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:

New databases for March

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 March 1-31. You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month. You can also find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at


Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall

Chosun Ilbo Archive

International African Bibliography Online

KISS: Korean Studies Information Service System

LearnTechLib (formerly EdITLib)

Oxford African American Studies Center

ProQuest Criminal Justice (formerly Criminal Justice Periodicals Index)

Social Sciences Full Text

Social Sciences Index Retrospective

SRDS: Standard Rate & Data Service

Creating the Right Title for a Web Page

Choosing the right title is a crucial factor in helping people find and understand the content you create on the website. This applies to all content on the Libraries’ website including:

  • basic pages
  • subject posts
  • subject concentrations
  • news and events
  • PDF files

The title is used in several ways, particularly for generating the URL and for determining how your content will appear in search results (both within the Libraries’ website and in external search engines like Google).

Page URL:

Drupal automatically uses your page title to create the URL, omitting any punctuation included in the title and inserting hyphens between words. For example:

You will notice that if the page title is very long, the URL is also very long. For frequently-cited pages (for example, if the URL will be used as part of a publicity campaign, or if it is likely to be given over the phone), we recommend using a short page title, so the URL will be short as well. If that’s not possible, DRS can create an alternative URL upon request. For example, the Herman B Wells Library has the URL

If multiple items have the same title, Drupal will automatically append numbers so that the URL is unique. For example, we currently have the following on our site:

If you create a new item (page, concentration, etc.) and notice that Drupal has appended a number to your URL, you should reconsider your title!

When a URL is changed, Drupal automatically creates a redirect so that if a user has a link or bookmark to the old URL, they will be sent directly to the new one. In the Wells example above, the URL will still work. So don’t hesitate to edit your page title.

(NOTE: If you change your title and then change it back to the original, you will create an “infinite loop” in which the site redirects to the old title, then back to the new one, which redirects to the old one, and so on. If you are logged into the site, you will see an error message to this effect. Users who are not logged in will get an “access denied” error. If this happens, contact DRS – – and we can fix it.)

If you have an item for which the auto-generated URL has a number at the end, and you’ve determined that there is no longer another page with the same title – if the other page(s) have been deleted – DRS can edit the URL to remove the number upon request. A redirect will be created so that anyone who has the numbered URL linked or bookmarked won’t be left behind.

Search Results:

Title is a critical element in helping your users understand their search results and find the content that will be most helpful to them. This is especially important for subject concentrations, which do not include any descriptive summary within search results:

screenshot of website search results for "history"

“European History” gives the user a clue as to whether this link will be useful to them or not; the ones just titled “History” are a mystery until one actually clicks on them. Similarly, a concentration title of “Food” would suggest that this might be where you can find information about food availability in the libraries; “Food Studies” is much more descriptive. (Although search results are labeled with their content type, e.g. “Basic Page” or “Concentration,” these may go unnoticed or may not be meaningful to some users.)

Your title should give some context for your content. When users find your page via search, they do not have the additional context of your subject guide or division landing page to help them understand what they are looking at – they won’t know what department, unit, or subject your content refers to, so they may think it pertains to the Libraries as a whole. What does your content specifically pertain to? What is the page about? Who is it intended for?

“How to Find Science E-books” – NOT “E-books”

“Upcoming Events in the Wells Library” – NOT “Library Events”

“Contact the Discovery & Research Services Dept” – NOT “Contact Us”

Note: Titles that are too long may be truncated in search results, so keep your titles reasonably concise and put the most important keywords early in the title if possible. A maximum of 65 characters is a good goal. Subject concentration titles should be shorter – aim for four or five words at most if possible.

Additional Reading:

“Introducing Your Content: Page Titles and Headings” – Rick Allen

This is an excellent, thorough overview of things to think about when creating page titles, with a higher ed focus and some helpful examples.


