Matthew Reidsma

Work Notes

Updates from the GVSU Libraries’ Web Team.
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Course Reserve Updates

Yesterday I met with Kristin, Todd, Mary M, and Brian to work on improving faculty workflows in Ares, our Course Reserve software. The Course Reserves team is bogged down with lots and lots of manual requests to enter content and classes, and we need to do something to improve the situation. We did a user journey exercise, which involves walking through every step in a user’s attempts to complete a task, exploring confusing labeling and instructions, and what happens when you click something unexpected. We didn’t get very many post-its up on the board before we were drowing in issues to work on.

Photograph of our user journey map

The biggest take-away for us is updating all of our instructions across all of our various systems, which still encourage faculty to print out paper forms and turn them in to the Course Reserves folks (!). Back in 2012 I redesigned Ares’ Instructor tools to make it super easy for faculty to add their own courses and items, as well as clone courses for upcoming semesters. But our messaging has lagged behind.

In addition to working on improving our instructions by updating our instructional content to promote the self-service features of Ares, we identified a number of small pain points in the Ares user interface that we addressed to make the process of adding content easier. Yesterday I made the following changes to the website:

  • We added an “Add New Course” button below the existing courses table to make it easier to add new courses if you already have at least one course in the system. To balance the design, I moved the other two buttons over a bit.
  • When creating a course, the Faculty members’ name is prepopulated with the name of the logged-in user.
  • If Course Reserve isn’t waiting for any items from a faculty member, we hide “Awaiting Supply by Instructor” table on the home screen.
  • I added new styles for table captions (an accessibility feature they’ve recently added).
  • Changed the link to see more information about a course to just be the Course Name. (Before there was a separate column with the repetitive link “Course Home” for each course, which is both a poor design choice and a bad ready of how to properly enact accessibility guidelines.)
  • Fixed a positioning issue for the save button when creating a new class with a password. Before, it would suddenly move off to the right side of the screen when the password field was shown.
  • I added a descriptive note about what the URL is for in the Create Class screen, since it was a bit unclear what the URL was for.
  • I fixed an issue when cloning a class to ensure that any previously-set URL was brought over into the new class.
  • I added language on both the Add Items screen and the upload page about scan quality, so that faculty uploading their own items don’t submit illegible content (see below).

Screenshot of supply items page with note about upload quality

(Interested? You can browse the recent changes to the code on our Github page.)

We have some other ideas to improve things for Course Reserve, too, that will be coming in the next few months. Items I’ll be working on are:

  • Activating Ares’ OpenURL functionality to make it easier to add items right from Summon or the Library Catalog results screens.
  • Redesigning the editing links when Instructors look at a list of all items in their courses. It’s super cluttered and confusing now.
  • Creating help pages specific to faculty using Course Reserve, along with short video tutorials on adding courses, items, and moving a class to a future semester.
  • Running some usability tests with faculty later this summer.
  • Bringing the ability to move a course to a future semester out to the home screen so it isn’t so buried and confusing, in a sub-menu behind system jargon (“Clone Course”).

There will also be some training sessions and a lot of content updates, so stay tuned for more updates! If you have suggestions from your faculty for Course Reserves, pass them along, I’d love to hear new ideas.

OPAC Renewal and Login Updates

I’ve been noticing some reports lately of folks who thought they had renewed items in the catalog expressing frustration at receiving bills for overdue and lost items (including some very rude messages to our long-suffering UX team). From what I can tell, these folks all clicked the “Renew All” or “Renew Selected” items on the catalog account screen, but failed to notice the second confirmation screen that follows:

Silly confirmation screen for renewals
(This is what it looks like after I applied a little styling to the confirmation earlier today. Before that it was red text with two identically styled buttons. Thanks, Innovative!)

I’ve always hated that confirmation step. It’s completely unnecessary to confirm that you want to renew a selected group of items. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen if you accidentally renew something you didn’t mean to? Nothing! We have unlimited renewals on most items here, and its not like renewing a book is the same as deleting some crucial data. Deletion is a case where you really need to make sure you’re doing the right thing (although I can tell you from experience not everyone reads those warnings, either!). Once a user clicks Renew All or Renew Selected in our catalog, the items should be renewed.

So, I wrote a little script that looks for that renewal prompt, and puts up a little message for the user saying that renewals are being processed. Then, it submits the confirmation form without any intervention by the user. Voila! You click one of the renewal buttons and your items are renewed for you. (Or it fails and you get a message that you can’t renew the item.)

