The goals for that period? First, tie up the loose ends from the upgrade. Then, seize some clear opportunities to build upon our freshly-rearchitected metadata, creating innovative features in the UI to benefit scholars. By scholars, we mean — in part — the global audience of researchers openly discovering and using the articles in DukeSpace. But we especially mean the scholars at Duke who created them in the first place.
We are excited to share the results of our work with the Duke community and beyond. Here are the noteworthy additions:
Scholars@Duke Author Profiles
Item pages now display a brief embedded profile for each Duke author, featuring their preferred name, a photo, position title, and brief description of their research interests. This information comes from the scholars themselves, who manage their profiles via Scholars@Duke (powered by the open-source VIVO platform).
Scholars@Duke provides a handy SEO-friendly profile page (example) for each scholar. It aggregates their full list of publications, courses taught, news articles in which they’re mentioned, and much more. It also has useful APIs for building widgets to dynamically repurpose the data for display elsewhere. Departments throughout Duke (example) use these APIs to display current faculty information on their web sites without requiring anyone to manually duplicate or update it. And now, the library does, too.
Featuring researchers in this manner adds several other benefits, including:
Uses a scholar’s own preferred current version of their name and title; that may not be identical to what is stored in the item’s author metadata.
Puts users one click away from the author’s full profile at Scholars@Duke, where one can discover the entirety of the author’s publications, open-access or not.
Helps search engines make stronger semantic connections between an author’s profile information and their works available online.
Introduces a unique value-add feature for our open-access copy of an article that’s unlikely to ever be possible to replicate for the published version on the academic journal’s website.
Makes the DukeSpace item pages look better, warmer, and more inviting.
With this feature, we are truly pushing beyond the boundaries of what an institutional repository traditionally does. And likewise, we feel we’re raising the bar for how academic research libraries can showcase the members of their communities alongside their collected works.
Other New Features
Beyond these new author profiles, we managed to fit in a few more enhancements around citations, the homepage, and site navigation. Here’s a quick rundown:
We now present an easily copyable citation, composed from the various metadata available for each item. This includes the item’s permalink.
In cases when there’s a published version of an article available, we direct users to review and use that citation instead.
Item pages also now display a “Citation Stats” badge in the sidebar, powered by Digital Science’s Dimensions tool. Click it to explore other scholarly work that has cited the current item.
Finally, we topped off this project phase by redesigning DukeSpace’s homepage. Notable among the changes: a clearer indication of the number of items (broken down by type), a dynamic list of trending items, and streamlined menu navigation in the sidebar.
Duke Libraries’ current strategic plan emphasizes the mission-critical importance of our open-access publishing and repository efforts, and also demands that we “highlight and promote the scholarly activities of our faculty, students, and staff.” This two-month DukeSpace enhancements project was a great opportunity for us to think outside the box about our technology platforms, and consider how those goals relate.
Many thanks to several people whose work enabled these features to come to life, especially Maggie Dickson, Hugh Cayless, Paolo Mangiafico, and the Scholars@Duke team.
How can the Duke Libraries support the needs of first-generation (1G) college students at Duke?
A team of library staff became interested in this question after noticing that 1G students’ responses to a survey question about the Libraries were different from those of continuing-generation students. While many 1G students are successful in and out of Duke classrooms, we wondered how their experiences might differ from those of continuing-generation students.
To begin our project, we read existing research on academic libraries’ support of 1G students and spoke with offices on campus that support 1G students, such as the Duke Office of Access & Outreach. Then, we conducted six focus groups with 1G students, in addition to analyzing responses from the Libraries’ 2018 user survey (which included 2,381 student responses) for 1G and continuing generation students. Our full report discusses this process and our findings in more detail, including concrete recommendations for improving library services.
While the experiences of 1G students are not monolithic, we identified nine core findings, which speak to challenges students experience and suggest specific points for intervention and support. One important overall finding is that 1G challenges are student challenges: support or expansions of campus and library services targeted toward 1G students will help all students succeed.
Finding 1. 1G students perceive a dearth of academic and social information capital.
We asked all focus group participants the following, “Have you ever felt like other people around you know things about college that you don’t know about?” Each time, the response from the group was an overwhelming expression of, “Yes, of course, all the time.” One student captured the experience of her continuing-generation:
“Who told you that? Have you been told your whole life you have to do this? Was there an info session I missed?”
Students repeatedly referred to Duke’s demanding academic environment and the abrupt transition from their high school habits to the expectations of Duke classrooms. At times Duke staff may also take for granted how much knowledge incoming students have.
Information capital is not limited to classrooms; it is also used in social contexts and in navigating college life. 1G experiences are diverse: while some students reported feelings of isolation, others described feeling supported through orientation programs and a lively community on Duke’s East Campus, where many undergraduates live.
While 1G students perceive that continuing generation students are able to rely on family to guide them through the myriad of informational and financial challenges encountered in college, 1G students do not have access to this information from their parents. In addition, they sometimes feel unable to share the stress of college with their parents.
“You have the pressure of pretending ‘I’m okay.’ My parents are so proud of me that I can’t tell them what’s really going on.”
Finding 2. Finances are stressful, and an early source of feeling unwelcome.
Our past research suggested that feeling that one doesn’t belong is a global concern for first-years adjusting to life on a college campus, and one particularly poignant for 1G students. Duke is no exception. Several focus group participants shared comments they received from their peers after revealing that they were the first in their families to attend college:
“Oh you’re smart for a first-generation student. I never would have known!”
First-year focus group participants quoted other early encounters with roommates or colleagues that continued to sting. Many of these comments reflect the fact that financial security is one of the starkest differentiators between many 1G students and their peers at Duke.
“There’s definitely a mentality that exists at Duke that middle class is poor and lower class is even worse. Not that everybody is like that, but it certainly exists.”
