Category: Digital Initiatives (page 1 of 2)

Discover Iterative Improvements for Tuesday, March 19

Please take note of the improvements coming to Discover during the Libraies’ IT maintenance window on the evening of Tuesday, March 19.

We have always known that it was important to clue users in to what type of results were displaying in each bento. The option to hover over the question mark graphic next to each label and view a description has been available. However, usability testing consistently demonstrated that users didn’t see the question mark as a call to action to hover over for them to get more information. In order to reduce cognitive load and clear up the confusion about what section would offer them the most appropriate results, we instead added a brief explainer next to each label.  

Explainers add to each bento

Red boxes added in screenshot for emphasis.

Another issue that bubbled to the surface from usability testing was in our Digital Collection bento. The default image icon being used when a thumbnail wasn’t available was seen by users as a clue that viewing that result would lead to an image, such as photo. But often, because the result would point users to a pdf of a document, the default icon when there is not thumbnail to display is now a pdf document icon:

Red box added in screenshot for emphasis.

The Applications Development and Support team continue to make improvements to the Articles+ segment.  The bento view results in Articles+ are currently arranged as scrolling tiles arranged horizontally.  While this works well for the Digital Collections segment, it didn’t work as effectively for this more text-heavy segment. 

Before: Horizontal scrolling

The new design will revert to a simplified vertical list view, showing three results, with a prompt to view more. 

After: Vertical List

To avoid confusion, the bento view is now also limited to peer-reviewed and full text results, just as it is in the focus view.  (See the 2/21 blog post on Discover improvements for more information about this.)    

And finally, to improve accessibility, we have improved the limiters that were displaying results in all lower-case text. Now, the capitalized results are easier to skim.  

Discover Iterative Improvements for Thursday, 2/21

Further improvements to Discover will be applied during Libraries’ IT maintenance window on the evening of Thursday, February 21. 

Some of the improvements occur behind the scenes, but because of them, you should notice a reduced loading time of page results.  Another update by the Applications Development and Support team adds more discoverable content via the Library Web Search. Now you can find information about digital exhibits, the Research Commons website, and blogs within the umbrella. 

The Articles+ section of Discover will improve in two significant ways. Based on usability testing with doctoral students and other feedback we received from multiple channels, users will first get resuts that are categorized as peer-reviewed, and also available in full text (owned by OSU). The results will be indicated by the two options automatically checked in the Focus view:


A mockup of the updated Focus view.

A mockup of the updated Focus view.

Unchecking either of the two options will change the number of results, offering more options that can be requested via Interlibrary Loan. As always, we are open to feedback, and look forward to your comments. 

Discovery Beta Refresh

Digital Initiatives and AD&S have been actively working hard on the discovery project as we work towards January 1st, 2019 as the target date to take the software out of beta.  We are excited about the progress being made and the plan that will take us into the new year. With this most recent update, you’ll see some exciting new concepts as well as the integration of a good deal of backend development designed to make the tool faster, easier to manage, and more consistent.

But first, Terry would like to thank some people for their continued hard work on the project… 

Stephen, our lead developer, has taken it upon himself to learn a variety of new skills and tools to really push the direction of this project.  Early on, we challenged him to find a better technical model that what was currently available – something that would be easy for us to manage and potentially easy for us to share.  And he’s delivered…incorporating modern web development techniques to develop a light-weight tool made for today’s internet and devices. 

We’d also like to highlight the UX partnership between AD&S and Digital Initiatives.  When we started the discovery project, we wanted to model a different type of development – one that put users at the center.  And this has at times been a challenge for the Libraries.  As we all know, it can be difficult to get a good representative sample when working with such a large population – so we had to look for partners.  Early this summer, we proactively reached out to the OSU student government, and they have been working in partnership with the Libraries to identify and provide students for testing.  It has been a fantastic partnership, and one that is giving us a much larger community to draw feedback.