New databases for February

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 February 1-29. You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month. You can also find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at

Oxford Bibliographies Online: Medieval Studies



RDA Toolkit

Readex AllSearch

Social Work Reference Center

U.S. Declassified Documents Online (formerly Declassified Documents Reference System (DDRS) )

New databases for January

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 January 4-29. You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month. You can also find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at

African American Communities

American Consumer Culture, 1935-1965

American Indian Histories and Cultures



First Release (formerly Science Express)

First World War : Visual Perspectives and Narratives

Global Commodities, Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange

Harper’s Bazaar Archive

Joanna Briggs Institute EBP database

Popular Medicine in America, 1800-1900

Vocal Masterclassics

Women’s Magazine Archive

New databases for December

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 December 1-22. (Any databases added from December 23-31 will appear in January’s monthly posting.) You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month. You can also find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at

60 minutes : 1997-2014

Informe Academico (formerly Informe Academico (English Interface) and Informe Academico (Spanish Interface)

National Citizen & Ballot Box

The Revolution

ConFab 2015 Talk: Collaboration in a New Landscape, by Lisa Welchman

After watching Lisa Welchman’s talk from ConFab 2015 (a content strategist conference held annually) on Youtube, there were a few important points that I took away. The gist of Welchman’s talk is that rethinking the way that information is shared and presented can help a department or organization.  She mentioned that content strategists are faced with a problem of having a ton of content and not knowing what it all is and where it all is. She posits that this issue is only going to become increasingly important as new technologies such as the Internet of Things become more prevalent, generating vast amounts of data that is then translated into content for consumption.

Welchman talks about ways that content strategists can face these issues of not knowing what content exists and lack of structure to the content that is being generated by imposing a standards-based framework to content. There are four steps that she outlines which can help in this process:

  1. Identify who is working on your team and what they are doing. This seems like a logical first step in applying standards but I think it’s also important to consider that in doing this, it is also important to not exacerbate the “silo” structure of an organization. Although it’s important to know who you’re working with and their roles, it’s also worth considering that people outside of your team can be helpful on certain projects.
  2. Along those lines, the first org charts had the boss at the bottom, disseminating information to lower employees, who were the branches. This organization has over time been flipped, with the boss now at the top and other employees passing their information up to the boss.
  3.  Welchman offers a solution to this hierarchical organization, which is to move from a hierarchy to an object-oriented team. This involves a different organization than the typical hierarchy, which places performance indicators and known metrics at the center of a kind of atom, with the employees all working towards fulfilling these performance indicators, depicted as electrons surrounding the nucleus of performance indicators. Although matrix management was at one time proven ineffective, Welchman believes that something similar would be more easily implemented today because of the prevalence of computers and the ease of communication. This put more importance on getting things done and less importance on reporting only to immediate superiors.
  4. The last step that Welchman suggested is to think about your department as an information supply chain and to consider what your role is in the chain. This involves getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

Although Welchman lists her steps in the order that she does, I think that they all touch on the same common theme, which is that it is important for a team to not hoard information when they are working together on a project, instead seeing the deliverables and metrics as the most important part of the project and therefore sharing information. She ends the talk by saying that the role of a content strategist is to make information flow.

I think Welchman’s idea of making performance the central goal of a team and encouraging members to collaborate in a more organic way is a great idea. The concepts she presents in her talk are applicable to many organizations, not just content strategists. The concepts of an information supply chain management and object-oriented organization instead of hierarchical organization can conceivably by applied in most situations to streamline a department’s efficiency. I invited you to watch her talk and check out some other talks from ConFab 2015



Accessibility is Important for Everyone!

After attending a training workshop on accessibility, I left with a new appreciation for the importance of web accessibility.People with disabilities, affecting their sight or aspects of their lives,  use screen readers to enjoy their online experience. So many people use the internet that it’s widely accepted that everyone is online, staring at Youtube videos of cute kittens and birds jumping on paper towels.

But there are people who use the computer without a mouse, or even a monitor when they check their Facebook or email. Creating websites that are easily accessible for everyone, regardless of disabilities, should be an important consideration when designing a website or maintaining sites for organizations. There are legal implications for not having an accessible site, outline by the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which specifically applies to schools of higher education. Online discrimination is unacceptable, and taking acceptability into consideration is  important to avoid this.

Beyond the legal implications, I think keeping accessibility in mind is just good practice for web development. With HTML 5 in full swing, giving semantic meaning to your code not only makes screen reader users much happier, but it also affects your site from a Search Engine Optimization standpoint, allowing Google crawlers to pick up on the intended meaning of content and reflect that in your ranking on Google searches.