When 1G students reveal aspects of their own financial circumstances to their peers, they receive blowback in several ways. For example, a few students shared that their financial aid was stigmatized, with other students suggesting that those who receive aid are very “lucky” to pay so little, or stating explicitly their own significant costs of attendance, possibly to engender shame or guilt. These experiences are formative, alienating, and angering.
Finding 3. An ecosystem of supportive offices and people on campus is critical, but knowledge of and willingness to access resources takes time.
The landscape described above is important to understand because it is the one 1G students step into when they arrive at Duke. However, peer attitudes and financial impediments are difficult intervention points. In contrast, faculty, older peers, and staff are better positioned to be support systems native to the institution:
“When you go to Duke resources, people are more than happy to help you. Adults at Duke are much more receptive and much more understanding of our issues as first-generation students.”
In general, students spoke warmly of the many services, programs, and offices offered on campus. This included the Office of A&O, resident assistants (RAs), peer advisors, a close community on East Campus as freshmen, pre-orientation, the Women’s Center, the Financial Aid office, Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), Duke Reach, and cultural student groups.
The staff in the Office of A&O were mentioned frequently. Students praised staff members, citing their open door policy, knowledge, and willingness to offer genuine and consistent support.
Unfortunately, some students reported feeling stigmatized by others when they were known to have used campus resources such as CAPS, the Academic Resource Center (ARC), the Women’s Center, and identity centers.
Finding 4. The cost of textbooks is a special pain point.
In most focus groups, students shared the challenge, stress, and fear of purchasing expensive textbooks. This anxiety about textbooks rests on top of an ongoing concern about finances. Students described extensive efforts to find affordable copies, taking great pains to maintain their workbooks so they could re-sell them at the end of the semester, and to locate upper-level textbooks that were not available through Textbook on Reserve.
“[Laughter] I’ve never researched so hard as when I’m looking for a digital version of a textbook!”
Students who knew about and utilized the Libraries Textbooks on Reserve made special note of its impact and importance in alleviating some financial burden.
“The textbook rental program has been really important and impactful for me… To get them here and be able to rent them out for 3 hours has been perfect. It’s really important to have that.”
Results from the Libraries biennial student survey also support the idea that the Textbooks on Reserve program is particularly important for 1G students.
Finding 5. 1G challenges are challenges common to many Duke students.
Broadly speaking, 1G students’ responses to our 2018 survey did not differ from those of continuing-generation students. Both groups are generally confident in their ability to use library resources and report that they have successfully used the library and/or the library website to find research articles and books for class assignments. They find the website easy to use, believe that the library is welcoming, that library staff are helpful, and that the library is an important part of their experience at Duke.
1G students were more likely to report that expansion of the Textbooks on Reserve program and the device-lending program (for borrowing equipment such as laptops or cameras) would improve their library experience a great deal.
Overall, the four areas in which more than 50% of all undergraduates responded that expanded services would improve their library experience “a lot” include:
More spaces for quiet/individual study
More textbooks to check out for my classes
Additional specialized spaces for honors researchers, graduate students, or other student populations
More spaces for collaborative study
Survey data indicated a few differences between the services that 1G and continuing generation students believe to be important to their academics. The chart below shows services that 1G students more frequently listed as “important” than continuing generation students.
Finding 6. It is sometimes hard to find existing resources at the Libraries.
When asked about services they wish they had known about earlier, our 1G focus group participants mentioned the Textbooks on Reserve program, library workshops (e.g., Matlab workshops), subject librarians, lockers available for short-term use, and the ability to reserve study rooms. Students described numerous library resources they have discovered seemingly by chance or long after their first semester at Duke. At multiple points during the focus groups students expressed that important services are not adequately marketed or shared with all 1G students. First-year 1G students reiterated the feeling of “unknown unknowns”: of understanding that many resources are available, but often finding it difficult to locate specific points of access.
Finding 7. Getting help from experts at the Libraries is important, but difficult.
1G students indicated that reaching out to library staff can be intimidating or even frightening. They described an initial barrier to asking for help, even while knowing it is likely the best way to receive assistance. Students noted feeling that their questions are “silly,” and they believe they have “gaps” in their knowledge. Students also reflected that it would be helpful for the person providing guidance to understand students’ lack of familiarity with library resources and services.
“We have a librarian for an English department, and for the Linguistics department… but it would be awesome to have a 1G librarian. Just someone who already knows that we don’t know anything, and it’s okay.”
Finding 8. Checking out books using call numbers is daunting.
Focus group participants frequently noted difficulty finding and checking out books using call numbers. 1G students did not pin this difficulty on library staff, but rather on their own lack of knowledge.
“The assumption is that we’ve been in libraries before. They [library staff] were helpful after I admitted I didn’t know my way around.”
The stacks are an understandably daunting environment, especially for those unfamiliar with academic libraries. Students reported feeling supported once they made their confusion clear. Previous assessments have shown that the difficulty of understanding call numbers and finding materials in the Libraries is one experienced by many students, regardless of 1G status.
Finding 9. While students generally view the Libraries as a safe space, 1G students feel less strongly that this is true.
Some of the most striking differences in responses between 1G and continuing-generation students relate to the survey question asking the extent to which both Duke Campus and the Libraries feel like a safe space. For the purposes of the user survey, a “safe space” was defined as a place in which people can feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and any other emotional or physical harm.
Only 20% of 1G students “strongly agree” that Duke Campus is a safe space for them, compared to 36% of continuing-generation students. While it is a small percent, four times as many 1G students (4% compared to 1%) “strongly disagree” that campus is a safe space for them. Duke University has some work to do before all students, and especially 1G students, feel that it is a safe space.