Michelle has been regularly interviewing and working with our user community to understand some of the pain points in the new discovery tool.  In general, the feedback has fallen into a handful of specific categories:

  1. Confusion around the interface – while we have tried to reduce the reliance on library jargon (like facet), the many bentos, the scope of content…these are proving to be barriers. The many bentos are giving a lot of context, but ultimately, one of the challenges for students is a lack of understanding as to how we organize collections in the Libraries.
  2. Inconsistent links – we’ve been having some troubles with some interactions with the proxy and content returned via EDS. This hasn’t been completely resolved, but it should be soon.  However, this has lead us to over compensate on the interface by putting links everywhere.  Students are asking that when we link something (like an article title), that the results are consistent and reliable. To that end, we have reduced some unnecessary data and linking options.
  3. Simplifying Workflows – the process of getting to help or items is still taking too many clicks. We need to find ways to continue reducing the number of decisions made to get to valuable content.

Discovery Refresh

With this in mind, we spent a lot of time working on the back end to fix reliability and refresh issues, to address speed and performance concerns, and to take a hard look at how we present content to the Libraries.  So, with this refresh, you will  notice a few new things.  First, there is a new “view”.  While the default view continues to be bentos broken out by category, we have introduced a more integrated list view as a new option for Discovery. 

Discovery Refresh

This view has just the Articles+ and the All Library Content.  Users can toggle to this view by clicking the list icon in the upper left  of the application, and allows us to put all the content in the Libraries in context against the user’s search.  This option is provided specifically to address user feedback – to simplify finding content in the Libraries.   For users who still want to focus on a particular type of content,  the focus views continue to be available.  We’ll be performing usability testing this new interface and making a decision around the default view based on extensive feedback.

In addition to the new user interface option, we’ve implemented an updated indexing core and session management.  This will have two important impacts.

  1. It will allow us to develop more granular indexing rules around content types – enabling better discovery.  In our previous model, books shared the same indexing rules as EAD files.  In the new model, these can be different.  That’s enabling us to really push our indexing tooling.
  2. In the current discovery tool, sometimes pages would hang. This was sometimes related to how events (actions) occurred within different browsers.  To fix this, Stephen has implemented a shared session manager that will create a more reliable and faster user experience.

Going Forward

With these changes in place, AD&S and Digital Initiatives will be shifting Discovery development from feature development to quality development.  This means that over the next month, we will be specifically addressing user feedback – targeting pain-points and simplifying workflows.  This will include some new limits in Articles+ like limiting results to OSU owned content and peer reviewed materials, to a more straightforward process for users looking to find e-books or pass a search to OhioLINK.

Finally, if you are interested in providing feedback, Michelle is actively looking for feedback from the Libraries.  In addition to working with students, Michelle has done a number of usability sessions with faculty and staff in the Libraries.  If you want to be a part of that process, or know a student who might be interested, please let her know.

Discovery: As We Make Our Way to the Starting Line

Submitted on behalf of Terry Reese:

Last week at a Management Committee meeting, I had the opportunity to talk about the Discovery project and think about how we tried to do this project differently than work we have done in the past and how we are hoping to do better in the future.  It’s been an interesting project to move forward, in part, because it’s a project that OSUL has been thinking about, writing about, discussing…for almost 3 years now. 

When we started this project almost a year ago now, we had the good fortune of inheriting a tremendous amount of good work from the Discovery Systems Management Working Group.  This group has been thinking about how the Libraries could, not just make incremental gains within our current framework, but also think more broadly about what the future could look like if we were willing to take the plunge. 

The Libraries website redesign offered the perfect opportunity to move this project forward, and rethink not only how the Libraries presents discovery to its users but also the way in which we provide access to our services.  It was an opportunity to take our first steps in realizing one of my long-term visions for the Library –where we deliberately develop services and infrastructure to support our local community, as well as on a much broader scale. By that I mean, we will be mindful of the people that come through our doors (the carbon-based users that are the life-blood of a university) and also consider another kind of user: the developer, researcher or service that can make use of library data (e.g., the Digital Flagship initiative). 