Animation of the new renewal process

The code is pretty simple, although it relies on a few things being customized in the patronview_web.html template in Sierra.

I also made some tweaks to the way information is displayed on the list of items you have checked out. It’s mostly adding some space around things and splitting different kinds of information onto separate lines, but I also added code to highlight items that have been successfully renewed:

Screenshot showing highlighted renewal

One other change I made today to the OPAC was to fix yet another silly hard-coded error message encouraging you to “see a librarian” if you can’t log in to your account! I appreciate the folks at Innovative sending folks to librarians for every possible problem they might have. We’re pretty capable folks, but honestly, we’re not always the right choice. So I changed the wording a bit with a single line of code in our already heavily-customized login screen.

New better OPAC login error message
Thanks to Lindy for pointing this one out!

I have a few more tweaks to the catalog coming soon, and tomorrow I’ll post an update on a bunch of changes I made earlier today to the Course Reserve interface for faculty.

**UPDATE 5/18/2017 10:00am*: This update has made it harder to see if some of your renewals fail (like MeL items that have reached the renewal limit), as the code was interfering with another function that makes failed renewal messages more visible. I’m working on an update that should go live shortly.

UPDATE 5/18/17 2:10pm I’ve fixed the issue with failed renewal messages not showing up by replacing the unhelpful default message with one that explains to users why a renewal might fail.

New failed renewal message

Summon Updates for May 3

This is from the Summon Listserv today, on some upcoming changes to Summon:

These changes will be live in the Summon Preview Environment from now to May 2. You will find instructions on how to access this preview environment below. Changes will go live in your Summon instance May 3.


Through the preview environment you will see that we have made the following updates to improve performance and usability with Summon:

  • bX Recommender – Related Articles feature
    • You can now provide usage-based scholarly article recommendations to your users via bX Recommender.
    • Display related articles based on usage and relevance in the right-hand column.
    • You can turn the service on or off via the Summon admin console. To see it in the preview environment, follow the instructions provided later in this email to access your admin console. On the Settings tab, you will find a section titled “bX Recommender – Related Articles.” Turn this on and save the settings.
    • This service will be complimentary for at least a year (through your next renewal date) as part of your Summon instance. Continuation beyond this initial period will require a subscription, with the service included as part of the overall cost of Summon for longer renewals.
    • Syndetics Unbound
    • You can now easily add dynamic enrichment elements to your catalog detail page using Syndetics Unbound.
    • You can configure and utilize any of the available Syndetics enrichments with Summon. Available elements for enrichment include Title Recommendations, Author Information, Look Inside the Book, Series Information, Professional Reviews, Reader Reviews, Tags, Book Profiles, Awards and more.
    • You can see what this feature would look like in the preview environment without a subscription. To do so, follow the instructions provided later in this email to access your admin console. On the Settings tab, you will find a section titled “Syndetics.” Turn this on and save the settings. You’ll also need to turn on the catalog Detail Page. To do this, click on the Detail Page tab of the preview environment admin console, set the page to “Enable” and save the changes.
    • This service requires an additional license fee beyond the standard Syndetics Summon subscription, but the license can also be used to power Syndetics Unbound in your traditional OPAC or other supported service. For more information on how to subscribe to this feature, visit
  • Open Access Identification and Filter (v1)
    • You can now choose to identify and filter Open Access content in the User Interface with a new Open Access indicator/icon and Open Access filter.
    • Open Access content will be marked with an Open Access icon.
    • Users can limit results to only Open Access content via a facet/filter.
    • Filtering by Open Access is also available as an option on the Advanced Search form.
    • Additional documentation and recorded information on what Open Access content is currently available in Summon and how this content has been identified will be made available shortly.
    • There are currently over 200 million items in the Summon index that are identified as Open Access. We will be continuously updating this content on an ongoing basis based on feedback from the customer community and as we cooperate with more providers to properly identify open access content within their collections.
  • Resource Recommender Improvements
    • Searching on a database name should now return the database as a recommendation, regardless of capitalization or spacing.
    • Fixed issues related to capitalization and alphabetical ordering of database names in Resource Recommender.
  • Best Bets Improvements
    • Best Bets bulk imports now allows for importing of tags.
    • Improved handling of some punctuation and special characters (-_ &/’@#) in Best Bets tags, and support for special characters (“-_.&’@#/~!$%^()+={}[]:;?,|\<>.*) in the description field.
    • Better error handling for adding Best Bets.
  • Discipline scoped searching
    • User can now limit and pre-filter searches to specific disciplines using the Advanced Search form. (This, of course, has been available in my Scoped Summon Search Generator since 2011.)
  • Additional Enhancements
    • You now have access to the Chicago 16th Edition (Notes & Bibliography) footnoting citation format in Summon.