Both 1G and continuing generation students feel strongly that the Libraries are more of a safe space than Duke University. This is encouraging, as a major goal of the Libraries is to provide a welcoming space for all. Differences in feelings about the Libraries as a safe space between 1G and non-1G are less stark but still present: 52% of 1G students “strongly agree” that the Libraries are a safe space compared to 61% of continuing-generation students.
First-generation students are resilient and successful members of the Duke community. The early years on campus, which involve finding the right communities for support and learning new academic skills, can be a difficult transition for some. While all students experience challenges in college, 1G students may not have access to certain sources of information capital and can have significant financial stressors that are difficult for many peers to understand. The Duke University Libraries are well poised to support the success of 1G students on campus. Library staff can help reduce the burdens associated with transitioning from high school to college by making academic and research support known to students early and often, providing access to cost-prohibitive textbooks, and continuing to make the Duke Libraries a welcoming space for all students.
These findings became the basis of the 19 recommendations outlined in the research team’s full report. For example, one important recommendation was to expand the Textbooks on Reserve program. Though the library already had a pilot program, it became clear that all students would benefit from expanding the program to include more textbooks and increasing marketing of the program. This fall the program expanded to include textbooks from the 100 largest courses on campus, and the Libraries has already seen an increase in student use of these books. There was also a recommendation that a librarian be designated as a 1G Student Success Librarian as a way to build the ecosystem of supportive offices and people described in focus groups. Arianne Hartsell-Gundy is currently serving in this role as a way to coordinate the libraries’ efforts, make connections with other programs and departments providing support, and serve as a point of contact for 1G students.
Additionally, The Libraries formed a 1G Study Recommendations Implementation Team (headed by the 1G Student Success Librarian) to prioritize recommendations and work across the Libraries to improve services, library instruction, and marketing/outreach to 1G students. One of the team’s first projects was to increase the library presence during the Rubenstein Scholars summer program. In addition to providing a library instruction session and one-on-one appointments with the students in this program, librarians attended a poster session and a mixer as a way to increase their presence. Also, the team is engaging with the staff dedicated to working on our service desks to find ways to help students feel more comfortable asking questions and navigating our book stacks. The team is pleased with their progress thus far and looks forward to finding new ways to connect with and support 1G students.
By: Joyce Chapman, Brenda Yang, Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Emily Daly
Post contributed by: Emily Daly, Thomas Crichlow, and Cory Lown
If you’re a frequent or even casual user of the Duke Libraries catalog, you’ve probably noticed that it’s remained remarkably consistent over the last decade. Consistency can be a good thing, but there is certainly room for improvement in the Duke Libraries catalog, and staff from the libraries at Duke, UNC, and NCSU are excited to replace the current catalog’s aging infrastructure and outdated user interface with an entirely new collaboratively developed open-source discovery layer. While many things are changing, one key feature will remain the same: The catalog will continue to allow users to locate and access materials not only here at Duke but also across the other Triangle Research Libraries member libraries (NCSU, NCCU, UNC).
Commitment to collaboration
In addition to an entirely new central index that supports institutional and consortial searching, the new catalog benefits from a shared, centrally developed codebase as well as locally hosted, customizable catalog interfaces. Perhaps most notably, the new catalog has been built with the needs of library and complex bibliographic data in mind. While the software used for the current library catalog has evolved and grown in complexity to support e-commerce and business needs (not higher ed or library needs), the library software development community has been hard at work building specialized discovery layers using the open-source Blacklight framework. Peer institutions including Stanford, Cornell, and Princeton are already using Blacklight for their library catalogs, and there is an active Blacklight development community that Duke is excited to be a part of. Being part of this community enables us to build on the good work already in place in other library catalogs, including more intuitive facets, adaptive linking for subjects and other fields, a more responsive user interface for access via tablets and phones, and the ability to preserve the order of MARC fields when it’s useful to researchers (MARC is an international standard for representing bibliographic and related data).
We’re upping our collaboration game locally, too: This project has given us the opportunity to develop a new model for collaborative software development. Rather than reinvent the wheel at each Triangle Research Library, we’re combining effort and expertise to develop a feature-rich yet highly customizable discovery layer that will serve the needs of researchers across the triangle. To do this, we have adopted an agile project management process with talented developers and dedicated product owners from NCSU, UNC, and Duke. The agile approach has helped us be more productive and efficient during the development phase and increased collaboration across the four Triangle Research Libraries, positioning us well for maintaining and governing the catalog after we go live.
The development team has already conducted multiple rounds of user testing and made changes to the user interface based on findings. We’re now ready to hear feedback from library staff. To facilitate this, we’ll be launching the Duke instance of the catalog to all library staff next Wednesday, August 1. We encourage staff to explore catalog features and records and then report feedback, providing screenshots, URLs, and other details as needed. We’ll continue user testing this fall and solicit extensive feedback from faculty, students, staff, and general researchers.
Our plan (fingers crossed!) is to officially launch the new Duke Libraries catalog to all users in early 2019, perhaps as soon as the start of the spring semester. A local implementation team is already at work to be sure we’re ready to replace Duke’s old catalog with the new and improved version early next year. Meanwhile, development and interface enhancement of the catalog will continue this fall. While we are pleased with what we’ve accomplished over the last 18 months, there is still significant work to be done before we’ll be ready to go live. Here are a few items on the lengthy TO DO list:
finish loading the 16 million records from all four Triangle Research libraries
integrate Duke’s request workflows so users can request items they discover in the new catalog
develop a robust Advanced Search interface in response to user demand
tune relevance ranking
ensure that non-Roman scripts are searchable and display correctly
map non-MARC metadata so items such as digital collections records are discoverable
There is a lot of work ahead to be sure, but what we will launch to staff next week is a functional catalog with nearly 10 million records, and that number is increasing by the day. We invite you to take the new catalog for a spin and tell us what you think so we can make improvements and be ready for all researchers in just a few short months.
