As one of the largest research libraries in the U.S., we have a whole lot of content on the web to consider.
Our website alone comprises over a thousand pages with more than fifty staff contributors. The library catalog interface displays records for over 13 million items at Duke and partner libraries. Our various digital repositories and digital exhibits platforms host hundreds of thousands of interactive digital objects of different types, including images, A/V, documents, datasets, and more. The list goes on.
Any attempt to take a full inventory of the library’s digital content reveals potentially several million web pages under the library’s purview, and all that content is managed and rendered via a dizzying array of technology platforms. We have upwards of a hundred web applications with public-facing interfaces. We built some of these ourselves, some are community-developed (with local customizations), and others we have licensed from vendors. Some interfaces are new, some are old. And some are really old, dating all the way back to the mid-90s.
Ensuring that this content is equally accessible to everyone is important, and it is indeed a significant undertaking. We must also be vigilant to ensure that it stays accessible over time.
With that as our context, I’d like to highlight a few recent efforts in the library to improve the accessibility of our digital resources.
Style Guide With Color Contrast Checks
In January 2019, we launched a new catalog, replacing a decade-old platform and its outdated interface. As we began developing the front-end, we knew we wanted to be consistent, constrained, and intentional in how we styled elements of the interface. We were especially focused on ensuring that any text in the UI had sufficient contrast with its background to be accessible to users with low vision or color-blindness.
This style guide is “living” in that it’s a real-time up-to-date reflection of how elements of the UI will appear when using particular color variable names and CSS classes. It helps to guide developers and other project team members to make good decisions about colors from our palette to stay in compliance with accessibility guidelines.
In the course of this assessment, we were able to identify (and then fix!) several accessibility issues in DukeSpace. I’ll share two strategies in particular from the guide that proved to be really effective. I highly recommend using them frequently.
The Keyboard Test
How easy is it to navigate your site using only your keyboard? Can you get where you want to go using TAB, ENTER, SPACE, UP, and DOWN? Is it clear which element of the page current has the focus?
If you’re a developer like me, chances are you already spend a lot of time using your browser’s Developer Tools pane to look under the hood of web pages, reverse-engineer UIs, mess with styles and markup, or troubleshoot problems.
The Deque Systems aXe Chrome Extension (also available for Firefox) integrates seamlessly into existing Dev Tools. It’s a remarkably useful tool to have in your toolset to help quickly find and fix accessibility issues. Its interface is clear and easy to understand. It finds and succinctly describes accessibility problems, and even tells you how to fix them in your code.
With aXe testing, we quickly learned we had some major issues to fix. The biggest problems revealed were missing form labels and page landmarks, and low contrast on color pairings. Again, these were not hard to fix since the tool explained what to do, and where.
Turning away from DSpace for a moment, see this example article published on a popular academic journal’s website. Note how it fares with an automated aXe accessibility test (197 violations of various types found). And if you were using a keyboard, you’d have to press Tab over 100 times in order to download a PDF of the article.
Libraries are increasingly becoming champions for open access to scholarly research. The overlap in aims between the open access movement and web accessibility in general is quite striking. It all boils down to removing barriers and making access to information as inclusive as possible.
Our open access repository UIs may never be able to match all the feature-rich bells and whistles present in many academic journal websites. But accessibility, well, that’s right up our alley. We can and should do better. It’s all about being true to our values, collaborating with our community of peers, and being vigilant in prioritizing the work.
Look for many more accessibility improvements throughout many of the library’s digital resources as the year progresses.
Duke University Libraries (DUL) is always searching for new ways to increase access and make discovery easier for users. One area users frequently have trouble with is accessing online articles. Too often we hear from students that they cannot find an article PDF they are looking for, or even worse, that they end up paying to get through a journal paywall. To address this problem, DUL’s Assessment and User Experience (AUX) Department explored three possible tools: LibKey Discovery, Kopernio, and Lean Library. After user testing and internal review, LibKey Discovery emerged as the best available tool for the job.
LibKey Discovery is a suite of user-friendly application programming interfaces (APIs) used to enhance the library’s existing discovery system. The APIs enable one-click access to PDFs for subscribed and open-source content, one-click access to full journal browsing via the BrowZine application, and access to cover art for thousands of journals. The tool integrates fully with the existing discovery interface and does not require the use of additional plug-ins.
According to their website, LibKey Discovery has the potential to save users thousands of clicks per day by providing one-click access to millions of articles. The ability to streamline processes enabling the efficient and effective discovery and retrieval of academic journal content prompted the AUX department to investigate the tool and its capabilities further. An internal review of the system was preceded by an introduction of the tool to Duke’s subject librarians and followed with a preliminary round of student-based user testing.
One-Click Article and Full Journal Access
Both the AUX staff and the subject librarians who performed an initial review of the LibKey Discovery tools were impressed with the ease of article access and full journal browsing. Three members of the AUX department independently reviewed LibKey’s features and concluded the system does provide substantial utility in its ability to reduce the number of clicks necessary to access articles and journals.
