All posts by Thomas Crichlow

New Framework for Search Results Page

Screenshot displaying an example of the first two search results for the search phrase Ruby on Rails

We recently updated the unified All search results page linked from the Duke Libraries homepage. Users may notice the following updates to the interface:

  • Catalog results: Items from the catalog displayed in either the Books & Media or the Archival Materials sections include the following updates:
    • Item availability is displayed using either a green check mark or a red x
    • The call number is displayed for titles with only one item
    • A view online link is displayed for titles that are online
    • Cover images have been moved to the right
  • Chat with a Librarian: Patrons will now click to expand the chat box to use it, and the new modal is always accessible by patrons in contrast to the old version that disappeared completely once dismissed.
  • Removing two unused sections: The Images and Other Resources sections of the results page have been removed. Data for the 2020 calendar year show that links within these two sections each received less than 0.3% of all clicks on the page — these sections were simply not being used.
  • Related searches: Terms related to the current search are displayed near the bottom of the page, allowing patrons to quickly perform a new search (this feature only appears for some searches).
  • More search options: Options to search beyond the initial results using tools such as Research Databases, Online Journal Titles, etc. (displayed at the bottom of the page) have been reformatted to conserve space and to include an icon indicating that each link leads to a different website.

Changes to underlying technology

Most of the work to implement this new version is behind the scenes and focuses on the following changes.

New framework

Our old version of the unified results page was built using the Drupal 7 content management system that supports our main website; however, Drupal 7 will soon be replaced with a newer version of Drupal. Rather than migrate our unified search results page to the newer version of Drupal, we opted to migrate to an application called Quicksearch that was developed by our colleagues at North Carolina State University (NC State) and is built with the Ruby on Rails framework.

Since many of our discovery tools are Rails-based, this is a framework that is familiar to our developers, and using NC State’s Quicksearch as our starting point also saved time.

Because the new unified search results page is now a separate application from Drupal, it has a new URL,, but the primary starting point for accessing it will continue to be the All tab on the library homepage.

Website search

The website search section of our unified search results page previously used a deprecated version of Google Custom Search Engine that was not accessible from Duke Kunshan University. We have switched to a website search based on two open source tools, Nutch (a web crawler) and Solr (a search platform). Using Nutch and Solr for our Website search will allow us to continue displaying ad-free results, will cost less to maintain over time, will be usable by patrons at Duke Kunshan University, and will help us maintain patron privacy.


The unified search results page provides users with quick access to content across several of the discovery platforms provided by Duke University Libraries, allowing users to see wide ranging results when starting from the All tab on the library homepage. Users with more granular research needs are invited to explore more focused research paths listed on our Search & Find portal page.

Search box from library homepage with the All tab highlighted


Moving our unified search results page to a new framework is the result of a collaborative project undertaken by IT staff within the library. The Digital Strategies and Technologies Scrum Team completed the implementation; special thanks goes to Cory Lown, Derrek Croney, Michael Daul, Sean Aery, and Zeke Graves.

Reduced Services in December and Closed for the Holidays

  • Library Takeout, ePrint, and equipment reservations will be available in Bostock Library from 11 am to 4 pm through December 11.
  • Reservable study spaces will be available in Lilly Library from 1 to 6 pm from Monday, November 30 through Friday, December 11.
  • Equipment and Takeout will be available for limited hours in Lilly and Music Libraries.

See more info on the Library Hours page. Duke ID and SymMon clearance are required for building access.

Request Library Takeout Materials by December 8

If you need materials during the intersession, we strongly urge you to request them by December 8. December 11 will be the final day to pick up anything from Duke University Libraries until January.

Closed for the Holidays

All libraries will close by 6 pm on December 11 – at different times that day at different locations – and remain closed through January 3. While online resources will remain available, we will be shutting down almost all remote services. Our Ask a Librarian service will have limited capacity for email responses, but librarians will not be responding to chats.

Library Access Limited, January 4 to 19

Students who are cleared to remain on campus through the intersession must continue to participate in testing to access library buildings; they will need to swipe in, show their SymMon clearance, and demonstrate a need to be in the library (e.g., Takeout). Students who are not compliant with testing will have their swipe access cut off until they comply with testing.

Undergraduate and graduate students who have NOT been cleared to remain on campus through the intersession will need to test and quarantine as soon as they return to campus, and they cannot test and begin quarantine any earlier than January 11. Beginning January 13, students who have tested, quarantined, and received a negative result will have swipe access to library buildings during open hours. Students will need to show their SymMon clearance and demonstrate a need to be in the library (e.g., Takeout).

Library services and hours will be limited between January 4 and 19. You can learn more on the Library hours page.

Secure Update for Library Website

Students using computers
October 2017, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and over the next few weeks Duke’s IT security office will be sharing tips and resources to help students, faculty, and staff protect their digital security.