This spring, Duke University Libraries conducted the 2018 biennial user satisfaction survey, a large survey of students and faculty at Duke. The goal of the survey is to gauge overall user satisfaction and to gather specific ideas for improvements to DUL materials, services, and spaces. In this post, we’ll share some of the trends within the student responses.
Since 2013, DUL has created custom surveys rather than use generic survey products, allowing us to customize questions to different patron groups and even different parts of the campus libraries system. Developing and analyzing the results of a customized survey, however, is no small feat! The survey is run every two years, in part because the full cycle of survey development, dissemination, analysis, and follow-up takes the entire two years.
The 2018 survey was deployed in January 2018. A sample of students and faculty received personal invitations over email, but the survey was also advertised on the DUL website and open to anyone. We received responses from 2,610 students. We don’t have full demographic information for everyone, but approximately 54% of the students for whom we have demographics were undergraduates. The survey took approximately five to seven minutes to complete.
After the survey closed, a group of seven staff at DUL divided up approximately 3,600 free-text responses and manually coded them for topic and, where appropriate, whether they were a request for a new service or change in existing policy or a compliment. The survey data have been visualized in a series of public dashboards. To gather additional information about some of the results, the Assessment & User Experience department also hosted several follow-up focus groups with both students and faculty. The focus group results, while not incorporated into the survey dashboards, have been incorporated into summary reports and recommendations.
“I think the library is one of the places of greatest mutual respect on campus. There is less social stratification and freer flow of interaction. I enjoy my time in the library quite a lot.”
The survey included questions that everyone answered and questions that were specific to different libraries. All survey participants identified which library they visited most frequently. For students, 77% selected Perkins & Bostock as their primary libraries. Only 3% (76 students) reported that they don’t physically visit a library.
The libraries are considered an important part of the Duke experience by over 80% of participants. Focusing on the students who picked Perkins & Bostock as their primary libraries, we can look at usage of and satisfaction with the library. Of the 1,978 students who responded, over 80% visit Perkins & Bostock at least once a week. And by and large, students are quite satisfied with Perkins & Bostock. Less than 1% of responses fall in the “not satisfied at all” or “not very satisfied” categories, and the vast majority are very satisfied.
The Duke University Libraries value diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and background and are actively committed to a culture of inclusion and respect. Beyond gauging user satisfaction, this year we also asked students about their impressions of Duke and DUL as safe spaces. (In the survey, “safe space” was defined as “a place in which people can feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and any other emotional or physical harm.”) We were excited to find that overall students agree that DUL is a safe space (92% respond with “agree” or “strongly agree”), even more than they agree that Duke University as a whole is a safe space (78% response with “agree” or “strongly agree”). Similarly, when asked if the library is a welcoming place, almost 90% agreed. Despite these encouraging numbers, we are committed to continuing to improve in this area wherever we can.
“I use the libraries a lot to study (esp Bostock) with friends, which is both helpful for me academically and comforting for me socially. The libraries fills up pretty often during busy times, so I wonder if more chairs would help accommodate more students (not even more tables, just more seating). Thanks!”
Even though by-and-large students are satisfied with the libraries, they were not afraid to let us know what areas could be improved! They gave us their constructive criticism in a few ways. First, we asked students to offer their opinions on the possibility of expanding different types of library services. Next, we asked how important specific services, materials, and spaces were, as well as how they were meeting the students’ needs. Finally, we gave them the opportunity to offer additional comments about DUL and suggestions on how to make DUL more of a safe space.
When we asked students what services should be expanded, students were most likely to vote for more spaces for individual study, more spaces for collaborative study, and more textbooks to check out. A second tier of requests include better signage, delivery of items between campuses, lockers, and help with digital scholarship.
Looking at library-specific responses, we can find a bit more detail about these requests. When looking for services that are both important and not meeting students’ needs, we can see that reservable project/study rooms, a variety of seating options, adequate quiet study space, and textbooks on reserve all appear in the high quadrant for both importance and not meeting students’ needs.
While not every student followed up on these questions with free-text explanations, the analysis of the free-text comments are consistent with these results. Of the 769 student comments that included requests for new services or a change in policy (rather than compliments), the top code was study/research space, which accounts for approximately 12% of the total requests. The second most frequent code was noise (about 9.5% of the requests), clarifying some of the complaints about “adequate quiet study space.” Requests often include a desire for the Libraries’ quiet space policies to be better enforced. The third most frequent code was atmosphere/sense of welcome – e.g., how inviting the library feels, feelings of “stress in the air.” This code was applied to just over 8% of the requests.
Security, furniture, advertising, and signage also ranked highly among requests. Students seem especially desirous of “comfortable” seating; write-in comments mention several types of comfortable seating by name, including couches and bean bags.
“Having taken this survey, I have realized that there are many things which the Duke University Libraries offer which I am not currently taking advantage of…”
While student needs and reactions change over time, one thing remains the same: they unknowingly request services we already offer. Sometimes the survey itself alerts students to particular services.
When we ask students how certain services are meeting their needs or which services should be expanded, we offer a choice labelled “I didn’t know the the library provided this.” Here are some of our most pressing “marketing opportunities,” according to the number of people who were unaware of the service.
For each service, there are two values – one for the students who marked the service as important and another for those who didn’t. As might be expected, awareness is always lower among students who don’t find the service important, but there are also services that have lower awareness overall. Services like support analyzing data, self-checkout stations, meetings with library staff, and reservable interview rooms may be good candidates for increased marketing. (If you look at the previous scatterplot, you’ll see that reservable interview rooms also had a high value for students whose needs weren’t being met, even though it’s not rated very highly on importance.)
