Using IUCAT Folders Just Got Better

The DUX (Discovery and User Experience) department would like to share a new feature available to users: the ability to transfer their IUCAT folders to other IU library users. 

Here, we will briefly explain how to use IUCAT folders and describe how to use our new folder transfer feature. 

What even IS this?

In IUCATFolders let you organize groups of items owned by IU Libraries and refer back to them later.

To access your folders, sign in to IUCAT and select “Folders” under the green button on the top right of the IUCAT page.

gif showing the Hello, user dropdown in IUCAT and highlighting the folders option

When logged into IUCAT, you can use the Folders feature to do the following:  

  • Save items for use in later sessions 
  • Re-order references within folders 
  • Create multiple folders in which to store items 
  • Choose to share folders publicly 
  • Export references within folders as citations or to EndNote and RefWorks 

 You can learn to use IUCAT Folders to save and organize search results as well as these other features above. 

Remember that IUCAT folders can already be shared with any one at any time by changing the visibility through the folder edit feature and then sharing the URL. This allows people to view and cite items in the folder but not add or delete them.  

And I can do what?

Now, you can transfer ownership of one or all of your folders to another IU Libraries user. Then, new folder owners can modify the folders of library materials while also sharing it with other users. 

What can you use the new folder transfer feature for?

  • To share a list of course materials with a colleague who is teaching a new class.  
  • To share a folder of related resources on a specific topic of project with other professional staff or students. This might be a librarian collecting sources on a research project or a student group president that is graduating and sharing a reading list with the new president. 
  • To share whatever materials you store in folders if you leave IU. 

If you have any questions or comments about our IUCAT Folder Transfer feature, please email libweb @ indiana.edu.  

Improving Accessibility in Our Blogs

This is a collaborative post written by Jaci Wilkinson, Head, Discovery and User Experience (DUX), and Alexis Guilbault, the Web Content Assistant in DUX.

Accessibility is a critical component of equitable, usable web content creation. There are many steps people who manage websites, social media accounts, and blogs can take to structure content for the benefit of all readers. Creators need to ensure their content is compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers that “speak” webpages and other online information to blind readers.

In late April 2019, the DUX department audited 47 posts from IU Libraries blogs and assessed the use of three key accessibility practices. This post highlight the results and explains these three practices:

  1. embedding videos with closed captioning,
  2. strategizing content organization with heading tags, and
  3. providing descriptive captions and/or alternative text for images.

As a result of this review, we’re rolling out definitive guidelines in these three areas that we ask blog creators to follow for content created in WordPress moving forward.

Videos and closed captioning

Closed captions provide text and additional interpretive information for viewers who are hearing impaired and are also helpful to viewers who do not speak English.

While only 6 of the 47 IU Libraries blog posts had videos, 2 of the 6 did not have closed captioning available. Embedded videos need closed captioning available in the video player.

How to make embedded videos accessible

First, only embed videos that have closed captioning available. Check if a video has closed captioning by checking the “CC” button in the video player. If you make your own video and upload it to YouTube (0r another service like Vimeo), be sure to add closed captions.

For now, we cannot auto-enable closed captioning on WordPress. However, if you upload your own video to YouTube, you can auto-enable closed captioning through the Video Manager.

Headings

Content organization is critical to any work on the web, and headings play a central role in how users with and without screen readers engage with our work. Skimming is made possible for all users when headings with heading tags are used. A heading tag is a small piece of HTML code that differentiates headings and sub-headings from the rest of your content and give your blog post structure.

Screen readers preview headings with heading tags at the start of each article, ignoring text that is bolded or a larger font size. Thus, with the use of heading tags, more users are able to preview content and skim sections.

For example, look at the structure of this post. It is made more readable by use of two heading sizes. Each of the three practices we’re highlighting in this post starts with an explanation section. Then, a smaller heading distinguishes the “How to” portion of each practice.