At a very high level, we have developed a library services platform, as illustrated below:

We’ve wrapped the platform around a service layer that has enabled the Libraries to build not only a new discovery tool, but to look at enhancing a wide range of other tools and communities that can now be supported through the same foundational architecture.  And you are seeing this in action today with both Discovery and the Library’s redesigned website, which utilizes the Lexicon to share data between these two different projects.  For the first time, we can start to see how our systems are starting to work together and how some of the hard work that we’ve committed to over the past 5 years (such as recoding finding aids into Archivist Toolkit, ingesting content into Digital Collections, adding linked data reconciliation to our cataloging workflows, etc.) begin to bear fruit. We are now in a position to think beyond our small parts of the Library and create something that wraps around the library as a whole.  This project allows us to radically rethink how we present resources to our patrons and provide a variety of different pathways to content. 

I am looking forward to seeing this new tool get in front of users.  And not because we cross some invisible finish line when the new library website is released on May 7th, but because we’ll finally have reached the starting line.  On May 7th, users will finally have access to a tool that has incorporated feedback from nearly 3 years of research, a significant data collection and analysis effort, feedback from hundreds of faculty and students outside and inside the Libraries, as well as hints and tips from colleagues outside OSU who have walked this path before us.  And what’s being created is the outcome of that feedback…a project that moves the needle forward and hopefully makes the Libraries a little bit easier to navigate.  At the same time, it is a starting point.  In a lot of ways, what we have created is a living wireframe that will allow us to test assumptions, respond to feedback and potentially create radically new ways of presenting information to users. 

So what can we expect between now and May 7?

Over this next month, you will see a number of changes to the discovery application if you visit the beta site.  You’ll see the great work Jason, Phoebe, Michelle, Stephen, and Ousmane have done taking abstract concepts and user feedback and turning them into something that looks polished and ready to use.  You will see features like the recently added Research Databases option, which allows users to search directly against our various research databases.  Another feature is Special Collections, with better discovery and the ability to search, for the first time, deep into finding aids and across all of our collections.

As we move toward a production ready product, you might also occasionally find things not working as Libraries IT finishes putting systems infrastructure in place and finalizes workflows.  We want to enable new resources to be indexed and add new features without disrupting the service for our users.  Going forward, we will be actively and intentionally tweaking the service to better understand where we need to address gaps in our processes..

And how about after May 7?

As I said, this is just the starting line.  The process that comes next is making sure that this service is tailored to meet the needs of our community.  We can’t do that without your feedback. This will happen in a number of avenues: through involvement with the UX Cohort or via invitation to join an ad hoc group; but I would also like to invite folks to reach out directly.  I’ve been greatly encouraged by the active participation and feedback that we continuously receive from individuals and communities within the Libraries.  Much of the conversations over the past months have been conceptual. But after May 7, we will have the ability to not only test assumptions, but really interrogate how users find information in the Libraries.  For example, we are collecting detailed analytics which we will use to learn how users are interacting with the interface. It’s time to take the research and best practices around discovery and tailor them to the Ohio State community and beyond.

Please, if you have questions or are interested in continuing to be a part of this conversation – let me know.


Discovery Project Update and Timelines

Submitted on behalf of Terry Reese: 

Over the past 3 months, Michelle, Russell, and I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you about the discovery project.  And I’d like to start by thanking everyone who took the time to attend the meetings, provide feedback, and help us better understand the user communities that you interact with and problems that many in our user and research communities face when navigating the Libraries resources.  This time was important for me as well, as it gave me an opportunity to talk about how the project is developing, the process that we are using to determine development priorities and talk about what it means to create a discovery tool that is more user-centered than our previous efforts, which I would argue have been more user-adjacent.  The work that the UX Cohort is doing around the library website redesign and the discovery testing will provide the libraries with a new and interesting model that should help inform much of our work going forward, and I’ve been grateful for their diligent work and the institution’s flexibility through this process.