Another good indicator of marketing opportunities is our analysis of the students’ free-text comments. Some of the major requests from students actually match up well with some of our existing but possibly under-advertised services.
We already know that students are always on the lookout for quiet study spaces. This need is especially pronounced for graduate students, who seem to feel outnumbered by undergraduates, who need quiet space for long periods to work on independent research projects, and who don’t always have private office space elsewhere on campus. When we asked students about services they would like us to expand, we offered them the opportunity to comment on “Additional specialized spaces for honors researchers, graduate students, or other student populations.” Out of 281 total comments on additional specialized spaces, 142 (or almost 51%) mentioned graduate students. In analyzing the comments and in follow-up focus groups with graduate students, however, it appears that many are not aware of either one or both of the dedicated graduate student spaces in Perkins Library.
The graduate reading room is a shared reading space for graduate students on the 2nd floor of Perkins. It has a key pad entry code that can be obtained from the Library Service Desk. The room is has good natural lighting and is an “absolutely quiet” zone. Some of the requests indicate that students would like more individual desks, however, so some students may be unsatisfied with this as the only dedicated space open to all graduate students.
In the spring of 2016, a large room on the second floor of Perkins was converted into the Graduate Research Commons. The space has 27 individual cubicles of two different heights, adjustable sit-stand desks, and dedicated lockers for all users. The room also includes a technology center with an e-Print terminal, a scanner, and a desktop computer with the Adobe software suite.
Unlike the Graduate Reading Room, however, students must apply for access to the Graduate Research Commons. Despite its many features, the space has been underutilized, and it appears that many students are not familiar with it and have never tried to apply for access. A review of this space could reveal ways to market and set policies for the space.
To determine the most needed and feasible improvements for follow-up, the Assessment & User Experience department will host a DUL-wide staff workshop in July to review the results and make specific recommendations to improve the experience of all of our users. Contact us if you would like information more about this workshop.
We look forward to sharing more of our progress on this and other assessment projects for DUL in the future!
That same team is now back for a sequel, collaborating to tackle additional issues around system integrations, statistics/reporting, citations, and platform maintenance. Phase II of the project will wrap up this summer.
I’d like to share a bit more about the DSpace upgrade project, beginning with some background on why it’s important and where the platform fits into the larger picture at Duke. Then I’ll share more about the areas to which we have devoted the most developer time and attention over the past several months. Some of the development efforts were required to make DSpace 6 viable at all for Duke’s ongoing needs. Other efforts have been to strengthen connections between DukeSpace and other platforms. We have also been enhancing several parts of the user interface to optimize its usability and visual appeal.
DSpace at Duke: What’s in It?
Duke began using DSpace around 2006 as a solution for Duke University Archives to collect and preserve electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). In 2010, the university adopted an Open Access policy for articles authored by Duke faculty, and DukeSpace became the host platform to make these articles accessible under the policy. These two groups of materials represent the vast majority of the 15,000+ items currently in the platform. Ensuring long-term preservation, discovery, and access to these items is central to the library’s mission.
Integrations With Other Systems
DukeSpace is one of three key technology platforms working in concert to support scholarly communications at Duke. The other two are the proprietary Research Information Management System Symplectic Elements, and the open-source research networking tool VIVO (branded as Scholars@Duke). Here’s a diagram illustrating how the platforms work together, created by my colleague Paolo Mangiafico:
In a nutshell, DSpace plays a critical role in Duke University scholars’ ability to have their research easily discovered, accessed, and used.
Faculty use Elements to manage information about their scholarly publications. That information is pulled neatly into Scholars@Duke which presents for each scholar an authoritative profile that also includes contact info, courses taught, news stories in which they’re mentioned, and more.
The Scholars@Duke profile has an SEO-friendly URL, and the data from it is portable: it can be dynamically displayed anywhere else on the web (e.g., departmental websites).
Elements is also the place where faculty submit the open access copies of their articles; Elements in turn deposits those files and their metadata to DSpace. Faculty don’t encounter DSpace at all in the process of submitting their work.
Publications listed in a Scholars@Duke profile automatically include a link to the published version (which is often behind a paywall), and a link to the open access copy in DSpace (which is globally accessible).
Upgrading DSpace: Ripple Effects
The following diagram expands upon the previous one. It adds boxes to the right to account for ETDs and other materials deposited to DSpace either by batch import mechanisms or directly via the application’s web input forms. In a vacuum, a DSpace upgrade–complex as that is in its own right–would be just the green box. But as part of an array of systems working together, the upgrade meant ripping out and replacing so much more. Each white star on the diagram represents a component that had to be thoroughly investigated and completely re-done for this upgrade to succeed.
One of the most complicated factors in the upgrade effort was the bidirectional arrow marked “RT2”: Symplectic’s new Repository Tools 2 connector. Like its predecessor RT1, it facilitates the deposit of files and metadata from Elements into DSpace (but now via different mechanisms). Unlike RT1, RT2 also permits harvesting files and metadata from DSpace back into Elements, even for items that weren’t originally deposited via Elements. The biggest challenges there:
Divergent metadata architecture. DukeSpace and Elements employ over 60 metadata fields apiece (and they are not the same).
Crosswalks. The syntax for munging/mapping data elements from Elements to DSpace (and vice versa) is esoteric, new, and a moving target.
Legacy/inconsistent data. DukeSpace metadata had not previously been analyzed or curated in the 12 years it had been collected.
Newness. Duke is likely the first institution to integrate DSpace 6.x & Elements via RT2, so a lot had to be figured out through trial & error.
Kudos to superhero metadata architect Maggie Dickson for tackling all of these challenges head-on.