On IU Libraries blogs, only 6 of the 47 blogs used headings. Only 2 posts using heading tags, and the other 4 bolded the text to make it appear like a heading. Headings are important to insert as signposts for readers and should indicate what a paragraph or as section is about. As mentioned above, they also facilitate skimming, allowing a user to get to the content they are looking for as efficiently as possible.

How to insert heading tags

To insert heading tags, first select the text you want to make a heading. Then, click on the drop-down menu with “Paragraph,” and select the numerical heading tag you want to add. This will add the heading tags to your post. You can see them in the “Text” tab, next to “Visual” in the GIF below. For example, for the heading below, the code would read <h2> Hello world. </h2>.

GIF of process of adding heading tags. It begins with the user typing Hello world and selecting the text. It then shows the user selecting Heading 2 and the text gets bigger.

There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>and ending with <h6>. H1 is usually reserved for blog titles. H2 tags are used to create sections within your blog post, and H3 tags allow for easier navigation within those sections. You use heading tags in numerical order. For example, you would use H4 for creating sub sections under a section that was headed with H3.

Alternative text and captions

Alt text, or alternative text, allows screen-reading tools to describe images for users with visual impairments. Web content creators must add descriptive, useful alt text when uploading images for blog posts. Descriptive captions can take the place of alt text. Images that are mostly text, like an infographic or a poem, should include a “text version” for screen readers within the body of the blog post.

30 out of the 47 IU Libraries blogs consulted (64%) had issues with image accessibility. Some posts did not have any descriptions of images for screen readers, while some had vague captions that did not accurately communicate what is pictured.

How to add alt text and captions

To add alternative text to images or GIFS, like the one included above, click on the media you have added to your post and select the pencil or “Edit” button. Here, you will be able to add alternative text and/or a caption.

Remember that captions and alt text should not repeat information directly from the text, but, instead, should describe what the image is and what the viewer is able to see. For example, let’s say we wrote a post about the legacy of the Bloomington-classic Breaking Away. We might include this image of the movie poster.

Breaking Away Movie Poster from 1979 courtesy IMDb. The poster depicts four young men sitting on a grassy hill with the quote ‘The movie that tells you exactly what you can do with your high school diploma’ above them in the sky.
Breaking Away Movie Poster, (1979), Courtesy IMDb.

This caption describes what the image is, a movie poster, while indicating it is for the movie we are writing about, the year it was made, and the source of the image; however, it doesn’t describe what is in the image itself. To make this a better “descriptive” caption, we could add this in the alt text: “Breaking Away Movie Poster from 1979 courtesy IMDb. The poster depicts four young men sitting on a grassy hill with the quote ‘The movie that tells you exactly what you can do with your high school diploma’ above them in the sky.” This caption describes what the image is and gives the reader a sense of what the poster looks like.

A note on WHO authors blog posts

Student work is critical to the services and resources we provide. A student worker primarily wrote this blog post! But unfortunately, our blog audit showed that many posts written by students or temporary employees were less accessible than other posts. Please educate all blog creators about how to create accessible content. (Hint: this post is a great way to do it!)  This is a skill they can tout in their next job interview.

Accessibility is usability

By ensuring embedded videos have closed captioning, organizing blog posts with headings, and providing alternative text or descriptive captions for images, we can make IU Libraries Blogs more usable for all viewers. At some point, the practices outlined here will likely be compiled into a larger accessibility policy or practices document that will cover more than just library blogs. If or when that happens, this post will be updated to provide links to any new documentation.

If you have questions about the methods featured here or want to learn about other ways to make your web content more accessible, email DUX department head, Jaci Wilkinson, at wilkinj @ iu . edu. She also welcomes your feedback about these guidelines.

 

The Faces of DUX Presents: Jaci Wilkinson

Greetings from DUX, where big changes have been afoot! (Or at hand… pick your extremity of choice. “Extremity” is going to be a theme we come back to in this post, so stay tuned.)