One of my goals with the discovery project and its implementation has been to minimize the disruptiveness of the process for the users and for instructors, while still valuing our agile design strategy of incremental delivery of functional improvement.  This will allow students and faculty an opportunity to transition to the new tools, and to allow faculty and instructors the time necessary to change various tutorials and instructional materials.  Our hope is that by staggering the releases across multiple terms, we can ease the transition for existing students and faculty, while providing a better discovery environment for this year’s incoming students.  I’m including a series of mock-ups that demonstrate how we plan to introduce the new Discovery tool and how we will slowly phase out our existing WorldCat Local search (our legacy tool).  It should be noted here that as we rearrange the search box and present users new options, the only specific tool that will ultimately be replaced is WorldCat Local.  Users (and librarians) will still be able to access the library catalog, OhioLINK, their favorite databases – directly.  The primary difference is that we’ll be collapsing the options that we provide on the home page in order to simplify and reduce the number of decisions that users need to make every day in order to find any content in the Libraries.  And through continuous user testing with the UX Cohort, we’ll continue to refine how discovery and resources are presented to our users.

The Timelines:

April 2018 – Jun 2018:  Initial beta on the new website

This will represent the first release of the discovery tool embedded into the Libraries preview website. 

Mockup (for illustrative purposes only)

Users will be able engage with the new tool through a new tab on the search bar, and it will be clearly marked that this resource is in beta.  At this point, what will be completed:

  • The tool will provide searching against our subscription content, subject guides (LibGuides), the Libraries’ websites and blogs, digital collections, the library catalog, and special collections resources.
  • The results will be linked to the beta website.
  • Integration with OSU Find It! and the Proxy will be completed.
  • Integration with OSUL chat services, and “escape hatches” will be available.

What will not yet be implemented:

  • Surfacing library expertise – this will not yet be completed as the bios work is still ongoing.
  • Transparent integration between Discovery, OhioLINK, and WorldCat – this work is planned for subsequent releases. We’ll be looking for partners as we think about this workflow for users.
  • Customizable query – we are specifically thinking about how discovery can be applied for our regional campuses and partners. This is work we will be evaluating over the Summer.
  • Specific database recommendations and integration with reference services (the current reference tab).
  • Final refinement of which subscription resources are included by default

June 2018 – Aug. 2018 (Out of Beta)

Over this period, the Discovery tab will move from the last tab, to the first, and the tool will become the primary method for querying content.  Users will still have access to all existing search services and tabs. 

Mockup (for illustrative purposes only)

New work completed:

  • Integration of workflows between discovery => OhioLINK => WorldCat
  • Initial implementation of expertise integration
  • Refinement of interaction design and user experience

Ongoing work:

  • Refining resource selection

What will not yet be implemented:

  • Customizable query – we are specifically thinking about how discovery can be applied for our regional campuses and partners. This is work we will be evaluating over the Summer.
  • Specific database recommendations and integration with reference services (the current reference tab).
  • Final refinement of which subscription resources are included by default

Aug. 2018 – Dec. 2018

Discovery project will be the primary search, but not the only available search.  Legacy (current) search options will continue to be available but will be collapsed into a single tab requiring users to select them for access (how this looks to users will need to be worked out). 

Mockup (for illustrative purposes only)

New work completed:

  • Ongoing refinement of which subscription resources are included by default
  • Specific database recommendations and integration with reference services (the current reference tab).
  • Customizable query – we are specifically thinking about how discovery can be applied for our regional campuses and partners. This is work we will be evaluating over the Summer.
  • Ad hoc working group put in place to prioritize and coordinate ongoing feature development of the discovery product.
  • Continued refinement of interaction design and user experience

Jan. 2019 –

Discovery replaces existing search tools, and WorldCat Local is turned off.

How do I get involved?