Here in the Libraries, we’re doing our own part to make our web presence more secure. During fall break, the Duke University Libraries web site will begin using the HTTPS protocol by default. HTTPS, which means Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, ensures an encrypted connection, providing greater privacy and security than the HTTP protocol many of our sites have previously used. This change will apply to web sites that we maintain directly, such as our homepage and our digitized collections, and to hundreds of the databases and journals that we subscribe to.

What does this mean?

When you go to our web site using the old adress that begins with “http://” you will automatically be redirected to an address that begins with “https://” — for example, the full address of our homepage will be

You will know a web site is using HTTPS when the URL begins with “https://” and your web browser displays a closed padlock icon as seen in the following example:

A padlock icon next to a web site URL indicates it uses a secure protocol

Will the entire Library web site use HTTPS?

Most of the Library web site will use HTTPS; however, the portion of the Library web site that we refer to as the Classic Catalog will not transition from HTTP to HTTPS. Students, faculty, and staff may continue to use Classic Catalog “as is,” and it will continue to function as it always has without change. When using Classic Catalog, some newer web browsers will display a “Not Secure” warning when you type search terms into the search box.

As an alternative, we encourage you to use either the All search or Books & Media search to find resources at Duke University Libraries via the more secure HTTPS protocol. Both of these more secure search options are available within the library’s home page search box.

On October 25, 2017, we will remove the link to Classic Catalog from our home page, although this legacy platform will continue to be available “as is” at its current address.

Problems? Questions?

Additional information is available for your use in troubleshooting, reporting problems, and asking questions.

New Library Website Launching on October 14

After months of development and user testing, we are making final preparations to launch the new Duke University Libraries website on October 14, during Duke’s Fall Break. More user-friendly, easier to navigate, and intuitively organized, our redesigned site comes with additional features we think our patrons will appreciate—because they asked for them! You can take a peek at our new homepage design now.

Screenshot of new hompage.
New Duke Libraries website homepage. Click to enlarge.

Notable differences from our current website are based on usage data and patron feedback. They include:

  • My Accounts link at the top of every page
  • Updates to the tabbed search box on our homepage
    • “Books & More” becomes our default search tab scoped to a search of our catalog
    • We are bringing back the “Articles” tab
    • The “All” tab is still there for those who want to search our collections broadly, but it’s no longer the default
    • Our website search box is now included as a tab on the homepage
    • Other key search tools are in the ribbon just below the tabbed search box
  • Site navigation via drop-down menus at the top of every page
Screenshot of drop down menu
The drop down menu provides quick access to links throughout the website. Click to enlarge.

We are also adding search pages that will make it easier for you to find your favorite items in our collections, such as film and video or eBooks.

Screenshot showing the Film & Video search page.
New search pages make it easier to find some of your favorite items. Click to enlarge.

Content throughout the site is being updated to be more current and easier to read. Also new: the entire website has been responsively designed, so it automatically adjusts to different screen sizes, from large computer monitors to smart phones.

We began this group effort a year ago with over 70 library staff plus countless undergraduates, graduate students and faculty who use the Duke Libraries website. It would take a long time to thank everyone who has made contributions to this project through their feedback, research, user assessment, data analysis, planning, designing, coding, and content writing and editing. Their thoughtful work will result in a library website that is just as welcoming and easy to use as our physical stacks and reading rooms.

Next week, we will provide a link with preview access to the site along with a more detailed description of how the new site is different from the old one. So stay tuned…

Finding a Library computer during crunch-time…

To see a list showing how many computers are available at various Library locations around campus, point your cell phone’s browser to a new page on the Library’s mobile website:

This is part of a beta site providing Library web content formatted specifically for cell phones and other handheld devices (iPod Touch, Blackberry, etc.). Feel free to give us your feedback letting us know what Library information you’d like to access via your cell phone’s browser.

Kudos to Jim Coble, Matt Gates, and Jason Simons for making data on available computers accessible to our patrons.

We also have a set of pages on the Library’s main website,, that displays the same information graphically.

Library Website on Your Phone

What is it?

A website optimized for use on handheld devices such as cellphones, iPods, and PDAs:

  • These are new web pages created specifically with the needs of mobile users in mind.
  • This pilot project does not duplicate the main library web site — mobile device users can still access the content on the main library web site when in need of more detailed information.

Key points about our pilot:

  • Compact display: information optimized for the very small screen space available on handheld devices — every pixel counts.
  • Compact file size: patrons often pay a fee for each byte transmitted to their device, and handheld devices often have very slow connection speeds — every byte counts.
  • Tightly focused content: the content we provide is closely tied to the tasks people are most likely to undertake on a handheld device — context counts.
  • Optimized Navigation: navigation is optimized for handheld devices (e.g., using access-keys for keypad navigation).

Feedback, Suggestions, or Questions?

We are keenly interested in your ideas. Please post your comments letting us know what Library information would be helpful to you if it were part of the website.