Matthew Reidsma

Work Notes

Updates from the GVSU Libraries’ Web Team.
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Goodbye, Summon book detail page. We hardly knew ye.

Recently, there was some discussion on a list serv about a new way to streamline requesting books in our catalog from the Summon results page. The workflow for requesting a book in Summon is a little click heavy, where the user clicks on the book result and is presented with the Summon book detail page, then they click on the “Request” button, where they are taken to the catalog page (and no request is placed), and finally, they request the book in the catalog. The new workflow promised to actually execute the hold from the Summon request button.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work for us, and will likely linger in the support queue for a while. In the meantime, however, I discovered that Summon allows you to turn off the book detail page! So, instead of clicking on the result to get to the detail page, which duplicates the catalog record, and then clicking to the catalog record before you can do anything, clicking on a book result in Summon now takes you directly to the catalog. This gives us the same reduced number of clicks as the hold script without worrying about how either Ex Libris or Innovative will break the connection the next time there is a software update.

As a bonus, I have heard from many of you how much you hate the Summon book detail page! (The detail page for A&I content remains.)

I also rerouted the “Feedback” link to our custom Problem Form, to streamline our support tickets (and I will customize the label soon).

As always, let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Turning off Summon's Topic Explorer sidebar

As many of you know, I have been working for a few years researching bias in our library discovery tool, Summon. After I returned from sabbatical, I sent a proposal to Leadership Team that we turn off the Summon sidebar, the area on the right side of larger screens that shows the Topic Explorer, related topics, related LibGuides and librarians, and other contextual information. The proposal has been approved by both Leadership Team and many of the liaison librarians I have spoken with. I shut off the Summon sidebaron March 4th, the first day of Spring Break.

Below is the text of my proposal for shutting off the sidebar. If you’d like to read more, If you can see my article that started all this research or wait for my upcoming book on the subject from Library Juice Press.

Executive Summary

We should turn off the right-hand sidebar of Summon, which provides contextual information because:

  • Wikipedia and other encyclopedic entries are often inaccurate or misleading, due either to choices made in indexing or because of the way they are written and abstracted automatically by algorithms.
  • Nearly 1% of Topic Explorer Reference results are biased against already marginalized groups, like women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, the mentally ill, and Muslims.
  • Localized algorithms that work to show GVSU-specific results rely on third-party tools and shoddy assumptions from the engineers, resulting in unreliable and inaccurate results.
  • Other institutions are pushing back against these problems by turning off the sidebar.

Details

Details For the past 3 years, I have been researching the accuracy and effectiveness of the University Libraries’ Summon Discovery Service algorithms, and in particular, the algorithms that make up the “Topic Explorer,” the contextual information that makes up the right-hand sidebar of the search results screen. Based on my research, I find that these algorithms often cause more harm than good, and should be turned off in GVSU’s instance of Summon. Results that show bias in nearly 1 percent of the Topic Explorer results. What’s more, poor infrastructure design of the Topic Explorer compounds the problem, showing biased and inaccurate results more and more frequently.

Wikipedia, the most common reference source in Summon, is useful for libraries to include because users trust Wikipedia to have up-to-date content. However, Wikipedia entries in Summon are not pulled from Wikipedia’s updated content. In the summer of 2019, Ruth Tillman of Penn State University Libraries and I discovered that the Summon team loaded Wikipedia results into the Summon index at some time before February 20, 2013, a full month before the Topic Explorer was announced in a press release. They have never updated the results. (Brent Cook, the project manager for Summon, reluctantly confirmed this finding.) Now searches for living individuals, such as Barack Obama and Donald Trump, are wildly inaccurate. (Obama is listed as the 44th and current president of the United States. Trump is a reality TV star and real estate developer.) Many more recently deceased individuals are listed as alive, such as Barbara Bush. If the Topic Explorer cannot provide correct information, it is not useful to our users, and will degrade their trust in our other services.

