Home(page) Economics

As Tom mentioned, we’re in the process of re-examining our homepage (and the layout of individual collection homepages).

What do people actually do when they come to the Duke Digital Collections homepage as it is now?  One way to tell is to review our server logs.

Here’s a look at the year in review.

2008 At a Glance:  68,325 homepage hits

Activity from Homepage Count Pct
Browse directly to a collection homepage 21,342 31.24%
Do a cross-collection search 7,533 11.03%
Go to the homepage or an anchored section of it* 2,549 3.73%
Browse the A-Z List of collections 2,170 3.18%
Check out exhibits 1,478 2.16%
Go to Duke Libraries homepage 922 1.35%

Continue reading Home(page) Economics

Building the Broadsides Collection: A Large-Scale Digitization Approach

I’m happy to report that work on the Broadsides and Ephemera Collection has begun! The source content for this project is an artificial collection in Duke’s Special Collections Library, dated 1790-1940. Truly an interdisciplinary collection, it includes materials related to political campaigns, politics, theater, dance, museum exhibitions, advertising, travel, expositions, and military campaigns, and it presents historical perspectives on race relations, gender, and religion. On many items, you can still see holes in the upper corners from the original posting of the signs and flyers.

Aside from past processing decisions that brought this artificial collection together in the first place, we will do no selection before digitization. Our goal is to digitize ALL of the content (roughly 5,000 items) and to use it as an example of an “open-ended” digital collection. If we aquire additional broadsides and posters, they can be digitized and added to this collection on an ongoing basis.

We also consider this project as digitization of a hidden collection: the early broadsides and posters are a significant, but underutilized resource. Continue reading Building the Broadsides Collection: A Large-Scale Digitization Approach

On the Trident Project: Part 1 – Architecture

The library’s search for software to support metadata creation served as the topic of two posts of mine from late last year, A Metadata Tool that Scales, and Grand Metadata Tool Ideas. Those posts discussed our internal process and analysis, and engaged in some “guilt-free big thinking.”  This post will report on our progress since we broke for the winter holidays.  While much conjecture remains in what follows, we gave real progress to report, which I plan to do in three parts over the next week or so.

Last fall, we completed a successful job search for two programmers to support the project.  We were thrilled to bring on two talented and experienced individuals.  Lead Programmer Dave Kennedy comes to us from the University of Maryland, where managed the Office of Digital Collections and Research.  User Experience Developer TJ Ward made the move from the on-demand self-publishing outfit Lulu.  Dave, TJ and I serve as principal developers for the project, with an extended team that includes other members of IT staff in the library.

As the team formed, we took the critical step of fixing a name to the project — Trident, which we chose for a number of reasons that sounded good at the time.  First, we call our home-cooked front-end platform for digital collections Tripod, for its three-legged architecture.  Use of the “Tri-” formulation evokes Duke’s history, and the trident imagery its school mascot. Additionally, I am known to use a water metaphor to talk about metadata, which goes as follows:  “Metadata flows from librarians to patrons like water to the sea.  It is inevitable and inexorable.  You don’t want to stop it, and you couldn’t if you did.  What you do is engineer the landscape so that it meanders instead of floods, and serves as a nourishing resource, not a destructive force.”  The trident, of course, is the tool with which Poseidon controls the seas.  Finally, Wikipedia informs us that Bill Brasky used a trident to kill Wolfman Jack.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

Continue reading On the Trident Project: Part 1 – Architecture

Does this still fit?

shoesEver go to a shoe store, try on a pair of shoes and think, “Wow, these are great”? Ever wear those same shoes around town for a bit and realize that they are actually too tight?

After wearing them for a year or so, we’ve decided that the Digital Collections home page and individual collection home pages are just too tight — we want to squeeze more great stuff into the current designs than they will comfortably hold.

The challenge?

We want the standard introductory text, contact information, navigation, copyright and usage info as before — but we want so much more:

  • Cooliris galleries
  • YouTube videos
  • Term clouds
  • RSS feeds of recent comments (oh, wait, we don’t have a commenting system)
  • RSS feeds of other stuff (since we don’t have a commenting system)
  • Interactive widgets (Simile Timeline anyone?)
  • Mashups (Data, meet Google maps. Google maps, meet data.)

Yes, we have Web 2.0 on the brain. Maybe this will pass. Until then, we will re-think a variety of pages with greater content flexibility in mind.

Stay tuned…

Collection Usage Stats for 2008

Looking back at our 2008 web logs, we can learn a lot about how our system and our collections are being used. We hope to combine an analysis of this usage data with usability testing and other modes of evaluation to better inform our continued development of our system & interface in 2009.

Here are two separate charts (below): one for the first half of 2008 (Jan – June) and the other for the second half (July – Dec). The one on the right includes more collections (we introduced several throughout the year) and may be a more representative look at the usage.  Also keep in mind that the collections vary in size (larger collections have more items *to be viewed* and often have more ways to formulate queries).

Click to enlarge:

Jan – June 2008
July – Dec 2008

Interesting findings

Continue reading Collection Usage Stats for 2008

How We’re Found (or, Referrer Stats for 2008)

Now that 2008 is over, we’ll be posting a few charts & graphs that illustrate some interesting trends in how our digital collections (and our shiny new system) have been used in the past year. This post focuses on “referrers,” or, those other sites that people come from that directly lead them to land on our pages.

OK, so what are we counting?

How many?

  • 890,000 referrals from 10,000 unique external domains (all Duke library web sites/pages excluded). Only the top 9 individually account for more than 1% of external referrals, so there’s quite a long tail.

Notable External Referrers

Of the 10,000, some stand out in particular…
Continue reading How We’re Found (or, Referrer Stats for 2008)

Building the Broadsides collection-Part 1

Life-Preserving Coffin: In doubtful cases of death

Over the the next few months, we’ll be writing a series of posts that offer a behind-the-scenes look at all of the work and decision-making that goes into building one digital collection, from selection, conservation, and physical processing to scanning, metadata, and publication.  We’ve chosen to blog about our work on the Broadsides collection in particular for several reasons:

  • It’s a relatively large-scale project that will test our ability to ramp up our digitization efforts (5,500 items from the U.S. and abroad, dated 1790-1940)
  • It will serve as a test-case for the development and use of our new metadata tool–codename “Trident.”
  • It will be a pilot project to get more library staff involved in generating metadata for digital collections.

So check in periodically to see how the project is moving along!

3D Wall View in Search Results

Yesterday, we introduced a new feature in our digital collections interface: the 3D Wall. This is an exciting new interactive view of search results that enables quicker navigation through pages of thumbnails and between items, smooth zooming to high-quality images, and image slideshows.

Here’s a 4-minute demo:

(see larger, high-quality version)

3D Wall uses the program CoolIris. The embedded version requires only that your browser has Flash player; through to use full-screen view, download the CoolIris browser plugin from http://cooliris.com.

Try it out and let us know what you think!