We’d like to take this opportunity to welcome our new department head, Jaci Wilkinson. Jaci (pronounced like “Jackie”) comes to us from the University of Montana, where she was the Web Services Librarian. Prior to her time in Missoula, she held a visiting position at her undergrad alma mater, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Jaci received her MLS from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2015. You may also have spotted her name in the Journal of Web Librarianship, where she serves as a book reviewer, or as a regular contributor to the LITA blog. And her latest publication is “Accessible, Dynamic Content Using Instagram,” which appeared in Information Technology & Libraries.

Jaci Wilkinson at the reference desk
Jaci Wilkinson

I spoke with Jaci about her move to Bloomington, and although we don’t have the mountains and wide open spaces of Montana, it’s pretty clear that she’s already discovering we have a lot to offer here in Indiana! She arrived in Bloomington about a month before her start date here in the Libraries, so she’s had some time to explore, and she’s made great use of that opportunity.

When I asked Jaci about her favorite thing about Bloomington so far, her face lit up and she exclaimed, “The food FOR SURE!” She’s been delighted to discover our many restaurants offering excellent Korean, Indian, sushi, and other multi-cultural cuisines, as well as the winter Farmer’s Market . As a practicing musician herself (she is a cellist), she’s also dived quickly into Bloomington’s music scene and has already attended several concerts. She is particularly impressed with the Bach Cantata Project, where they will perform a cantata, then present a lecture about that piece, and then perform the cantata again – allowing the audience to re-experience the piece armed with new knowledge about it. She’s also already attended film screenings at the IU Cinema as well as in the Libraries’ own Screening Room.

When I asked her what she misses about Montana, she mentioned that local shops and co-ops there carry shampoo and conditioner in bulk, and she hasn’t been able to find that in Bloomington – so if you know of someplace that offers this, let her know! She also talked about the people in and around Missoula, who are especially friendly and warm – a mix of outdoors people, park service employees, and people who work multiple odd jobs for part of the year so that they can devote themselves to doing what they really love the rest of the time, such as outdoor adventures. Jaci said she admires that spirit.

You’re wondering what I was foreshadowing when I mentioned “extremities” earlier (I know you were!). Well, Jaci is a runner – and not just any old runner. She participates in “ultras,” which is any running event longer than a marathon. This past October she ran a 100K (100 kilometers is 62.1371 miles, according to Google… if you started running from the Wells Library, that would take you about to Keystone at the Crossing on the north side of Indy).  That was “the Hootenanny” in Missoula; she loved the experience and plans to go back to Montana and do it again in order to remain a part of that community. Upcoming, she has a fifty-mile race and a 100K relay on her calendar.

Jaci Wilkinson crossing the finish line
You’d smile that big, too, if you’d just finished a 100K race!

Y’all might need to catch your breath a bit at the thought of running for 15 hours and 34 minutes, which was Jaci’s time in the Hootenanny. (And it’s Montana, so the course is not flat.) I know I’m feeling a little winded just typing this! She says that she isn’t interested in running as competition so much as she just enjoys it for her own wellness, and she is also interested in the science around health and fitness awareness.

I also asked Jaci about her hopes and fears around her new position here at IU. She said she is especially excited about being enveloped in the “well-developed systems and services” here; in her previous job she had to break a lot of new ground and start things from scratch, but here in the IU Libraries she sees a more mature UX-thinking mindset, and she is looking forward to building on that momentum. She seems pretty fearless to me, but when pressed, she said that her biggest fear as the incoming head of DUX is of not being an effective communicator (which to her means most especially being an effective listener).

Lastly, Jaci is a tea enthusiast, and has plans to set up a tea station in her office. She invites colleagues to stop by – the kettle will be hot!

(You might want to touch base with her first. Many of us have already laid siege to her calendar – so. many. meetings!)

 

Revisit past installments in The Faces of DUX to learn more about current and past members of the department. 

 

Understanding the 4 principles of accessibility

According to the CDC, 22% of adults in the United States are living with a disability. Therefore, it’s important that we ensure our web content is accessible and inclusive for everyone. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has developed a set of guidelines to set the foundation for accessible web content. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), these guidelines have 4 main principles which are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).