In addition, nearly 1% of all results show bias against people of color, LGBTQ people, women, the mentally ill, Muslims, and more. Searches for information on stress in the workplace returned a result for “women in the workforce,” and searches for “rape in United States” showed a a result for “Hearsay Evidence.” (Ex Libris has blocked these particular results, but not addressed the underlying issues in the search algorithm.) Any search with the words “mental illness” returns a Topic Explorer result for “The Myth of Mental Illness,” despite my reports in January of 2016 that this was unacceptable. Many more examples can be found in my research.

In some instances, both of these problems merge together. Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman who served prison time for violations of the Espionage Act, is still listed in Summon only as “Bradley Manning,” her dead name. Not only is this article out of date, but the act of deadnaming a transgender person is to deny their actual identity.

Other reference sources are not designed and written to be excerpted by algorithms. In many cases, Credo Reference articles start with some tangential preamble, rather than being structured like an inverted pyramid (as Wikipedia’s articles are). This can lead to entries like one for “alcohol consumption,” which shows the Credo entry for alcohol that begins, “Prisoners are not allowed to drink alcohol while they are in prison,” implying that alcohol and incarceration are connected. A similar search for “alcoholism” (until recently) began, “The history of women’s relationship with alcohol constitutes a profound commentary on U.S. cultural attitudes about gender and power.” This implies that alcoholism is a gender-specific issue. Related topics are another area where the Topic Explorer shows bias, such as a search for “women in prison” shows a related search of “sex in film,” as if women in prisons must be related to sexploitation films. (The reference result for this search is also “Women in prison films.”) Searching for “murder” or “lying to patients,” two unethical practices, recommends searching for Islamic dietary laws. “Schizoaffective disorder” is connected by related searches to both “cocaine addiction” and “pedophilia,” despite having no logical connection at all.

Of the other algorithmic results shown in the Topic Explorer, including recommended librarians and guides, the assumptions the engineering team made about how these would work has introduced a number of problems. Based on keyword matching, we have the wrong librarian listed for a number of subjects. For instance, the owner of the modern languages guide “Spanish for Business” is always listed as the business liaison, because the numeric guide “id” in the LibGuides database is lower than the actual Business guide. What’s more, in some cases basic word proximity errors lead to strange match-ups, like Debbie Morrow, our engineering, math, and physics liaison being listed as a subject expert for Capital Punishment, because one of her guides uses the phrase “questionnaire execution.”

While some of these problematic searches have been suppressed since they were discovered, there will continue to be more biased and incorrect results, like a game of software whack-a-mole. We would not be alone in turning off the Topic Explorer. Most recently, Penn State University Libraries turned off the TE after Ruth Tillman of Penn State University Libraries and I uncovered the inaccuracies in Wikipedia article matching. The right-hand sidebar can be turned off with one option in the Summon Administration Console. Usage data is difficult to get, because much of the sidebar is designed to be read, not necessarily acted upon. What data we do have, however, suggests that clicks on recommended searches happen in less than a tenth of one percent of all searches, while the number for clicks on recommended guides and librarians is even lower.

ProQuest Platform Downtime

On Saturday, January 19th starting at 10pm EST, ProQuest will be conducting maintenance on many of its platforms. Many of our subscription systems will have periods of unavailability overnight. The maintenance is expected to last up to 8 hours.

Here’s the list of affected services:

Alexander Street

  • LAZR (reduced customer experience in user creation, playlist creation, and clip creation)
  • DORP, PHAROS, PHILO
  • HARP, HARPFREE, LINC

ProQuest Books

  • Ebook Central
  • LibCentral
  • PubCentral
  • OASIS / CIS
  • Research databases

ProQuest Platform (search.proquest.com)

  • ProQuest Congressional (search.proquest.com/congressional, congressional.proquest.com)
  • ProQuest Dialog (search.proquest.com/professional, dialog.proquest.com/professional)
  • ProQuest Dialog API (api-dialog.proquest.com)
  • ProQuest Administrator Module (admin.proquest.com)
  • ProQuest Archiver
  • ProQuest Trials
  • Chadwyck-Healey databases (U.S. customers only)
  • CultureGrams
  • eLibrary (all editions)
  • K12 My Products
  • ProQuest Digital Microfilm
  • ProQuest Obituaries
  • ProQuest Research Companion
  • SIRS (all editions)
  • Ancestry
  • Sanborn Maps
  • z39.50/XML gateway
  • Dissertations publishing
  • Dissertations Dashboard
  • Dissertation Express
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Open
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses OAI Repository
  • Dissertation Email Delivery
  • ProQuest/UMI ETD Administrator