As you can see from the timeline, this is a big project with a lot of tasks.  Some of the future work will be prioritized in response to user feedback, while other tasks – like integration with OhioLINK and WorldCat – are elements that we know we must address to be successful and to provide a better experience for our users.  Additionally, I anticipate the way results are presented and options available will grow and morph as the UX Cohort works directly with users and librarians.  So, I anticipate a number avenues of formal engagement – specifically:

  • Related to the development of workflows that help users move transparently between our local resources, OhioLINK, and WorldCat
  • With Library Reference and Instruction – specifically as the organization plans for the Fall term and how this project will impact library instruction and engagement with public services
  • With our regional campuses, as we attempt to create a tool that is flexible enough to help solve their problems as well
  • OSU Mobile, and other campus communities that may be interested in embedding library content into their own environments

I’ve tried to indicate above where we anticipate working on some of these larger tasks, but if you are interested in taking up these conversations early – please let me know.

However, there is also a role for everyone.  The Discovery system will only get better the more users that we have working with it and providing feedback.  Up to this point, I realize that we still need to continue smoothing out the edges.  As we move the Discovery tool into our preview and public spaces, I would like to encourage users to start using  Discovery@OSU.  We realize that there will continue to be gaps, and that the tool won’t meet every type of user’s needs, but by helping us identify areas for improvement, we can create a better overall experience for our campus and research communities.  So, let us know if you find gaps or if there is something that is particularly useful.  Share with partners or patrons who are interested in such things and are interested in helping the Libraries make discovery easier for their communities.

The tool includes a feedback form and longer survey which can be accessed from the discovery tool results, but you can also submit information via a Hub ticket or at this point, while we are still in active development, to me, Michelle or Russell and we’ll follow-up so we can add the information into the project’s ticketing system. 

When you find something that might be interesting to us, please let us know as soon as possible, as we are changing configurations frequently.  Please include

  • what you were looking for,
  • the terms you were using,
  • what was returned,
  • what you expected to be returned, and
  • why that is important.

Wrapping up

As I mentioned early, I’m incredibly grateful for the time and feedback that many in the Libraries have provided throughout these early days of the discovery development.  It is my belief, that as we continue working on this project together, we’ll continue to move the libraries forward, and ultimately, provide a more enriching experience for our user and research communities.


Discovery Project Information Session: Recording and Slides

For those who were unable to attend the Libraries Discovery Project Open Information Sessions on Monday, December 4, the presentation slides and CarmenConnect recording are now available:

Discovery Project Information Session Slides (pdf)

Recording of Main Campus Information Session

The OSUL Discovery Testbed is now available for library staff to assess and provide feedback so that we can continue to improve the experience.

Libraries Discovery Project: Open Information Sessions

All library employees are invited to attend one of two Libraries Discovery Project Open Information sessions. The sessions are scheduled as follows:

Monday, December 4

  • The Library Tech Center, in Conference Room 122 at 10:00 am
  • Thompson Library, in Room 150 A/B at 1:00 pm

Terry Reese, Head of Digital Initiatives and the Discovery project owner, will be leading the sessions. He explains the project this way:

Over the past six months, the Libraries has been working on a discovery project to reimagine how our patrons can search and discover content available from the Libraries’ various systems. This work has fundamentally reshaped how the Libraries can provide access to library data both as research data and also offer a new and innovative access and discovery system that meets the needs of a various library communities. If it sounds exciting, I think that it is.

This project (along with the Website Redesign) also represents a different type of project for the Libraries. In many ways, we’ve been developing the discovery project in the open. Now we are ready to make this available to everyone in the Library as we move towards a long period of public testing and feedback. And that too is exciting.

Not only will I be talking about and demonstrating the work that we’ve completed to date, but also inviting you to actively participate in this next phase of the project as we strive to make this work available to the public. I think that this will be exciting, and will allow the Libraries to become more accessible to our user communities.

