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.

2017 #BookClubGoals – DUX BÜX: We’re BÄÄÄÄÄCK

That’s right, we’re back for installment two. Join us monthly for a lively discussion – or follow along on the internet, perhaps? If anyone is interested in asynchronous, remote participation, holler out and let us know; we’ll try to loop you in. This is a friendly book club – we bring snacks, you don’t have to have pored over every word to attend, etc.

Below, the info as it appeared in our staff newsletter yesterday:

Happy new year, and welcome to the second installment of DUX BÜX (ducks boooks). This book club, founded by us in fall 2016, is open to all librarians and staff with the goal of encouraging discussion of UX issues throughout the Libraries.

This semester, we are pleased to be reading Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything by Peter Morville. Why this book? This much-praised title is “a spirited tour of information architecture, user experience, and systems thinking that reveals how everything is connected from code to culture.” Sounds fun to us!

We will shortly have an office copy of this title (inquire within) and one circulating copy within the collection (on-order as of today, Jan 19). It is available for purchase via Amazon in print format for $15 or via Kindle for $9.99 (remember that you can read Kindle books using the Kindle app on any phone, tablet or laptop [https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp]).

Schedule

  • January 24th: Chapter 1
  • February 21st: Chapter 2
  • March 21st: Chapter 3
  • April 18th: Chapter 4
  • May 2nd: Chapter 5

Updates to E-Journal Portal & IU-Link

Earlier this week, we released an update for our Serials Solutions E-Journal Portal and IU-Link services. In addition to refreshing and rebranding the interface to reflect updated IU brand standards & the library website design, you’ll notice that both these platforms are now responsive and mobile friendly.

New look for E-Journal Portal home, showing Medical Subject browse options.

Other improvements include:

  • Search by DOI/PubMed ID
  • Journal browse now includes Medical Subjects
  • Results listings note peer-reviewed and open access titles, include cover images (where available)
E-Journal Portal Results Screen showing peer-review designator.
E-Journal Portal Results Screen showing peer-review designator.

The IU-Link citation pages share the newly updated header and footer.

IU-Link: Citation page, full text not found
IU-Link: Citation page when full-text not found

You can check out the changes via our Online Full Text Journals page, linked from the Libraries’ home page and elsewhere.

Many thanks to the team that made this possible: Lori Duggan, Ruth Light, Rachael Cohen, Matt Fitzwater and Anne Haines.

Oops, We Did It Again: Enduring Web Design Mistakes from NN/g

Recently the Nielsen/Norman Group (NN/g) posted a piece on Top Ten Enduring Web-Design Mistakes. They’ve been identifying top mistakes in web design since 1996. This year’s report finds many of the same problems that have been persistent over time.

original image linked via URL
dribbble.com | 404 Page Not Found | Pinterest: Ducan Nguyen (link to original by clicking on image)

I’ve picked a few from the list to highlight in brief, but I recommend you take a few minutes & have a look at the full article. What’s interesting to me is that although this is a list about design problems, at its most basic level it’s a list of content problems: where is the content, what words do we use for labels, repetitive content, siloed content, circuitious content.

  • Unexpected Locations for Content

    “When the site structure doesn’t match the users’ mental models of how information should be organized, people are unable to locate what they need.”
    I think libraries have been having this conversation on and off for some time. Where does it make sense for us to integrate search or design elements that are commonly experienced in the commercial web? If we can’t, or don’t feel we should, how do we build bridges and provide the necessary information and context?

  • Competing Links and Categories

    “When users can’t clearly distinguish between similar navigational categories or links, they struggle to find the right path to content… If multiple sections or pages could address a specific information need, users must explore each or make their best guess.”
    This is why Anne & I send so many polite little notes about small tweaks we’ve made to page titles, and why we encourage you to search within our own site as you are creating new content to see what content already exists & to be able to write unique and informational page/news/event titles.