Bug Fixes

Beyond the improvements listed above, we have resolved the following issues:

  • Translated the Help Page into German
  • Any changes made to the translations fields for citation format names will now be reflected in the UI
  • Addressed issues related to dynamically rendered views that were preventing Zotero from importing citations from Summon
  • Addressed issues that were causing the A&I Details Page to show Available in Print when there’s no print or electronic access
  • Titles that were appearing in the user interface without spaces between the words now have proper spacing
  • Improved HTTPS support so that thumbnail images that were not appearing in the UI due to redirects of the URL are now displaying
  • Improved accessibility so that tabbing through elements in the user interface now highlights the menu options when expected

Reviewing the Release

Between now and May 2 we would like you to look at the preview environment and provide feedback.

Here’s what you should look for in the preview environment:

  1. The preview should work for both API and UI institutions.
  2. Your preview should include your customizations (logos, link and background colors, etc.).
  3. The search results on the preview site should be reflective of your configuration for the index in production (rights mirror live site).
  4. The preview should include link rules so you can test links to content.
  5. You should be able to see your custom scripts in place.

For the most part, the user interface for the preview release should look identical to what is currently live in production. If you identify any issues with the preview release, please be sure to open a case with customer support using our customer support portal, and be sure to let them know you’re referencing the preview environment. (If you see an error, please report a problem to the GVSU library, and we’ll batch any reports to customer support.)

Newly Indexed Content Highlights

We’ve recently added or updated the following content packages in the Summon Index:

  • New York Public Library, New York Public Library Digital Collections (Open Access)
  • American Psychiatric Publishing, American Psychiatric Publishing – books
  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) (2009) – books
  • Elsevier, ClinicalKey ES guides and Techniques
  • Korea Scholar, Korea Scholar – Journals

Status App on a New Server

Last week, we moved the Status app to a new home on our new server. We’ve redirected all the old links for now, and are working on updating the links in the footer of every site throughout the Library. You shouldn’t experience any issues with the app on the new server, but if you do, let us know!

More security updates on the web

This week I’ve taken the step to move a bit more of our library traffic to HTTPS, ensuring that our patron’s visits to our website are sent with encryption. The most recent update is that Summon now sends users to the catalog over HTTPS. And in a few weeks, users routed to the link resolver for articles will also be sent over HTTPS. (It takes a few indexing cycles for the link resolver change to catch up.)

I’ve also changed how LibGuides, Document Delivery, Course Reserves, the Self-Help Knowledge Base, the link resolver, the journal finder, and the Library Catalog share patron data with the services they link to. Whenever you follow a link to a new website, an HTTP “referer” header is sent that tells the new website owner what the previous URL you visited was. (Yes, the HTTP header is spelled incorrectly.) This can be useful for understanding where your traffic comes from, but when the sites linking to you expose patron search queries in the URL, you might be getting more data than you need (and more than the patron realizes they are sharing.) For instance, as Eric Hellman has noted, a search for “What to Expect when you’re expecting” might pass data on to a third party journal provider, who may have advertising beacons embedded on their site. To address this, I’ve added a meta referrer tag to both services, so that the referrer information shared with the new sites just includes the base URL of the service, not the page the user was on or any of their previous searches.

I’ll continue to improve the security of our services to protect patron privacy. If you have any more ideas for improvement, let me know! Hopefully I can get back to working on improving the security of our eBook providers soon.

LibAnswers now stores patron data encrypted

Kudos to Springshare for the latest update to LibAnswers, which drives the GVSU Self-help site. Patron information is now stored encrypted. This is great, because the site has been storing email addresses and SMS numbers of patrons who need help.

I’d love to see more information on just how that user data is encrypted, of course. (Hint, hint, Slaven!) And while we’re at it, why not encrypt everything, including patron chat transcripts, where sensitive data is often shared?

There is still a lot of work to do on the Springshare suite to protect patron privacy, but I am excited to see their products move towards more accessibility and security.