As a research library, we sometimes don’t find ourselves living these values – this idea of innovating fearlessly and with purpose because that process can be messy, and at times uncomfortable as they expose areas in the Libraries that we ‘d like to see improved. I guarantee you, as we work through this process (especially in conjunction with the web site redesign), that will happen. Both this project and the website redesign demonstrate to our communities a different way that we can engage with them. I believe it shows that the Libraries is serious about living its values as a research and land grant institution. And we’ll be better for it.  

We hope you can join us for one of these sessions and learn more about how to participate in this innovative project. 

Wireframing the Discovery Redesign

Upcoming plans for the Discovery Redesign

The developers are within range of completing the Discovery proof of concept for evaluating the accuracy of data returned from multiple sources – Sierra, LibGuides, library location information, and more. 

After its launch, selected groups within the library will be invited  to test  the service and provide feedback. Members will be asked to search for information and evaluate the accuracy of the results that display.  Based on feedback provided, the proof of concept will be iteratively updated until deemed ready to be released more widely.  Feedback will continue to be received and used to prioritize enhancements. 

The main audience for this tool is the inexperienced library user. That said, while the expert researcher may not use the new discovery tool on a regular basis, it is still important that library staff understand what it can offer to our users with little training in library research. 

The mockups below, also referred to as wireframes, are to provide a general understanding of how the discovery tool could perform. Keep in mind that wireframes are idealized versions, and the final product will likely be different from what is represented below. Each wireframe displays phases of discovery, categorized as Explore, Focus and Escape Hatch.  

Explore Phase

The Explore phase is displayed after the researcher has entered search terms.  The results are grouped by resource type, along with related services and subject specialists. A later iteration will include a box  that highlights exact title matches. 


Focus Phase

If the researcher selects a grouping of materials, the display narrows to only that list of materials. This provides the user a simpler view of resources, while also providing options to switch focus to other groupings, or even return to the Explore phase. 

Escape Hatch

We never want to leave our users feeling frustrated if they don’t find relevant local resources. As members of OhioLINK, HathiTrust and OCLC WorldCat, our pools of resources are vast.  If local results do not display, there will be additional options for discovery. 

Digital Initiatives: Principles and Working Papers

Digital initiatives encompass a wide array of topics and services. When considering an implementation strategy, the inclination is to begin by defining the technical infrastructure.  However, this approach defines a set of solutions before the organizational needs are well understood.  OSUL made a conscious decision to step back and avoid looking for specific technological solutions and instead attempt to understand the broader functional concepts that make up the the larger digital initiatives program.   Working closely with the Strategies for Digital Initiatives Working Group (SDIWG), the program has sought  to track not only the changing technology and infrastructure needs – but also to better understand how those changes will impact the Libraries and it’s stakeholders.

This work has led to an ambitious plan to reimagine the Libraries digital initiatives vision, as well as a shift in the over digital libraries infrastructure.  These changes continue to be ongoing, as technology and needs continue to evolve.  

Principles and Working Papers

Like any organization, the Libraries’ technical infrastructure is always in a state of flux.  Like any organization, the Libraries continually evaluates its infrastructure, tools, and services to take advantage of new advancements and anticipate the needs of the organization and its users.

At the same time, the Libraries vision and mission for the digital initiatives program and the development of the Libraries’ technical infrastructure remain grounded in a set of core principles.  These principles inform our work, help to guide our decisions, and act as the touchstones that we work from as our environments continue to develop.

Thinking about Preservation — OSUL’s Content Management Task Force Report

On March 8th, I had the opportunity to discuss the results of OSUL Content Management Task Force report with AdminPlus.  This is one of two task forces that resulted from the Master Objects Repository recommendations — and focuses primarily on how content moves into the Libraries’ various preservation repositories.  There is still more work to be done around preservation, and the stream-lining of workflows, but this is a good start to the process.

In the coming year, the members of this task force will be looking to continue to build on this work by hosting a series of educational activities as we continue to bring OSUL’s preservation services into sharper focus.



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