User Interface Enhancements in Action
There are over 2,000 DSpace instances in the world. Most implementors haven’t done much to customize the out-of-the-box templates, which look something like this for an item page:
The UI framework itself is outdated (driven via XSLT 1.0 through Cocoon XML pipelines), which makes it hard for anyone to revise substantially. It’s a bit like trying to whittle a block of wood into something ornate using a really blunt instrument. The DSpace community is indeed working on addressing that for DSpace 7.0, but we didn’t have the luxury to wait. So we started with the vanilla template and chipped away at it, one piece at a time. These screenshots highlight the main areas we have been able to address so far.
We configured DSpace to generate and display thumbnail images for all items. Then we added icons corresponding to MIME types to help distinguish different kinds of files. We added really prominent indicators for when an item was embargoed (and when it would become available), and also revised the filesize display to be more clear and concise.
Usage & Attention Stats
Out of the box, DSpace item statistics are only available by clicking a link on the item page to go to a separate stats page. We figured out how to tap into the Solr statistics core and transform that data to display item views and file downloads directly in the item sidebar for easier access. We were also successful showing an Altmetric donut badge for any article with a DOI. These features together help provide a clear indication on the item page how much of an impact a work has made.
We added a lookup from the item page to retrieve the parent collection’s rights statement, which may contain a statement about Open Access, a Creative Commons license, or other explanatory text. This will hopefully assert rights information in a more natural spot for a user to see it, while at the same time draw more attention to Duke’s Open Access policy.
Scholars@Duke Profiles & ORCID Links
For any DukeSpace item author with a Scholars@Duke profile, we now display a clickable icon next to their name. This leads to their Scholars@Duke profile, where a visitor can learn much more about the scholar’s background, affiliations, and other research. Making this connection relies on some complicated parts: 1) enable getting Duke IDs automatically from Elements or manually via direct entry; 2) storing the ID in a DSpace field; 3) using the ID to query a VIVO API to retrieve the Scholars@Duke profile URL. We are able to treat a scholar’s ORCID in a similar fashion.
Other Development Areas
Beyond the public-facing UI, these areas in DSpace 6.2 also needed significant development for the upgrade project to succeed:
Fixed several bugs related to batch metadata import/export
Developed a mechanism to create user accounts via batch operations
Modified features related to authority control for metadata values
By summer 2018, we aim to have the following in place:
Add collapsable / expandable facet and browse options to reduce the number of menu links visible at any given time.
Present a copyable citation on the item page.
Upgrade the XSLT processor from Xalan to Saxon, using XLST 3.0; this will enable us to accomplish more with less code going forward
Revise the Scholars@Duke profile lookup by using a different VIVO API
Create additional browse/facet options
Display aggregated stats in more places
We’re excited to get all of these changes in place soon. And we look forward to learning more from our users, our collaborators, and our peers in the DSpace community about what we can do next to improve upon the solid foundation we established during the project’s initial phases.
We kicked off the spring 2018 semester by rolling out a brand-new design for the David M. Rubenstein Library website. The new site features updated imagery from the collections, better navigation, and more prominent presence for the exhibits currently on display.
Much credit goes to Katie Henningsen and Kate Collins who championed the project.
Objectives for the Redesign
Make wayfinding from the homepage clearer (by reorganizing links into a primary dropdown navigation)
Dynamically feature Rubenstein Library exhibits that are currently on display
Improve navigation to key Rubenstein site pages from within research center / collection pages
Display larger images illustrative of the library’s distinctive and diverse collections
Retain aspects of the homepage that have been effective, e.g., hours and resource search boxes
Improve the site aesthetic
With a new primary navigation in hand on the Rubenstein homepage that links to key pages in the site, we began to explore ways to get visitors to those links in an unobtrusive way when they aren’t on the homepage. Each research center within the library, e.g., the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, has its own sub-site with its own secondary menus, which already contend a bit with the blue Duke Libraries menu in the masthead. To avoid burying visitors in a Russian nesting doll of navigation, we decided to try dropping the RL menu down from the breadcrumb trail link so it’s tucked away, but still accessible when needed. We’re eager to learn whether or not this is effective.
A Look Back
Depending on how you count, this is now the seventh or eighth homepage design for the Rubenstein Library (formerly the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library; formerly the Special Collections Library). I thought I’d take a quick stroll down memory lane, courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, to reflect on how far we have come over the years.
prominent news, exhibits, and online collections
links to online SGML- and HTML-encoded finding aids (42 of them!)
a site search box powered by Excite!
two-column layout with a left-hand nav
a special collections newsletter called The Broadside
became the “Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library” in 1997
color-coded navigation broken into three groups of links
image from the collections
featured exhibit with image
rounded corners and shadows
first use of a CMS (content management system named Cascade Server)*
first time sharing a masthead with rest of the Duke University Libraries
retained the lists of links, single collection image, and featured exhibit from previous iteration
renamed as the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
first time with catalog and finding aids search boxes on the homepage
first appearance of social media & RSS icons
first iteration to display library hours
first news carousel appearance
new site in Drupal content management system
first responsive RL website (works well on mobile devices)
array of vertical image panels from the collections
extended color palette to match Duke University website styles (at the time)
gradients and rounded buttons with shadows
first time able to search digital collections from RL homepage
first site with Login button for Aeon (Special Collections request system)
used a flat aesthetic removing gradients, shadows, rounded corners
lightened the overall aesthetic
featured image cycling from selections at random (diagonally sliced using css clip-path polygons)
prominent current exhibits feed with images
a primary nav with dropdown menus
How long will this latest edition of the Rubenstein Library homepage stick around? Only time will tell, but we’ll surely continue to iterate, learn from the past, and improve with each attempt. For now, we’re pleased with the new site, and hope you will be as well.