Reference management/Research support tools

  • RefWorks (Legacy and New)
  • Quikbib
  • COS Funding Opportunities
  • COS Scholar Universe
  • Pivot
  • Papers Invited

Bowker

  • MyIdentifiers
  • TitlePage
  • SAN (Standard Address Number)

Ex Libris Workflow Solutions

  • Intota Assessment

Course Reserve Redesign Updates

The redesign for Course Reserve will be going live this Thursday morning, July 5th! Course Reserve will get the shiny new template, as well as a bunch of workflow improvements for faculty who want to manage their own courses. You can see the new design (with some limited functionality - you can’t actually get to the items that are on reserve) at https://gvsu.ares.atlas-sys.com/ares/TestWeb

I built a script over the past few months that tries to address the confusion users have around the difference between “Adding a class” (starting from scratch) and “Cloning a class” (copying a class from one semester to the next). We’re stuck with the labels because the developers of Ares thought it would be a good idea to make their scripts dependent on a specific English word they had picked being sent to them (good luck with that translation, folks!) so instead I used data we’ve collected from interviews, support emails and calls, and last Winter’s faculty usability tests.

Basically, if you click “Add a class” my new script will load up to 3 of your previous classes in the background, and then present you the options to “Start from scratch” (with the button text reading “Add a class” to appease the computer gods) or show you yiour 3 previous classes with the option to copy them to a new semester (again, with appropriate deference to the deities of computer code). If you have more than 3 previous classes, you’ll also have the option to see more previous classes. You can see a screenshot of the prototype here. (Thanks to Kyle and Jon Earley for great feedback!)

There are only 2 more systems to do: Omeka (a.k.a. Digital Collections) and the Status Page. Those will be coming soon!

June Web Redesign Updates

All summer long I’ve been working on redesigning all of our library web systems (except for Summon and ScholarWorks) in order to match the University’s new branding campaign and improve the overall accessibility of our sites. In late April, four of our GVSU-hosted websites switched over to the new design. (The fifth—Services for Faculty and Staff—was absorbed into the main library website.) In May, I redesigned the Library Catalog, EZ Proxy’s error pages, and upgraded our link resolver to 360 Link 2.0. In addition, I built a tool that allows us to put our library hours into all of our other systems! You may remember that I’ve done a lot of user research on how users get to our hours, and it’s one task that has evolved continuously since I started here. Earlier in June, I redesigned the Journal Finder. And since then I’ve been hard at work on other systems!

Tomorrow morning I’ll begin switching over our Help site (run by LibAnswers). Because of the way LibAnswers is structured, it will be a fairly manual process. I’ve been running the new design on a test section of the site (with different questions) so I could test it out in different browsers and devices, and to let others have a look! (Thanks to Kristin, in particular, for great feedback on an earlier iteration of the Help homepage.)

On Thursday I’ll begin the manual process of moving LibGuides over to the new template. I’m also running the Web Content group in that new template so you can test it out. A lot of the customizations I’ve been working on have been on the editing side of things, so LibGuides creators and editors should enjoy the new template in particular.

Springshare products in particular were challenging because they use the same design framework as the campus CMS - Bootstrap. The problem is that GVSU’s Web Team’s version of Bootstrap has some customizations to it that conflict with the customizations of the LibGuides’ Bootstrap. And because of the way LibGuides and LibAnswers have structured their template engine, I can’t turn off their version of Bootstrap for the test part of the site - I have to turn it off globally or leave it on everywhere. So, there will be a little style sheet tweaking when these systems go live to make sure that the two different production versions of Bootstrap play nicely with each other. (Yet another reason I don’t recommend folks use other people’s design frameworks, especially if you plan to sell your product as “customizable”!)

