I’m excited to announce the launches of two potentially transformative projects for the University Libraries:

  • a redesign of our web presence; and
  • the development of a new information discovery system.

Website redesign project

The website redesign project, to be led by Robyn Ness, User Experience and Interface Design Specialist, seeks to redesign all publicly-facing web content, including all Libraries-controlled pages about locations, services, collections, events, and other information offered to our various user and stakeholder groups. The project’s goal is to restructure information about our libraries and access to services and resources in a way that is easy for users to navigate and conducive to efficient discovery, access, and delivery of the content and expertise needed for successful research, teaching, and learning. To complete the project, we will leverage the significant web development, information architecture, user experience, and graphic design skills within the Libraries, supplemented with external resources and capacity as needed. Lisa Carter, Associate Director for Special Collections and Area Studies, will serve as the project’s executive co-sponsor with Jennifer Vinopal, Associate Director for Information Technology.

Discovery project

The discovery system project, to be led by Terry Reese, Head of Digital Initiatives, seeks to rethink how we support the active and serendipitous discovery of information resources managed by the Libraries. The project’s goal will be to develop an interface that enables users to search, discover, and access content from vended resources, the library catalog, local content repositories (e.g., Knowledge Bank, Digital Collections), the Libraries’ website, and locally-created content available through other hosted systems such as LibGuides. Decisions about underlying technologies and the organization and design of search interfaces and results displays will be based on iterative and incremental development and driven by robust user testing. Karla Strieb, Associate Director for Content and Access, will serve as the project’s executive co-sponsor with Jennifer Vinopal.

Both of these projects offer opportunities for the organization to learn and practice new ways of working on high-impact projects and in our everyday work. They will provide chances for us to model how we’d prefer to work as an organization — to be driven by user-centered design and to practice iterative development, flexibility and responsiveness, with transparency in our communications and broad participation. These will not be “waterfall” development efforts with work completed behind the scenes followed by a “big reveal” at the end. Instead we will test early and often through rounds of feedback from users and Libraries’ faculty and staff to fuel rapid, iterative, incremental improvement.

We plan communications for these projects to be as transparent to stakeholders as possible and encourage active, vocal participation. Communication and engagement plans will include:

  • Project documentation hosted on CarmenWiki for all to review
  • Periodic updates via Libraries’ listservs and blogs by project sponsors and leads, detailing opportunities to provide feedback
  • Comment and suggestion forms for each project, which will provide fodder for FAQs; and
  • In-person project briefings and Q&A sessions at Management Committee, General Meetings, and other appropriate gatherings.

To be successful, we need broad engagement and participation from Libraries’ faculty and staff and our user communities. There will be opportunities for faculty and staff to participate on working groups supporting each of the projects, including user testing — to provide personal feedback and to help administer testing with students, faculty, and other users.

Given the iterative nature of these projects, we anticipate sharing initial efforts in the next couple of months and for work to continue over the coming year. Project leads will share more specific timelines with the organization in the next few weeks.


Damon E. Jaggars
Vice Provost and Director of University Libraries

Note: Content for this post was provided by Robyn Ness, Terry Reese, and Jennifer Vinopal.