Understanding the 4 principles of accessibility

Text version

Need to know more? The WAI has an in depth reference on the 4 principles with success criteria and techniques.

Admit You are a Tourist

Over winter break I was staying in Lévis, Canada and desperately needed some food since my Airbnb had an overabundance of essential oils, but no actual food for human consumption. When I got to the nearest grocery store, and went to the front to check out, the cashier started speaking in French. This makes sense as French is the preferred language of Quebec. I, however, do not speak French, except to say the phrase, “hi, I do not speak French.” A long standing tradition on my ventures nationally and internationally is telling the least amount of people that I am a tourist.

What does any of this have to do with content inventories and audits? While I was running a content inventory on a website recently, I ran into a similar situation. I was lost but as per usual I did not want to admit to being lost. I found myself in a similar situation as the one I was in in that grocery store in Canada. I was a tourist in an environment that I did not speak the language or know my way around.

After reading through an article by Lisa Maria Martin, called What to Ask Before You Audit, I found that I was approaching the inventory incorrectly. I did not realize that I was actually running a content inventory, not an audit. Instead of beginning the auditing process through the lens of the website’s stakeholders, I was viewing it as a seemingly omniscient outsider. I was not a native of the environment that composed the content of this website, and instead of admitting to being an outsider, I came in expecting to understand the motivations behind the content on the website and the different reasons for why it might be there.

After reading through this article by Lisa Maria Martin, and talking through the content with a few people, I realized it was time to admit I was a tourist in someone else’s website. I read through Martin’s article and understood that I needed to reevaluate the way that I was approaching this inventory and then later on the audit. This article has helpful pointers on where to begin even if you are a seasoned auditor or someone that has never ran a content audit before. It explains the differences between a content audit and an inventory, which are actually two completely different terms. This article helps to figure out the “why” behind the reason for running content inventories and audits. Once you admit to being an outsider in an environment that you are unfamiliar with, you can then proceed with navigating more successfully through the content in ordered to get to the questions that you need to ask before beginning a content audit.

After figuring out why you are auditing a website, you can proceed to the next step in the process. This step considers what you are actually auditing. If you do not know what you are auditing or what the audit is going to be used for, this will not take you very far in an auditing process. The end goal is to figure out the “what” behind an audit. What is the purpose of this audit that you are working on? Sometimes it is helpful to write out some notes on the different sections you may want to include in your audit. Is it important that you go through every single page? Do you want to list out all of titles on the various website pages?

Asking questions about what content is important is… well, important. And it is paramount in any website evaluation to ask the stakeholders what they think, because they are the ones that are familiar with the website and its environment. Sometimes it is okay and even pertinent to ask questions when you are unfamiliar with your surroundings. Being a tourist might actually be a positive label to have in certain instances.

Helpful videos on content audits:

Confab Higher Ed 2017: What We Thought

[Image: Our own Courtney McDonald welcomes Confab Higher Ed registrants. From @ConfabEvents on Instagram]

In DUX, we see content strategy as a crucial part of overall UX design; it doesn’t really matter how easy your website architecture makes it to find content if that content doesn’t make sense when you get there, or if it isn’t the content that you need! Confab is a terrific and well-organized content strategy conference; prior to 2018 it encompassed not only a big annual conference in Minneapolis but also smaller and more focused conferences that convened in a different city each year, including Confab Higher Ed. (See past blog posts about Confab.)

In November 2017, we got lucky in that Confab Higher Ed landed a mere 50 miles north of us in Indianapolis – making travel easy. I was delighted to be invited to give a talk (“Interview Your Stakeholders Like a Librarian” – here are my slides), and  while I’d attended both Confab Central and Confab Higher Ed in the past, this time around some other IU Libraries folks joined me at a Confab event.