  • Islands of Information

    “Some sites offer small bits of information scattered around the site, with little or no connection between them. When users find one such island of information without links to other related information, they have no reason to think that another area of the site offers supplementary material… Consider why information is scattered throughout the site, consolidate it as appropriate, and pick the best spot for it.”
    We’ve made great strides toward this kind of positive consolidation since we migrated to Drupal in 2014 – we migrated approximately 8500 pages and right now we have about 900 basic pages (plus resources, news/exhibits/events items, subject posts, user profile pages, etc). Across all our content types I estimate that we have approximately 2500 ‘objects’ right now, so that means we’ve made good progress toward pruning and updating our site.

  • Repetitive Links

    “Even if users can determine the right site location for their information needs, they can still be stymied by unexpected or lengthy workflows. Users should get closer to the information goal as they click through pages. Teams sometimes build pages in isolation and do not consider the route to the content they’ve created.”
    The example used in the article was of the NYC.gov site: “Users were frustrated when they selected a link labeled Find a Firehouse only to have to select the differently spelled Find a fire house link on the next page.” Oof. Yes, we do this too, and we are ever on the lookout for this sort of thing. And let’s not even talk about how many clicks it can take to finally get to the full text.

That’s it for now, folks! TGIF and all that stuff. Until next time …

Worth Your Time: Harper Reed’s StatewideIT Keynote

Last week I was happy to have the opportunity to take in this energetic, insightful keynote by Harper Reed, currently Senior Director of Software Development at PayPal and sometime CTO for Obama for America and Threadless.com (best T-Shirts ever!). It’s MSFW (mostly-safe-for-work)  [F-bomb alert], but hey! our CIO invited him so I think IU employees at least are A-OK.

Enjoy this talk on Big Data, Product Design, UX & Being Only A Little Creepy. I’m pretty confident the hour will zip by.

Curious? More on IU StatewideIT Conference

DUX BÜX, or – Every Book Club Needs an Umlaut

We all have goals. Write that book, run that marathon, build a better mousetrap … start a book club with an umlaut in the title.

Actually, it didn’t have to be a book club. I just LOVE umlauts, and some tiny part of me has been waiting for the chance to shoehorn one into some professional endeavor for years. Lucky you, that time has come!

We’re starting a book club, and we’re calling it DUX BÜX (ahem, that’s ducks boooks, please say it with feeling). We hope you’ll join us. Below, find the brief blurb we’ve shared in our staff newsletter.

I think you’ll really enjoy this book –  I know we have. It’s pithy, it’s useful, and, let’s be honest: it has gigantic type and lots of pictures. So there’s no excuse for not showing up having read the first chapter next week.

User experience (UX) encompasses everything related to how people experience the library: how easy it is (or isn’t) to find what you need on the website, signage, customer service, how books are shelved, you name it. Let’s talk about this! To encourage discussion of UX issues throughout the Libraries, DUX is starting a book club, open to all librarians and staff.

Our first book will be How To Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert – freely available online and relatively inexpensive to purchase in print format. (We’ll also have a ‘reserve’ copy – ask us directly at our usual email) This highly readable book will help you understand the field of information architecture, and how to clean up just about any kind of “mess”– whether it’s a hopeless file drawer, a cluttered kitchen, a terrifying tenure dossier, or a website.

Join us monthly for a lively discussion. You bring thoughts and questions, we’ll bring snacks! All meetings are from 12-1p.

September 27th: Chapter 1
October 18th: Chapters 2 & 3
November 15th: Chapters 4 & 5
December 6th: Chapters 6 & 7

Speaking of books, which as a librarian is an occupational hazard, if you’re interested in user experience, think you might be, or just want to look like you are, these two recommended reading lists from UXBooth are chock full of great content.

See you next week!

Back to School: A Week in Numbers

Fall semester began last Monday August 22, so I thought I’d share some numbers from the website.

Eight days a week – if it’s good enough for the Fab Four, it’s good enough for me.

Monday August 22 – Monday August 29

Overall: 79, 836 pageviews

Google Analytics dashboard data - Aug 2016

That dip you see? Saturday. And, you might be able to just make out the top browser: Chrome.