The tool streamlines the appearance and formatting of all journals, thus removing ambiguity in how to access information from different sources within the catalog. This is beneficial in helping to direct users to the features they want without having to search for points of access. The AUX department review team all found this helpful.
LibKey Discovery’s APIs integrate fully into the existing DUL discovery interface without the need for users to download an additional plug-in. This provides users the benefit of the new system without asking them to go through extra steps or make any changes to their current search processes. Aside from the new one-click options available within the catalog’s search results page, the LibKey interface is indistinguishable from the current DUL interface helping users to benefit from the added functionality without feeling like they need to learn a new system.
LibKey Discovery carries a relatively hefty price tag, so its utility to the end-user must be weighed against its cost. While internal review and testing has indicated LibKey Discovery has the ability to streamline and optimize the discovery process, it must be determined if those benefits are universal enough to warrant the added annual expenditure.
Inconsistency in Options
A potential downside to LibKey Discovery is lack of consistency in one-click options between articles. While many articles provide the option for easy, one-click access to a PDF, the full text online, and full journal access, these options are not available for all content. As a result, this may cause confusion around the options that are available for users and may diminish the overall utility of the tool depending on what percentage of the catalog’s content is exempt from the one-click features.
LibKey Discovery User Testing Findings
An initial round of user testing was completed with ten student volunteers in the lobby of Perkins Library in early April. Half of the users were asked to access an article and browse a full journal in the existing DUL system; the other half were asked to perform the same tasks using the LibKey Discovery interface.
Initial testing indicated that student users had a high level of satisfaction with the LibKey interface; however, they were equally satisfied with the existing access points in the DUL catalog. The final recommendations from the user testing report suggest the need for additional testing to be completed. Specifically, it was recommended that more targeted testing be completed with graduate-level students and faculty as a majority of the original test’s participants were undergraduate students with limited experience searching for and accessing academic journal issues and articles. It was concluded that testing with a more experienced user group would likely produce better feedback as to the true value of LibKey Discovery.
LibKey Discovery is a promising addition to Duke’s existing discovery system. It allows for streamlined, one-click article and full journal access without disrupting the look and feel of the current interface or requiring the use of a plug-in. Initial reviews of the system by library staff have been glowing; however, preliminary user testing with student participants indicated the need for additional testing to determine if LibKey’s cost is sufficiently offset by its utility to the user.
Kopernio is a free browser plug-in which enables one-click access to academic journal articles. It searches the web for OA copies, institutional repository copies, and copies available through library subscriptions. The tool is designed to connect users to articles on and off campus by managing their subscription credentials and automatically finding the best version of an article no matter where a user is searching.
Given the potential of this tool to help increase access and make discovery easier for students, the AUX department initiated an internal review process. Four members of the department independently downloaded the Kopernio plug-in, thoroughly tested it in a variety of situations, and shared their general and specific notes about the tool.
OA Content + Library Subscription
By its design, Kopernio has an advantage over other plug-in tools that serve a similar function (i.e. Unpaywall). When users first download Kopernio they are asked to register their subscription credentials. This information is saved in the plug-in so users can automatically discover articles available from OA sources, as well as library subscriptions. This is an advantage over other plug-ins that only harvest from freely available sources.
Kopernio has highly visible and consistent branding. With bright green coloring, the plug-in stands out on a screen and attracts users to click on it to download articles.
Kopernio is advertised as a “one-click” service, and it pays off in this respect. Using Kopernio to access articles definitely cuts down on the number of clicks required to get to an article’s PDF. The process to download articles to a computer was instantaneous, and most of the time, downloading to the Kopernio storage cloud was just as fast.
Creates New Pain Points
Kopernio’s most advertised strength is its ability to manage subscription credentials. Unfortunately, this strength is also a major data privacy weakness. Security concerns ultimately led to the decision to disable the feature which allowed users to access DUL subscriptions via Kopernio when off-campus. Without this feature, Kopernio only pulls from OA sources and therefore performs the same function that many other tools currently do.
Similar to data privacy concerns, Kopernio also raises copyright concerns. One of Kopernio’s features is its sharing function. You can email articles to anyone, regardless of their university affiliation or if they have downloaded Kopernio already. We tested sending DUL subscription PDFs to users without Duke email addresses and they were able to view the full-text without logging in. It is unclear if they were viewing an OA copy of the article, or if they were seeing an article only meant for DUL authenticated users.
Running the Kopernio plug-in noticeably slowed down browser speed. We tested the browser on several different computers, both on campus and off, and we all noticed slower browser speeds. This slow speed led Kopernio to be occasionally buggy (freezing, error messages etc.).
Many Features Don’t Seem Useful
When articles are saved to Kopernio’s cloud storage, users can add descriptive tags. We found this feature awkward to use. Instead of adding tags as you go along, users have to add a tag globally before they can tag an article. Overall, it seemed like more hassle than it was worth.
Kopernio automatically imports article metadata to generate citations. There were too many problems with this feature to make it useful to users. It did not import metadata for all articles that we tested, and there was no way to manually add metadata yourself. Additionally, the citations were automatically formatted in Elsevier Harvard format and we had to go to our settings to change it to a more common citation style.