HTTPS on the Library website

Yesterday Institutional Marketing made a change to our website that will help support our users’ privacy. All traffic to the library website (and sub-websites) at will now use HTTPS, which means that traffic from our servers to our users’ computers is now encrypted, rather than being sent in plain text. HTTPS isn’t necessarily a privacy solution, but, as the Library Digital Privacy Pledge states, it is a prerequisite for digital privacy. Since the third article of the ALA Code of Ethics is protecting user privacy, this helps us take the first step to implement a way for our users to conduct research that is immune from eavesdropping.

Since many of our other tools are provided by third-party vendors hosted on servers we do not control, not all visits to all parts of the library website take advantage of HTTPS today. For instance, LibGuides, the Database A-Z list, LibChat, and LibAnswers (self-service help) do not currently support HTTPS (although we are looking into options for making this work in the future.)

Many of our services support HTTPS but do not force secure connections. I have been working to switch our search forms and links across all of our tools to use HTTPS when possible. WebPAC Pro from Innovative (our catalog) doesn’t allow you to force HTTPS connections, but I have changed all of the links to the catalog from our site to use HTTPS. In addition, I’m working on changing the root URL for the catalog in Summon and the link resolver to use HTTPS, and we’ve already changed the links in the emails that Sierra sends to users. Rather than forcing all connections to use HTTPS on the server, I’ll change all the ways to get to the tools to use HTTPS.

Document Delivery and Course Reserve have long forced HTTPS, since they route users through a login process. And WebPAC Pro has always switched users to HTTPS when they log in to their accounts. Search forms for Summon throughout our site also direct the user to an HTTPS connection. (The weak link here is LibGuides, but I’ve been scrambling to update URLs there for a while, and will continue. Most links to the catalog should be fixed.)

Soon I’ll be working on routing our link resolver and journal finder traffic through HTTPS, and then moving our home-grown tools like the status app and the displays throughout the Mary Idema Pew Library. (The journal search form and links already direct users to HTTPS connections.) In addition, where possible I’ll be making a few other privacy-protecting changes, such as limiting the information we share with sites about referrer traffic, and revisiting the use of Google Analytics for understanding usage.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Call Number Browse in the Catalog

This afternoon I pushed out a small change to the Library catalog that brings back the ability to see items that would be nearby on the shelf. Now, in both the keyword search results screen and the bibliographic records screens, call numbers are links. Clicking the call number link will bring you to an LC Call number browse screen for nearby items.

Animation of a call number browse

On the technical side, this ended up being easier in the end than I thought. I started by writing a script to build a URL for the call number browse, because Sierra was generating a call number search but only if we had a text (or image) link in the call number availability line using the ICON_NEARBY preference. But each time I tried to create a URL, I ended up with a browse location about 100 items away from where I should have been. I still don’t know why that is, and I can look at the URLs my script generated and they are identical to the URLs coming from Sierra, so there’s some other server-side shenanigans happening that I don’t know about.

After hitting my head against the wall with that for a while, I had Patrick pull up the Sierra documentation. (For some reason, I get server errors on all my computers and even my personal iPad when I try to go to CSDirect. Go figure.) The ICON_NEARBY option, which controls the display on the browse nearby links, will automatically link the call numbers if you remove anything setting a textual link. This meant that all I had to do was change the setting in Sierra, and then update my jQuery scripts to pull the .html() of the call number field instead of the .text(). No ridiculous script building a call number link from scratch! Now we have call number browse back. (It’s still ugly, but one thing at a time.)

Let me know if you have any questions!

Accessible Search Forms in LibGuides

This morning I added a new page to the Web Content Guides, based on something I’ve been working on in LibGuides: accessible HTML code for all of our common search tools!

You can find the guide at or from the Web Content Guides homepage. So far I have HTML for the Catalog, Summon, and the Journal Finder that you can copy and paste into your guides. This HTML has labels for all form elements. I’ve been working on updating all the forms in LibGuides to meet accessibility requirements, and wanted to make sure that you all had access to accessible code going forward if you want to add new searches to your guides.

To make things even easier, you can visit the Mappable Forms tab to find dedicated search boxes with each search that you can just map to you guides. If you don’t want to add any explanatory text within the same box as your search, this is the best option. Just add a new box, click “Reuse Box,” and then search for the “Search Forms” guide. Select the box you want under the Mappable Boxes heading and you’ll have a search tool working on your page that you don’t have to maintain or tinker with. Easy peasy.

Screenshot of cloning a form in LibGuides

Let me know if you have any questions!

