joy, shock, sorrow—it all comes up.

I started keeping notes on collection materials and topics to revisit on my own time. Sometimes I was motivated by a stray fascination with the subject matter. Other times I encountered collections relating to prominent historical figures or events that I realized I should probably know a bit more about.

 

Image from the WPSU Scrapbook.

First wave feminism was one such topic that revealed itself. It was a movement I knew little about, but the DPC has digitized numerous items relating to women’s suffrage and other feminist issues at the turn of the 20th century. I was particularly intrigued by the radical leanings of the UK’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), organized by Emmeline Pankhurst to fight for the right to vote. When I started looking at newspaper clippings pasted into a scrapbook documenting WSPU activities, I was initially distracted by the amusing choice of words (“Coronation chair damaged by wild women’s bomb”). Curious to learn more, I went home and read about the WSPU. The following excerpt is from a speech by Pankhurst in which she provides justification for the militant tactics employed by the WSPU:

I want to say here and now that the only justification for violence, the only justification for damage to property, the only justification for risk to the comfort of other human beings is the fact that you have tried all other available means and have failed to secure justice. I tell you that in Great Britain there is no other way…

Pankhurst argued that men had to take the right to vote through war, so why shouldn’t women also resort to violence and destruction? And so they did.

As Rubenstein Library is home to the Sallie Bingham Center, it’s unsurprising that the DPC digitizes a fair amount of material on women’s issues. To share a few more examples, I appreciate the juxtaposition of the following two images, both of which I find funny, and yet sad.

This advertisement for window shades is pasted inside a young woman’s scrapbook dated 1900—1905. It contains information on topics such as etiquette, how to manage a household, and how to be a good wife. Are we to gather that proper shade cloth is necessary to keep a man happy?

Source collection: Young woman’s scrapbook, 1900-1905 and n.d.

In contrast, the below image is from the book L’amour libre by French feminist, Madeleine Vernet, describes prostitution and marriage as the same kind of prison, with “free love” as the only answer. Some might call that a hyperbolic comparison, but after perusing the young woman’s scrapbook, I’m not so sure. I’m just thankful to have been born a woman near the end of the 20th century and not the start of it.

From the book L’amour libre by Madeline Vernet

This may be difficult to believe, but I didn’t set out to write a blog so focused on struggle. The reality, however, is that our special collections are full of struggle. That’s not all there is, of course, but I’m glad this material is preserved. It holds many lessons, some of which we still have yet to learn. 

I think we can all agree that 2021 was, well, a challenging year. I’d be remiss not to close with a common foe we might all rally around. As we move into 2022 and beyond, venturing ever deeper into space, we may encounter this enemy sooner than we imagined…

Image from an illustrated 1906 French translation of H.G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’.

Sources:

Pankhurst, Emmeline. Why We Are Militant: A Speech Delivered by Mrs. Pankhurst in New York, October 21, 1913. London: Women’s Press, 1914. Print.

“‘Prayers for Prisoners’ and church protests.” Historic England, n.d., https://historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/womens-history/suffrage/church-protests/ 

 

Rethinking Our Approach to Website Content Management

Fourteen-hundred pages with 70 different authors, all sharing information about library services, resources, and policies — over the past eight years, any interested library staff member has been able to post and edit content on the Duke University Libraries (DUL) website. Staff have been able to work independently, using their own initiative to share information that they thought would be helpful to the people who use our website.

Unfortunately, DUL has had no structure for coordinating this work or even for providing training to people undertaking this work. This individualistic approach has led to a complex website often containing inconsistent or outdated information. And this is all about to change.

Our new approach

We are implementing a team-based approach to manage our website content by establishing the Web Editorial Board (WEB) comprised of 22 staff from departments throughout DUL. The Editors serving on WEB will be the only people who will have hands-on access to create or edit content on our website. We recognize that our primary website is a core publication of DUL, and having this select group of Editors work together as a team will ensure that our content is cared for, cohesive, and current. Our Editors have already undertaken training on topics such as writing for the web, creating accessible content, editing someone else’s content, and using our content management system.

Our Editors will apply their training to improve the quality and consistency of our website. As they undertake this work, they will collaborate with other Editors within WEB as well as with subject matter experts from across the libraries. All staff at DUL will be able to request changes, contribute ideas, and share feedback with WEB using either a standard form or by contacting Editors directly.

The scope of work undertaken by WEB includes:

  • Editing, formatting, and maintaining all content on DUL’s Drupal-based website
  • Writing new content
  • Retiring deprecated content
  • Reviewing, editing, and formatting content submitted to WEB by DUL staff, and consulting with subject matter experts within DUL
  • Deepening their expertise in how to write and format website content through continuing education

While there are times when all 22 Editors will meet together to address common issues or collaborate on site-wide projects, much of the work undertaken by WEB will be organized around sub-teams that we refer to as content neighborhoods, each one meeting monthly and focused on maintaining different sections of our website. Our eight sub-teams range in size from two to five people. Having sub-teams ensures that our Editors will be able to mutually support one another in their work.

Initially, Editors on WEB will serve for a two-year term, after which some members will rotate off so that new members can rotate on. Over time it will be helpful to balance continuity in membership with the inclusion of fresh viewpoints.

WEB was created following a recommendation developed by DUL’s Web Experience Team (WebX), the group that provides high-level governance for all of our web platforms. Based on this WebX recommendation, the DUL Executive Group issued a charge for WEB in the spring and WEB began its orientation and training during the summer of 2021. Members of WEB will soon be assisting in our migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 by making key updates to content prior to the migration. Once we complete our migration to Drupal 9 in March 2022, we will then limit hands-on access to create or edit content in Drupal to the members of WEB.

The charge establishing WEB contains additional information about WEB’s work, the names of those serving on WEB, and the content neighborhoods they are focusing on.

FOLIO Update

Duke is using FOLIO in production! We have eight apps that we’re using in production. For our electronic resources management, we are using Agreements, Licenses, Organizations, Users, and Settings. Those apps went live in July of 2020, even with the pandemic in full force! In July of 2021, we launched Courses and Inventory so that professors and students could store and access electronic reserves material. In Summer 2022, we plan to launch the eUsage app that will allow us to link to vendor sites and bring our eUsage statistics into one place.

2020:

 

 

 

 

 

2021:

 

 

2022:



In Summer 2023, we plan to launch the rest of the FOLIO, moving all of our acquisitions, cataloging, and circulation functions into their respective apps. Currently the total number of apps included in FOLIO is 20. We’re almost halfway there!

To learn more about FOLIO, you can visit FOLIO.org, the FOLIO wikispace, or the documentation portal

To learn more about our local project, visit FOLIO@Duke and read our newsletters!

FOLIO@Duke Newsletter v. 3 no. 3