My job as the Libraries’ Web Content Specialist means that I “do” content strategy as a part of my day-to-day work, so the talks presented at Confab are highly relevant for me. I especially loved Scott Kubie‘s talk on content ecosystem mapping – which seems especially relevant to some of my work right now as we evaluate our social media workflows and the relationships between content, and the people & processes managing that content, across multiple channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the Libraries’ blogs, the Libraries’ website, IUCAT, etc.). As a nice bonus, it was awesome to reconnect with IU grad and Confab speaker Melissa Beaver, with whom I worked when she was a grad student in information science! It makes me happy when our grads are professionally successful.

But I was curious how useful the conference would be to my colleagues who aren’t so closely involved with content strategy and who hadn’t attended Confab before. I asked them, and here’s what they told me.

Ashley Hosbach, Graduate Assistant, Reference Department:

As graduate students in the Library and Information Science program, we are encouraged to attend a variety of librarian oriented conferences. But what about conferences in different disciplines? Most of the people we work with aren’t fellow librarians; our work environment is built off of communicating and collaborating with other departments within our organizations. Attending Confab Higher Ed gave me the opportunity to connect with professionals in higher education across the board. I think that all MLS students should look into conferences like Confab. Approaching content strategy from a variety of perspectives made me reassess how I view library media and user design. To create content that is both impactful and accessible to our users requires sifting through our sites, media and catalogs. After all, there’s millions of stories floating throughout the stacks, and the voice of the library “brand” should rise above them all.

Leanne Nay, Digital Engagement Librarian:

Why did you choose to attend Confab Higher Ed?

After hearing Anne Haines rave about this conference I had to see if it was worth the hype!

What was your favorite session, and why? 

I loved Jared Thomas Meyer’s session, “Too Many Cooks: Overcoming Content Interference.” He had excellent practical tips for collaboration, but what I really enjoyed was his discussion of empathy and vulnerability. As Jared put it, “It’s our job to build a world that is compassionate and empathetic.” In retrospect, this statement sums up the entire conference. Content strategy isn’t about making money or getting the most followers on social media, it’s about seeing things from the user’s perspective.

If you learned one thing that you plan to implement or at least investigate in your day-to-day work, what was it?

A lot of presenters mentioned repurposing content across platforms. Here in the library, we have lots of different ways to communicate with our users, from the website to digital screens to social media. Instead of creating content and graphics for one platform, it’s a huge time saver to remix things and use them across multiple channels. Not to mention, it helps with brand consistency. I tend to use things once and move on, but I’m trying to think in these terms going forward.

If you don’t “do content strategy” in your day-to-day work, did you still find Confab relevant to what you do? Why or why not?

The most obvious application in my daily work is how I approach social media. You can apply content strategy to something as simple as writing a tweet. For any given tweet, I might ask myself, “Who is this tweet for? Is there an image I can use to help communicate the message? (Make sure to add alt text for screen readers!) Am I using an acronym that only a handful of people will know? Is there a hashtag I can use to reach more people?” And the list goes on.

Long story short, yes, I think content strategy is very relevant in my day to day work.

Can you compare Confab to other conferences you’ve been to? How was it different or similar?

The overall energy level was higher and the speakers were more dynamic than most conferences I’ve attended.

In general, do you think it’s a good experience for librarians to attend conferences that aren’t aimed directly at a librarian audience? Or do you think librarians should focus on deeper study within their own field?

Confab is a great conference for librarians because it speaks to how we communicate with our users. I think it’s applicable to all librarians.

Anything else you’d like to share with the class?

It was worth the hype!

Courtney McDonald, head of DUX and interim head of Reference:

Why did you choose to attend Confab Higher Ed?

I had heard such great things about it from a trusted colleague!  And it was, in fact, great.

What was your favorite session, and why? (If you had more than one favorite feel free to talk about as many as you’d like!)

My experience might have been a little different in that I also volunteered at the conference … that said, I actually really enjoyed the continuity of being in a single room all day and seeing the variety of presentations just in that one space. If I had to choose, I’d probably say Matt McFadden’s talk on “Content in the Age of Personalization” – I loved how he framed personalization in terms of presenting content and letting the user refine, rather than how I often think of personalization which is all about account creation, etc.