Next week I’ll begin working on Omeka, our Digital Collections platform. Kyle and I did a lot of work to customize that template when Omeka was first launched, and we learned a lot about this system. I feel pretty confident that it will be easier than some of the previous systems because we have complete control not only over the design but also most of the system’s code, too! I also have a wish list of interface tweaks for specific digital collections I’ll be incorporating into the redesign, and Kyle will be launching a new search plugin he’s been plugging away at for the past few months.

After that, I’ll spend the rest of July tackling Document Delivery and Course Reserves. The frameworks for these two systems are very similar (both were developed by Atlas Systems) so I wanted to do them together. I’ll also be releasing some more improvements to the faculty workflow in Course Reserves based on the faculty usability tests I ran in December in January on the previous round of improvements. Finally, Kyle will be updating the Library Status Page with the new template to get familiar with the new design patterns since he’ll be tinkering with anything that needs tweaking while I’m on sabbatical in the Fall!

At the end of July and the first half of August, I’ll be running more tests on these systems and making some performance improvements. For instance, right now each system is loading 5 or 6 style sheets—some from GVSU’s Web Team, some from the software provider (like Springshare or III), and some from us. This means that each site has to request 5 or 6 pages from different servers every time a page loads. We can speed that up by combining all the styles in a single style sheet, and setting it to cache on the user’s computer. (I wrote a special tool that does just almost automagically.) But it takes a bit more effort to make changes in that setup. So, until I’m comfortable that the sites are working as expected, I’ve left the separate style sheets. But I’ll be working back through each system and updating them before I wrap things up in August. I’ll also be updating all the customization files on the Libraries’ Github (those that haven’t already been updated) for anyone interested in how these changes were made.

That’s it! Please drop me a line if you have questions or concerns!

Redesign updates, testing 360 Link

I’ve been hard at work updating the first three external systems to our new web template. EZProxy quietly went live last week. Hopefully you won’t notice! It will only show up if there is a problem. ERMS and I have been testing the link resolver for over a week, and below I have details on how you can test it from the comfort of your own computer before it goes live, May 24th. And the catalog is coming along, but there are so many moving parts I will have a few more days of tinkering before I can start testing.

Testing 360 Link

At long last I am updating us to 360 Link 2.0 with this template change. This is a big boon for two reasons: first, I will no longer have to maintain the 360link Reset script I wrote years ago to reformat the link resolver for usability. (ProQuest redesigned 360 Link 2.0 to look just like ours. No, we didn’t get a discount.) Second, the link resolver includes Index Enhanced Direct Linking, which means that if a reliable direct link to an article exists, users will go right there, bypassing the link resolver. We already have this functionality in Summon, but now it will be available to users coming from other databases or Google Scholar, as well.

If you would like to test 360 Link 2.0, you can do it easily by installing a bookmarklet in your browser, and then any time you find yourself on a link resolver page, click the bookmarklet and it will reload the page with the new template and functionality in place.

Drag the link below to your bookmarks bar:

360Link 2.0

(Need help? Here are some tips for installing bookmarklets.)

Then load a link resolver page (like this one). Click the bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar, and the page will reload. It should look something like this:

360 Link 2.0 template

The new template will go live Thursday morning, May 24th. (Exact time depends on when ProQuest’s update cycle runs, which vaires a bit.) After that, you won’t need the bookmarklet to see the new template.

If you see an issue with the new template, be sure to click the “Report a problem with this page” link in the bottom right. That tells us what exact URL you were looking at. Be sure to also tell us what the problem is. “Wrong” is not enough information for us to fix anything. :)

As always, let me know if you have any questions!

Sabbatical Leave Book Project Update

I’m hard at work on the research for the book I’ll be writing about algorithmic bias this Fall. I thought I’d do a quick update on how things are going for those who are interested!