The lecture I attended outlined what the Assistive Technology and Accessibility Center (ATAC) at IU considers the top ten most important considerations for accessibility when building a site.

screenshot of JAWS for Windows screen reading software
JAWS (Job Access With Speech) a screen reader software package available at IU on ALL IU STC Lab Build Workstations and on IUanyware

They are:

  • Text Language 
  • Page Title 
  • Alternate Text for Meaningful Images 
  • Good Heading Structure 
  • Programmatically Labeled Form Controls 
  • Working Skip to Content link 
  • Keyboard Accessibility 
  • Meaningful HTML Markup 
  • Captioned Video and Transcripts for Audio 
  • Careful Use of Color and Avoid Sensory Dependent Instructions

I invite you to take a look at the slides from the presentation for detailed explanations of each of the ten accessibility concerns, but to I would like to focus here on a few that I thought were particularly important. Identifying your text language is easy to do an important. Web users use the internet in many different languages, and if you don’t specify what language your content is in, a screen reader will try to read the text in the user’s preferred language. This can lead to problem such as an Asian user’s screen reader trying to read English content to them in Thai, or going to the FBI website and having it read to you in a British accent (true story, the FBI’s site had a Great Britain language code on it, so a screen reader would read the content to the user with a British accent. It was mentioned in the workshop but I had a hard time finding a citation for this online, I guess the FBI was pretty embarrassed.)

Having a page title is essential, your site looks silly when you save your code as “Untitled.html” and it is especially frustrating to web users using a screen reader, since this is the first thing read to them whenever they access a site. Giving your page a title that clearly and succinctly identifies it is important because many screen reader users are using them because of visual impairments. Since they can’t see the site, having a title which clearly identifies it makes their browsing experience a lot more enjoyable.

Finally, providing alt text to images is really important for people who can’t see the images. Think about if you were describing something you saw to someone over the phone. You would include the most important details of what you saw, enabling the person you’re having a conversation with to understand the context of what you saw. Likewise, when providing alt text, you want to provide a detailed description of the image without going overboard on irrelevant details. Say you have a picture of the cutest kitten in the world. 

cute kitten with big blue eyes poking its head out of a jeans pant leg”

You want to provide alt text to your image that will give a screen reader user the gist of the image, without getting hung up on the different shades of brown on its face, or its whiskers, unless you really think these details are important for understanding the image within the context that you have presented it in. If your image is decorative, you can have a screen reader skip it by leaving empty alt text (<img alt=”“>).

I highly encourage anyone interested in learning more about accessibility to check out ATAC. Their office is on the third floor of the west tour in the Wells Library and they can help you make your site accessible or show you impressive demonstrations of assistive  technology, including screen readers.

New databases for November

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 November 2-30. You may wish to add one or more of these to your subject guides. New databases will be posted to reDUX at the end of each month. You can also find a list of the newest resources, and those for which a trial is underway, at

American and Foreign Companies with Global Operations (formerly American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries)

Guide to the Presidency and the Executive Branch (formerly Guide to the Presidency)

Henry Stewart Talks: Biomedical & Life Sciences Collection

Homeland Security Digital Library

Latin American Newspapers, Series 2

Lexis Securities Mosaic (formerly Knowledge Mosaic)

Oxford Bibliographies Online: Jewish Studies

Science Careers (formerly Science’s Next Wave)

Our thoughts on web governance: ACRL TechConnect post

Following last year’s launch of the Libraries’ new Drupal website, we in Discovery & Research Services have continued to clean up migrated site content, provide guidance and support for creation and management of existing content,  and plan for the future. Recently the three of us – Courtney McDonald, Rachael Cohen, and myself – spent some time talking about our website, and academic library websites in general, and discovered we had some thoughts about what those websites should be like and how they should be managed.

Sharing is caring, as they say, so we wrote up our thoughts – collaborative writing can actually work, if you have the right collaborators! – and the resulting paper has been published on the ACRL TechConnect blog. It’s something of a position paper, a bit of a manifesto, somewhere between a scope statement and a strategy. We’d love to hear any responses that you might have! You can read it here – From Consensus to Expertise: Rethinking Library Web Governance.

(By the by, if you find web governance and that sort of thing interesting, you might also enjoy the slides & notes from my recent presentation at Confab Higher Ed – “Cleaning up after a messy website migration: How to start fresh when you can’t start over.” Shameless self-promotion, sure, but I promise it’s relevant! And it will give you a bit of context/background on how “From Consensus to Expertise” came to be. And, you might also like the IU Digital Library Brown Bag presentation that Courtney and I gave earlier this fall – also web governance-related: “Content Strategy as a Model of Web Stewardship.”)

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