Summon Updates, 12/15/2016

Today ProQuest is pushing out a big update to Summon, our discovery layer. Below is a summary of the changes (with some slight commentary from me). You can read the detailed release notes on ProQuest’s site. In the new year, KARMS and I will be looking over the new options available for recommending items, and we’ll be reaching out to folks in R&I and UX to help us improve our users’ search experience. If you have any questions, let me know!

Coming December 15, 2016
ProQuest is making the following changes to improve performance and usability with Summon 2.0:

Query Expansions

We have added new Library of Congress Subject Headings to query expansions so that “variants” (as specified by the LCSH) are now used to expand queries. For example, a search for “bionanotechnology” is now expanded to include results for “nanobiotechnology” since “bionanotechnology” is a variant of “nanobiotechnology”. Or “science of language” is now expanded to include results for “linguistics” since “science of language” is a variant of “linguistics.”

Another new feature included in this release is the “context-sensitive” expansion feature. LCSH uses the notion of “qualifying terms” indicated in parentheses. For example, “optimization (linguistics)” is defined as a variant term for the heading “optimality theory” with the qualifying term “linguistics”. This means the term “optimization” used in the context of “linguistics” is a variant for the heading “optimality theory”. The new feature looks for both the variant term “optimization” and the qualifying term “linguistics”, and it does the expansion only if both terms are present in the query.


  • optimization >> no expansion
  • optimization engineering >> no expansion
  • optimization linguistics >> search expanded to include results for “optimality theory”
  • linguistics optimization >> search expanded to include results for “optimality theory”

Database Recommender Improvements

Any databases you have rights to will be made available for recommendation by default. (Previously only databases that were included in the Summon index were available for recommendation.)

Topic Explorer Relevance Improvements

  • Better handling of close matches for longer phrases, to eliminate false matches; for example: Previously the topic “stress in the workplace” would trigger a match for a search for either “_______ in the workplace” or “stress in the ______”, so that “lunch in the workplace” or “stress in the joints” would result in the matching topic “stress in the workplace”; phrase matching (having 3 words in order) would trigger the match despite the disconnect. Now we have balanced phrase matching with better term matching, so that the above examples no longer return the topic, but the following do: stress in the workplace, stress and workplace, stress from the workplace, and stress in a workplace

I’m especially excited about this fix, and I’ll be doing a lot of testing to see how well it works. Earlier this year I published a lengthy analysis of the effectiveness of Topic Explorer, and one of the biggest problems I encountered was the “Mad Lib” search query - where you can put any subject into a phrase and return the same Topic Explorer result (for instance, “women in the workplace” returned “stress in the workplace.”) Brent and the Summon team worked really hard on this fix, and it was an especially tricky problem to solve. I’m really excited that ProQuest took these issues seriously and worked so hard on a fix.


We will be replacing our current reporting system with Oracle Business Intelligence (OBI). In addition to the launch of the initial dashboard, which includes reporting equivalent to our current set of reports, this release lays the groundwork for expanded reporting of events throughout the Summon interface.

For us, we’re hoping this means more accurate Summon search statistics. Ive been maintaining our own software to get accurate and useful stats out of Summon, but I hope this new analytics tool will make my software unnecessary.

Relevance Improvements: Subject Term Boost

We are publishing a new relevance algorithm with Subject Terms having a higher influence in relevance. Previously subject terms were given similar treatment to other metadata found within the record; now subject terms are given a boost more similar to how Title or Author are treated.

The boost should only apply when query terms match specific subject terms and not when subject terms are found in other fields in the record. When searching on “computational linguistics,” the title “foundations of Computational linguistics” shouldn’t be affected, since “computational linguistics” is not a subject term for this item. However, the title “Readings in Machine Translations” should get a boost since computational linguistics is a subject term in that record. Also, the title “Japanese Computational Linguistics” should get a boost because it also has computational linguistics as a subject term.

Note: Because relevance ranking is a complex calculation of multiple factors, actual influence of subject terms will be determined by the search parameters at the time of execution. Also, you may not be able to recreate these exact examples in your instance of Summon due to differences in the search configuration at the time of searching, including differences in content rights, configuration, and facets applied, for example.

Bug Fixes

Beyond the fixes and improvements listed above, we have also made the following changes to improve performance and usability with Summon 2.0:

  • Addressed issues that were causing the Summon search box generated by the Summon widget to disappear
  • Addressed issues with text appearing out of margin in the new Summon results page preview pane
  • Removed “Indian” as a language option in Advanced Search Language dropdown
  • Corrected issues with the MLA Citation format