* Revised Feb 9, 2018 to reflect that the first version using a content management system was in 2005 rather than 2007.
This past year brought renewed focus on AV development, as we worked to bring the NEH grant-funded Radio Haiti Archive online (launched in June). At the same time, our digital collections legacy platform migration efforts shifted toward moving our existing high-profile digital AV material into the repository.
At Duke University Libraries, we take accessibility seriously. We aim to include captions or transcripts for the audiovisual objects made available via the Duke Digital Repository, especially to ensure that the materials can be perceived and navigated by people with disabilities. For instance, work is well underway to create closed captions for all 1,400 items in the Duke Chapel Recordings project.
The DDR now accommodates modeling and ingest for caption files, and our AV player interface (powered by JW Player) presents a CC button whenever a caption file is available. Caption files are encoded using WebVTT, the modern W3C standard for associating timed text with HTML audio and video. WebVTT is structured so as to be machine-processable, while remaining lightweight enough to be reasonably read, created, or edited by a person. It’s a format that transcription vendors can provide. And given its endorsement by W3C, it should be a viable captioning format for a wide range of applications and devices for the foreseeable future.
Displaying captions within the player UI is helpful, but it only gets us so far. For one, that doesn’t give a user a way to just read the caption text without requiring them to play the media. We also need to support captions for audio files, but unlike with video, the audio player doesn’t include enough real estate within itself to render the captions. There’s no room for them to appear.
We also do some extra formatting when the WebVTT cues include voice tags (<v> tags), which can optionally indicate the name of the speaker (e.g., <v Jane Smith>). The in-page transcript is indexed by Google for search retrieval.
In many cases, especially for audio items, we may have only a PDF or other type of document with a transcript of a recording that isn’t structured or time-coded. Like captions, these documents are important for accessibility. We have developed support for displaying links to these documents near the media player. Look for some new collections using this feature to become available in early 2018.
The DDR web interface provides an optimal viewing or listening experience for AV, but we also want to make it easy to present objects from the DDR on other websites, too. When used on other sites, we’d like the objects to include some metadata, a link to the DDR page, and proper attribution. To that end, we now have copyable <iframe> embed code available from the Share menu for AV items.
This embed code is also what we now use within the Rubenstein Library collection guides (finding aids) interface: it lets us present digital objects from the DDR directly from within a corresponding collection guide. So as a researcher browses the inventory of a physical archival collection, they can play the media inline without having to leave.
If your website or blog is one of the thousands of WordPress sites hosted and supported by Sites@Duke — a service of Duke’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) — we have good news for you. You can now embed objects from the DDR using WordPress shortcode. Sites@Duke, like many content management systems, doesn’t allow authors to enter <iframe> tags, so shortcode is the only way to get embeddable media to render.
Here are the other AV-related features we have been able to develop in 2017:
Access control: master files & derivatives alike can be protected so access is limited to only authorized users/groups
Video thumbnail images: model, manage, and display
Video poster frames: model, manage, and display
Intermediate/mezzanine files: model and manage
Rights display: display icons and info from RightsStatements.org and Creative Commons, so it’s clear what users are permitted to do with media.
We look forward to sharing our recent AV development with our peers at the upcoming Samvera Connect conference (Nov 6-9, 2017 in Evanston, IL). Here’s our poster summarizing the work to date:
Looking ahead to the next couple months, we aim to round out the year by completing a few more AV-related features, most notably:
Export WebVTT captions as PDF or .txt
Advance the player via linked timecodes in the description field in an item’s metadata
Improve workflows for uploading caption files and transcript documents
Now that these features are in place, we’ll be sharing a bunch of great new AV collections soon!
Born digital archival material present unique challenges to representation, access, and discovery in the DDR. A hard drive arrives at the archives and we want to preserve and provide access to the files. In addition to the content of the files, it’s often important to preserve to some degree the organization of the material on the hard drive in nested directories.
One challenge to representing complex inter-object relationships in the repository is the repository’s relatively simple object model. A collection contains one or more items. An item contains one or more components. And a component has one or more data streams. There’s no accommodation in this model for complex groups and hierarchies of items. We tend to talk about this as a limitation, but it also makes it possible to provide search and discovery of a wide range of kinds and arrangements of materials in a single repository and forces us to make decisions about how to model collections in sustainable and consistent ways. But we still need to preserve and provide access to the original structure of the material.
One approach is to ingest the disk image or a zip archive of the directories and files and store the content as a single file in the repository. This approach is straightforward, but makes it impossible to search for individual files in the repository or to understand much about the content without first downloading and unarchiving it.
As a first pass at solving this problem of how to preserve and represent files in nested directories in the DDR we’ve taken a two-pronged approach. We will use a simple approach to modeling disk image and directory content in the repository. Every file is modeled in the repository as an item with a single component that contains the data stream of the file. This provides convenient discovery and access to each individual file from the collection in the DDR, but does not represent any folder hierarchies. The files are just a flat list of objects contained by a collection.
To preserve and store information about the structure of the files we add an XML METS structMap as metadata on the collection. In addition we store on each item a metadata field that stores the complete original file path of the file.
Below is a small sample of the kind of structural metadata that encodes the nested folder information on the collection. It encodes the structure and nesting, directory names (in the LABEL attribute), the order of files and directories, as well as the identifiers for each of the files/items in the collection.
Combining the 1:1 (item:component) object model with structural metadata that preserves the original directory structure of the files on the file system enables us to display a user interface that reflects the original structure of the content even though the structure of the items in the repository is flat.
There’s more to it of course. We had to develop a new ingest process that could take as its starting point a file path and then crawl it and its subdirectories to ingest files and construct the necessary structural metadata.