Top 10 pages
  1. Homepage – 16,909 hits (21% traffic)
  2. Fall 2016 Ensemble Information – 4091 (5%)
  3. Music Library – 3210 (4%)
  4. PED (Performing Ensembles Division, Music) – 3066 (3.8%)
  5. A-Z List of Resources – 1710 (2%)
  6. Student Jobs at the Libraries – 1631 (2%)
  7. Herman B Wells Library – 1313 (1.6%)
  8. Hours – 990 (1.2%)
  9. Education Library – 942 (1%)
  10. Business/SPEA Information Commons – 841 (1%)

No other page logged more than one percent of overall hits for the site in that time frame – that’s pretty typical behavior for us. What does that mean? Well, we have a lot of pages, and we have a lot of people entering somewhere other than the home page.

What was our most used resource? Google Scholar, with 330 hits, followed by the New York Times with 316.

About 5000 sessions were via smartphones – that’s 15% of our overall traffic, which is up 150% from our previous average of about 10%. Only 2% of our users reached us via a tablet.

Where did the desktop users click? Have a look!

Heatmap: Indiana University Libraries - Desktop August 2016

Conference roundup: Electronic Resources & Libraries + Designing for Digital

Earlier this month, I attended a pair of conferences – Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) + Designing for Digital (D4D) – in Austin TX.

ER&L is in its 11th year, and over that time has drawn an increasingly wide range of library attendees, from public, academic and special libraries, and from an array of job roles: electronic resources acquisitions & management folks, certainly, but also other technical services staff as well as public services librarians of all sorts including reference, collections, technology and user experience.

Designing for Digital started as a response to the growing interest in user experience programming at the ER&L conference and has now been an event in its own right for three years.

These are great conferences, with an excellent balance between focused programming and just enough new/different stuff to let you expand and explore a little bit; and the numbers are much more manageable than the larger conferences like ALA, so it allows for great connection-making with other like-minded folks. They also do some scholarship programs, so if this is something of interest put it on your radar for next year. Can I also mention the amazing wifi, coffee and snacks … just sayin’.

One very cool thing I’d like to highlight is that all of the keynote sessions for both conferences were livestreamed and are now archived and freely available at the conference schedule sites (or you can find the links in my posts below). All of the keynote talks were by industry leaders and each was really worthwhile for some new info and inspiration: Dawna Ballard, S. Craig Watkins, Jesse James Garrett (!), Michelle Ha Tucker (formerly of IDEO). Have a look!

My big three takeaways from these conferences:

  • Content matters, a lot. People read or don’t read our web sites based on how we structure and present the content. Let’s write so they read it.
  • “If you build it they will come” only works for ball fields in the movies. General rejection of this approach to library service or application development – go to the users, talk with them, build to bridge gaps and enhance strengths.
  • Productive collaborations across libraries are going to be key in building the kind of services and tools our users need in the future, at the scale at which they’ll need them.

I wrote up some observations on the content of each conference on my own blog, so feel free to have a look at those posts for more info:

Introducing sought-after content strategy speaker Anne Haines!

We are sure excited. Know why?

Well, guess who’s speaking at Confab Central 2015, which is only the biggest event in content strategy? That’s right, our very own Anne Haines! She’ll be bringing some librarian-fu to Minneapolis in May.

We are so proud of her! Yay Anne!

WeaveUX, issue 1: it’s here!

We’ve (weave? sorry…) been eagerly awaiting the first issue of WeaveUX: The Journal of Library User Experience around these parts, so we were pretty pumped to see it drop this morning.

What’s it all about? Well, to quote from their About page:

As the importance of digital services begins to rival that of collections, library user experience is taking a more central role than ever. While new jobs are being created for User Experience librarians and some departments are being renamed “User Experience” teams, there is still no comprehensive, rigorous publication for library UX professionals to share with and learn from their colleagues. Weave is intended to fill that gap. Weave helps practitioners and theorists come together to make libraries better.

Good deal. In this first issue, there are peer reviewed articles, there are essays and how-tos, an interview (um, with me …) and there’s even a ‘tweetposium’ generated using Storify. Check it out!

I’m honored to serve on the editorial board for this new venture and I’m grateful to be part of the first issue, but even more, I’m excited to see what insights and ideas will be shared via this fantastic new publication, now and in future.

Cheers to editors Matthew Reidsma, Kyle Felker and Pete Coco on launching the first issue.