I also really enjoyed the presentation by Kelly Davenport and Jackie Wolf
titled “How to go from good to great: A case study on redesigning the University of Michigan Medical School website.” They manage a Drupal site that serves the entirety of Michigan Medical so hearing how they thought through a redesign on that scale and managed to meet so many individual and varied needs and goals of departments and content editors was inspiration for our own upcoming redesign / migration here.

In general, do you think it’s a good experience for librarians to attend conferences that aren’t aimed directly at a librarian audience? Or do you think librarians should focus on deeper study within their own field?

Yes! If the work that we do has connections to a larger industry or community, inside or outside of higher ed, I think there’s so much benefit to be gained from actively connecting to that community of practice. We do have opportunities to connect with the library community of practice, and I value those, but I am also part of the content strategy Community of Practice and that helps me approach my work with a different, and useful, context.

DÜX BÜX rides again!

Fall semester has kicked in! Your desk is piled high with to-do lists and notes, Inbox Zero is just a nice dream you once had, and your calendar is bulging with meetings.

Meetings! They’re a huge part of the workday – and of the experience of being an employee. Meetings are part of your everyday UX. They are created on purpose, and like most anything else, they can be redesigned to provide better UX and to be a more effective tool.

Never thought of it that way? You’ll want to join DÜX BÜX, our monthly UX book club, for the next book on our reading list: “Read This Before Our Next Meeting” by Al Pittampalli.

Some of us have had this book on our reading lists and/or on our Kindles for a while now, and we thought this fall would be a nice time to dive into it. It’s only 80 pages in hardcover, so each month’s “assignment” shouldn’t be too onerous – and, as always, you’re welcome to attend the meetings even if you haven’t done the reading. We are a judgement-free book club!

The book is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats (as well as on Audible or audio CD if you are so inclined), and the Business/SPEA IC has a copy in IUCAT with a second copy on order. Feel free to read either the first or second edition, whichever is easier for you to get your hands on; it looks like the changes are relatively minor.

We’ll be meeting from 12:00-1:00 (feel free to bring your lunch!) on the following dates (contact anyone in DUX for location details):
Tuesday, September 12 – Chapter 1: “What Do You Do For A Living?”
Tuesday, October 10 – Chapter 2: “The Seven Principles of Modern Meetings” (or, if you have the 2nd edition, “The Eight Principles of Modern Meetings”)
Tuesday, November 14 – Chapter 3: “You Must Decide”
Tuesday, December 12 – Chapter 4: “The Modern Meeting Standard” plus “Frequently Asked Questions” and “More questions?”

All IU librarians & library staff are welcome to join us!

Read more about the genesis of DÜX BÜX (and why the umlaut?) and about our spring semester readings.

New databases for June

The following list represents new subscription databases added to the A-Z list of Resources, as well as those for which the title, vendor, or platform has changed, from June 1-30, 2017. You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides.

This will be the last blog post enumerating newly acquired resources. You can find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at http://libraries.indiana.edu/electronic-resources-trials-and-new-additions. This list will be updated as resources are added, and resources will remain tagged as “new” for approximately two months following acquisition.

17th & 18th Century Nichols Collection of UK Newspapers
https://libraries.indiana.edu/17th-and-18th-century-nichols-collection-uk-newspapers

Cambridge Archive Editions
https://libraries.indiana.edu/cambridge-archive-editions

Der Literarische Expressionismus Online
https://libraries.indiana.edu/der-literarische-expressionismus-online

East India Company
https://libraries.indiana.edu/east-india-company

Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2000
https://libraries.indiana.edu/telegraph-historical-archive-1855-2000

Za vozvrashchenie na Rodinu Digital Archive
https://libraries.indiana.edu/za-vozvrashchenie-na-rodinu-digital-archive

Travelling Without Moving

Summertime!