Because some of the collections are very large and loading a directory tree structure of 100,000 or more items would be very slow, we implemented a small web service in the application that loads the jsTree data only when someone clicks to open a directory in the interface.
The file paths are also keyword searchable from within the public interface. So if a file is contained in a directory named “kitchen/fruits/bananas/this-banana.txt” you would be able to find the file this-banana.txt by searching for “kitchen” or “fruit” or “banana.”
This new functionality to ingest, preserve, and represent files in nested folder structures in the Duke Digital Repository will be included in the September release of the Duke Digital Repository.
As 2017 reaches its halfway point, we have concluded another busy quarter of development on the Duke Digital Repository (DDR). We have several new features to share, and one we’re particularly delighted to introduce is Rights display.
Back in March, my colleague Maggie Dickson shared our plans for rights management in the DDR, a strategy built upon using rights status URIs from RightsStatements.org, and in a similar fashion, licenses from Creative Commons. In some cases, we supplement the status with free text in a local Rights Note property. Our implementation goals here were two-fold: 1) use standard statuses that are machine-readable; 2) display them in an easily understood manner to users.
What to Display
Getting and assigning machine-readable URIs for Rights is a significant milestone in its own right. Using that value to power a display that makes sense to users is the next logical step. So, how do we make it clear to a user what they can or can’t do with a resource they have discovered? While we could simply display the URI and link to its webpage (e.g., http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/ ) the key info still remains a click away. Alternatively, we could display the rights statement or license title with the link, but some of them aren’t exactly intuitive or easy on the eyes. “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International,” anyone?
Looking around to see how other cultural heritage institutions have solved this problem led us to very few examples. RightsStatements.org is still fairly new and it takes time for good design patterns to emerge. However, Europeana — co-champion of the RightsStatements.org initiative along with DPLA — has a stellar collections site, and, as it turns out, a wonderfully effective design for displaying rights statuses to users. Our solution ended up very much inspired by theirs; hats off to the Europeana team.
Both Creative Commons and RightsStatements.org provide downloadable icons at their sites (here and here). We opted to store a local copy of the circular SVG versions for both to render in our UI. They’re easily styled, they don’t take up a lot of space, and used together, they have some nice visual unity.
Labels & Titles
We have a lightweight Rails app with an easy-to-use administrative UI for managing auxiliary content for the DDR, so that made a good home for our rights statuses and associated text. Statements are modeled to have a URI and Title, but can also have three additional optional fields: short title, re-use text, and an array of icon classes.
Displaying the Info
We wanted to be sure to show the rights status in the flow of the rest of an object’s metadata. We also wanted to emphasize this information for anyone looking to download a digital object. So we decided to render the rights status prominently in the download menu, too.
Our focus in this area now shifts toward applying these newly available rights statuses to our existing digital objects in the repository, while ensuring that new ingests/deposits get assessed and assigned appropriate values. We’ll also have opportunities to refine where and how the statuses get displayed. We stand to learn a lot from our peer organizations implementing their own rights management strategies, and from our visitors as they use this new feature on our site. There’s a lot of work ahead, but we’re thrilled to have reached this noteworthy milestone.
Last spring, we were awfully excited to see the DPLA/Europeana release of RightStatements.org, a suite of standardized rights statements for describing the copyright and re-use status of digital resources. We have never had a comprehensive approach towards rights management for the Duke Digital Repository, but with the release of RightsStatements.org, we now feel we are equipped to wrestle that beast.
Managing and communicating rights statuses for digital collections has long been a challenge for us. The DDR currently allows for the application and display of Creative Commons licenses, which can be used for situations where the copyright holders themselves can assert the rights statuses for their own resources. RightsStatements.org fills a giant gap for us, in that it allow us to assign machine-readable rights to repository resources for which we know something about the rights status but do not hold the copyrights for. Additionally, these statements accommodate for the often fluid and ambiguous nature of copyrights for cultural heritage materials.
So, it’s been nearly a year since the statements were published, and during that time a community best practice has started to develop. The approach we have decided on for rights management in the Duke Digital Repository follows this emerging best practice, and involves using one field – Dublin Core Rights, as that is the metadata standard our repository uses – to store either a Creative Commons or RightsStatements.org URI, and nothing but that URI, and another field – a local property which we are calling ‘Rights Note’ – to store free text contextual information relating to the rights status of the resource (as long as it’s not in conflict with rights statement applied). Having machine-processable rights statuses means we will have a much better rights management strategy (we don’t currently have a way to report on the rights status of repository materials), as well as the ability to clearly communicate to users what they can and cannot do with resources they find.
Now that we’ve got a strategy for doing rights management, however, we need to develop a strategy for implementing it. We’ll tackle the low-hanging fruit first – collections that have a single, identifiable creator or for which the date ranges put them into the public domain – and then move on to the trickier stuff – for example, collections representing multiple or unidentified creators. Digital collections of archival materials present especially difficult challenges, as the the repository ‘itemness’ is frequently at the folder-level, meaning that the ‘item’, in these cases, might contain works by multiple creators of varying rights statuses (think of a folder of correspondence, for example).
The good news is, there are a lot of smart people working on addressing these challenges. Laura Capell and Elliott Williams of the University of Miami published a helpful poster, Assigning Rights Statements to Legacy Digital Collections describing the the decision matrix they developed to help them apply rights statements to their digital collections, and as I was writing this blog post, the Society of American Archivists circulated their Guide to Implementing Rights Statements from RightsStatements.org (nice timing, SAA!). I’m hoping to find some good nuggets of wisdom in its pages. We feel especially well-positioned to tackle rights management here at Duke, as Dave Hansen, who was deeply involved in the development of RightsStatements.org, joined us as our Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communications last year. We’d love to hear from other organizations as they develop their own local implementations – we know we’re not in this alone!
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team