Lastly, the cloud storage which at first seemed like an asset, was actually a problem. All articles automatically download to cloud storage (called the “Kopernio Locker”) as soon as you click on the Kopernio button. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the limited storage size of the locker. With only 100MB of storage in the free version of Kopernio, we found that after downloading only 2 articles the locker was already 3% full. To make this limited storage work, we would have to go back to our locker and manually delete articles that we did not need, effectively negating the steps saved by having an automatic process.
Lean Library is a similar tool to Kopernio. It offers users one-click access to subscription and open access content through a browser extension. In Fall 2018, DUL staff were days away from purchasing this tool when Lean Library was acquired by SAGE Publishing. DUL staff had been excited to license a tool that was independent and vendor-neutral and so were disappointed to learn about its acquisition. We have found that industry consolidation in the publishing and library information systems environment has lowered competition and resulted in negative experiences for researchers and staff. Further, we take the privacy of our users very seriously and were concerned that Lean Library’s alignment with SAGE Publishing will compromise user security. Whenever possible, DUL aims to support products and services that are offered independently from those with already dominant market positions. For these reasons, we opted not to pursue Lean Library further.
Of the three tools the AUX Department explored, we believe LibKey Discovery to be the most user-friendly and effective option. If purchased, it should streamline journal browsing and article PDF downloads without adversely affecting the existing functionality of DUL’s discovery interfaces.
While the basic functionality of the catalog remains the same – researchers will be able to search across the 15 million+ items at Duke and area libraries – we think you’ll enjoy some nice enhancements and updates to the catalog:
more robust Advanced Search with options to search by Publisher and Resource type (e.g., book, video, archival material)
You might notice some differences in the way the new catalog works. Learn more with this handy new vs. old catalog comparison chart. (Note that we plan to implement some of the features that are not currently available in the new catalog this spring – stay tuned for more info, and let us know if there are aspects of the old catalog that you miss.) And if you run into trouble or have more questions about using the new catalog, check out these library catalog search tips, or contact a librarian for assistance.
We welcome your feedback
While the new catalog is fully functional and boasts a number of enhancements, we know there is still work to be done, and we welcome your input. We invite you to explore the new catalog at https://find.library.duke.edu/ and report problems or provide general feedback through this online form. We’ll continue to conduct user testing this spring and make improvements based on what we learn – look for the “Free Coffee” sign in the Perkins Library lobby, and stop by to tell us what you think.
(Thanks to Assessment and User Experience Intern Brenda Yang for this post and for her amazing work on Oasis Perkins!)
What if it was possible to unwind – color, do a jigsaw puzzle, meditate – without leaving the Libraries?
It is at Oasis Perkins! This high-ceilinged refuge is tucked into the fourth floor of Perkins in room 418. It’s a perfect place to escape any finals-related tension palpable in study spaces this time of year.
Yoga mats and meditation cushions
A jigsaw puzzle table
Coloring books, logic puzzles, and sudoku pages
Origami paper and instruction books
A quiet nook
A white noise machine
Plenty of natural light (during the day)
And more to explore!
Unlike other fourth floor spaces in Perkins and Bostock meant for silent study, feel free to chat and connect with a friend or strangers, or simply sit and reflect quietly.
How did Oasis Perkins come to be?
One major motivation was direct feedback from students. Comments from our 2018 Student Library Satisfaction Survey made clear that while study spaces at the Duke Libraries are a keystone of many students’ academic lives, it can be a stressful place, especially during the exam season: “I love coming to the library during most of the semester… particularly during finals, there is an overwhelming sense of stress that emanates from the other students at the library.” A few students explicitly requested “a room to relax,” a place to have have a “refreshing study break without leaving the library somehow,” or a “stress-relief room.”
We hope that Oasis Perkins can serve as a dedicated place for students to nurture their well-being, fitting into the ecosystem of Oasis West and Oasis East (which are managed by Duke Wellness). However, Oasis Perkins is located, of course, right inside of Perkins Library – and its doors don’t close.
You’ll also find occasional events hosted in Oasis Perkins, from Koru Meditation classes to “Tea-laxation” events. Check out the Oasis Perkins webpage to stay up to date on events, or be in touch if your organization would like to host a relevant get together in this space!
You can find a smaller space on the second floor at the Prayer and Meditation Room in Perkins 220.
Other Wellness Resources at Duke
For other tips and events to help you end the semester strong, check out the Duke Libraries End of Semester Survival Guide. There are also a number of resources right on Duke’s campus to support your mental health, which include:
Duke Wellness Center – There are a lot of wonderful activities that happen with the Wellness Center each week to help support and de-stress students!
Academic Resource Center – The ARC is here to help you be the best (and least stressed) student you can be. Free learning consultations and academic support provided.
Oasis Perkins has existed in its current form for only one short semester! Is there something that could change about the Oasis Perkins that would help you re-charge? Our team at the Libraries would love to make it better for you. Fill out a feedback from in the suggestion box in Oasis Perkins, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments or suggestions.
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.
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team