  • I signed a deal with Library Juice Press to publish the book. They publish a lot of critical librarianship stuff, and so the book will fit right in with their existing titles. Plus, the books are affordable. Library press books are often $60 or more, and so they are often only purchased by libraries or library schools. Most LJP titles are under $30, so I hope it will reach a wider audience. The publisher also agreed to a 2-year Open Access embargo for the book, as well. Thanks to GVSU Scholarly Communications Librarian Matt Ruen for help in the contract negotiations!
  • EBSCO had some developers and project managers at a talk I gave at Code4Lib in February, where I lamented not having access to EDS, their search and discovery tool (the license forbids anyone who isn’t affiliated with a licensed institution from using EDS.) Representatives reached out and set me up with my own EDS instance. So now I’m able to test all major discovery systems except for Worldshare.
  • I have Github repository of my sabbatical proposal, book proposals, and research notes that you can check out if you’re interested in the progress. I may even share some rough drafts there as I work through the chapters.

Thanks to everyone who has given me feedback and reading recommendations along the way. Keep them coming! I’ll be in the office through the end of August, plugging away at redesigning all the rest of the Library websites and running a lot of searches in Summon, Primo, and EDS. Then I’ll be back in January!

CMS 4.1 Template Migration Begins Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning we will be moving a few sites to the new CMS 4.1 template:

The former “Instruction” website (then called “Services for Faculty and Staff”) has been moved into the regular library website. All the old URLs have been redirected, and any links in LibGuides have been updated to the new pages.

Updates to Scholarly Communications, the Knowledge Market, and Curriculum Materials sites will be strictly visual. I’ll be updating header images this week to take advantage of the extended width of the new template, but no organizational changes will happen on these sites.

New Library homepage

A few things are changing on the main library website. (The content changes have already been made - except those that require the new template):

  • The search header will have links to our most commonly-used search tools. You will be able to access these tools from any page that has the search header, not just the homepage. (The links have been removed from the homepage for this reason.)
  • The hours will now displayed in the header as well, on all pages. (And so have been removed from the homepage.)
  • The links under the “My Account” column on the homepage will be moved into the navigation menu so they are accessible from anywhere. This is to address a common question on how to “log into my library account.” We’ve found that users don’t really seem to care that there are lots of different logins.
  • The other common links used from the homepage will be been moved to a quick links bar below the ads and twitter feed: Group Study Rooms, Computer Availability, Course Reserve, and Printing, Scanning, and Copying (a new page).
  • This means that there will no longer be links to Document Delivery and Renewing Books Online on the homepage. These links were rarely used: in the past 7 years, the Document Delivery link was clicked just over 5,000 times. The Course Reserves link, which was right next to it, has been clicked over 120,000 times over the same period. (Most folks get to Document Delivery from a search tool.) You can still easily access these items by visiting “My Account.” (Document Delivery is also in the Services menu.)
  • We now have the ACRL Diversity Alliance logo in the footer
  • I am putting together a new editorial calendar for web ads to highlight services and tools we offer, e.g. Document Delivery, Citation Tools, One-on-One Consultations, Exhibits, Events, the Knowledge Market, etc. The goal is to have content set up through the end of my sabbatical (after Fall semester) so we don’t just show the same two ads for four months.
  • The Find Materials, Services, and About pages have been slightly reorganized: * Find Materials now has a data set search tool
    • Services includes landing pages for specific audiences: Students, Distance Learners, Faculty & Staff, and Alumni & Visitors. The categories have changed slightly, too.
    • Library Labs is no longer linked from the page. The target audience for these tools is Library staff, so I’ll probably look to move the content into LINK.
    • About now has a section for Administration (with more to come, I believe). The (2-year out of date) Library by the Numbers, SAILS, and LibQual+ reports have been moved to an Assessment page.

You can see a rough draft live in your browser by visiting the staging server. PLEASE NOTE: most of the links do not work. The hours are not correct. The ads are probably wrong. I am aware of that. It’s just a mockup. They will work on the live site. ;)

The Web Team will start moving the template over in the morning, and we hope to have everything switched over by noon. Tomorrow morning things might be partway the old template and partway the new template for a bit. This won’t affect any other system, like LibGuides or Summon or the Catalog.