Like many of you, no doubt, through my college and graduate school years my summers were a mish-mash of activity. Perhaps you, like me, managed always to wedge in some trips to the pool or park, a “family vacation” or maybe a week at summer camp. As a young child, I played outside for hours, then later I had part-time jobs.

One thing that has always been a large part of my summer was reading. Without the “call to duty” of assigned texts, I relished the freedom to read widely and voraciously from the moment that classes finished in the spring until their start the following autumn. This is probably not a surprising revelation from a librarian. My tastes are varied – fiction, non-fiction, you name it – but one genre that has always been dear to my heart are travel narratives.

Cat in a suitcase next to bookshelf
Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski – Camouflage cat // CC BY-SA 2.0

Travel narratives, as I see it now, have a lot of connections to my work in user experience design. In a travel narrative, a person goes to a place – whether new or familiar – and writes about their thoughts, feelings and activities. Travel narratives give us an opportunity to see something from someone else’s perspective, and in so doing, help us better understand both their and our way of looking. What do we share? How do we differ? Can we learn to look in a new way?

In 2007, Condé Nast Traveler gathered submissions from a “literary all-star jury” and compiled The 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time. Who were these “literary all-stars”? Well, to name a few: Monica Ali; Vikram Chandra; Jared Diamond; Peter Mayle; John McPhee; Francine Prose; Paul Theroux; and Gore Vidal.

Naturally I wondered how many were available via IUCAT, our shared statewide library catalog: 82 of 86. I’ve created a public list where you can peruse them, to which I added a few of my own favorites (my selections appear first on the list):

82 of Condé Nast Traveler’s “86 Greatest Travel Books” + a few of my own favorites

Notes on my additions:

  • Come, Tell Me How You Live, by Agatha Christie Mallowan – yes, that Agatha Christie, prolific author of mystery novels. I found it fascinating to learn of another side of her life, accompanying her archaeologist husband to his digs in Syria in the early 20th century.
  • Love Among the Butterflies, by Margaret Fountaine – I came across this title (while travelling!) at an English language bookshop in Amsterdam. Margaret Fountaine collected butterflies (and adventures) all over the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sometimes travelling solo and other times with her partner Khalil Neimy. I realize that the only copy the IU system owns is held by Kinsey and doesn’t circulate, but there’s always interlibrary loan …
  • Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum – The title really says it all. I will only add that Slocum also built his boat.
  • Tracks, by Robyn Davidson – I will confess that I was surprised not to find this title on the Condé Nast Traveler list. Have you ever thought, I’d like to train my own camels and travel overland from the Australian Outback to the coast at Perth? Me either. But you can read about what happened when she did. Bonus title: Accompanying photo essay book From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback
  • Staying Put: Making A Home in A Restless World, by Scott Russell Sanders – who says you have to leave home to travel? This collection of essays by IU’s Distinguished Faculty Emeritus (English) meditates on what it means to be “home.” I’m a Bloomington native, so reading this the summer after my high school graduation, and thinking that he was writing in and about my hometown, made it extra meta.

2007 just too old a list for you? You can also find a more recent list of recommended travel books from the UK’s Telegraph, published in March of this year: The 20 Best Travel Books of All Time.

I wish you happy travelling, with or without moving from your couch.

Why you should judge a book by its cover

Everyone knows the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. In his two Ted Talks, book designer Chip Kidd, the associate art director at Knopf, gives us a compelling reason to do so. These talks will make you think, make you laugh, make you want to read, and finally will make you look at all design in an entirely different light.

In the 2012 talk titled Designing books is no laughing matter. Okay, it is, Kidd describes the thought process that goes into creating book covers. He focuses on the importance of imagery, first impressions, and how book cover design influences the way you as the reader will perceive the story.

With his 2015 talk The art of first impressions — in design and life, Kidd gives the listeners an important lesson. That first impressions matter and our design choices (even the ones most of us never even think to notice) have an impact on how we see the world around us. He shows us how good design can grab your attention and the wrong design can leave a bad taste in your mouth.