I made a few other changes around the web today:

  • Jenna, Dawn, Erin, Samantha, and Jason’s directory entries were updated with their new information. I also updated all the web pages with their names that I could find.
  • The Knowledge Market’s “Getting Started” LibGuide has been retired. Since content creators all must take annual accessibility training, it wasn’t sustainable to have our research consultants spend time on accessibility training in order to edit the guide. It also needs significant updating in order to be brought up to current accessibility requirements. The guide is Unpublished, so you can access it by logging into LibGuides. (Links on other guides have been removed.)

Later this week I’ll start working on the next stage of the template update: the Library Catalog, EZProxy, and 360 Link. More details to follow! (See the whole schedule.) We’ll also be working on some usability testing. Let me know if you have any questions!

Summer 2018 Library Website Template Updates

This summer, I will be migrating all of our library web tools to a new template to match the current Grand Valley State University branding campaign. This migration is necessary to address accessibility issues with our current template, and to take advantage of new administrative features and customizations in the GVSU Content Management System (CMS). Since many of our tools are designed t look like our main website, the project will proceed in phases to enable us to meet Institutional Marketing’s timetable while not disrupting student work. I have been drafting project plans for each stage of the process, which are posted in LINK under TIS > Systems & Technology Project Forms > CMS 4.1 Migration. Currently, plans for the April stages are posted, and the rest will be added as we finish planning the details of each stage and working with project partners.

The schedule is as follows:

May 1:

May:

  • Library Catalog - template will be updated
  • 360 Link - template will be updated
  • EZProxy - template will be updated (only affects connections with errors)

June:

July

August

No changes will be made to LibChat or Summon at this time. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns!

LibGuides, Images, and HTTPS

In a few weeks, Google Chrome will release version 61 of its web browser, which will flag all sites that have forms that load over an insecure HTTP connection as “Insecure” sites. What kind of site has a form and probably loads over HTTP, you ask? Nearly every library webpage ever! Luckily, Mary Morgan and I have been scrambling for the past month to make sure we’re ready when Chrome updates. (All of the other browsers will follow suit shortly, plus pover 60% of our users are on Chrome.) All of our online services (except for ScholarWorks, which is hosted and out of our control) not support HTTPS. Many also force HTTPS connections, but not all our services currently allow us to do that (*cough* Summon and The Catalog *cough*).

Last week we updated LibGuides, the Knowledge Base, and LibChat to all use HTTPS. Those were the final services to move over, but we now have another project to undertake: most of the images that LibGuides owners have added over the near decade that we’ve had LibGuides are set up to load over HTTP, which makes browsers unhappy (and is a security vulnerability). And so, we have to fix them. Tessa, our superstar student in System and Technology, will be helping me manually fix all the images on the 337 pages that have been identified as having problems. (Let’s be honest: she will fix most of them. Send her chocolate!)

If you are a LibGuides owner or editor

Going forward, all images you add to your site, including thumbnail images for books or links, must be loaded over HTTPS. There are two ways to do this:

  1. When you find the URL of the image you want to link to, make sure it is an HTTPS URL. If the URL you have isn’t HTTPS, try changing it to say “https:” at the beginning, and see whether the image loads. If it does, great! You have a working HTTPS URL. If not, then go to step 2.
  2. Download the image to your computer, and then upload it to the LibGudies Image Manager. Copy the link the Image Manager gives you, and use that. That will be an HTTPS URL. (It may actually have a “//” with no http or https in front of it, but that’s fine. It will load with whatever protocol the page loads with, which will be HTTPS.)

A few words on using images

  1. Remember there are copyright laws and if you don’t have permission to use the image on your site or a good fair use case, you shouldn’t. Not even when linking to it.
  2. If you link to an image, there is a high likelihood that the link will break and my student or I will have to fix it.
  3. Images should not be the primary means of conveying text or meaning. Don’t upload an image of a chart or diagram, because that image will not be accessible to visually-impared users. Get in touch with me about creating accessible versions of these kinds of images. More information on this on the Style Guide
  4. Use images sparingly. There are over a thousand thumbnail images on LibGuides that we have to fix (and those are just on the published pages). That’s probably too many thumbnail images.