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FOSS4Lib Recent Releases: VuFind - 3.0.2

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 14:37
Package: VuFindRelease Date: Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Last updated July 5, 2016. Created by Demian Katz on July 5, 2016.
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Minor bug fix release.

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): Designing for the Library Website

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 00:00

This post is a brief overview of the process in designing for large web-based systems. This includes understanding what makes up an interface and how to start fresh to create a good foundation that won't be regrettable later.

DuraSpace News: VIVO Updates for July 8–Welcome RSP Thomson Reuters, Summertime Meetings/Events

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 00:00

From Mike Conlon, VIVO project director

Thomson Reuters is a VIVO Registered Service Provider!  Need help with your VIVO implementation?  Thomson Reuters is now a VIVO Registered Service Provider.  Thomson Reuters can help you plan and implement VIVO at your institution.  For more information about Thomson Reuters services, please contact Ann Beynon at Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters joins Symplectic and Gunter Media Group as VIVO Registered Service Providers.

Mita Williams: Ex Libris

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 20:49

Last week, as Europe staggered from the implications of the Brexit referendum, I was in Denmark on vacation with most of my nights free to read about the Existentialists and how their lives were torn asunder by the violence we now call history.

I enjoyed my copy of At the Existentialist Cafe very much and I’m hoping to pass it on to a friend or even my local library if they would have it. But before I do, I’m going to add my very own bookplate.

I don’t have any bookplates yet as still I haven’t decided on the design. I’m hoping to materialize a handful of ideas and choose the best one(s) for printing.

Years ago I suggested that every librarian should write a book. That was clearly too big of an ask. So I would like to use my first post here on my new blog to suggest that everyone should make their own bookplate for their books.

I am not suggesting that you should do so for the benefit of future historians, libraries, or book collectors.

I’m suggesting you do so because you have a history that is worth commemorating in your own expression.

District Dispatch: Fourth Feted with FOIA Reform!

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 13:38

After nearly a decade of advocacy work by ALA, other activists and government officials, with the President’s signature last night we and the nation finally have a long-needed update to FOIA just in time to celebrate FOIA’s 50th birthday on July 4th. Now we can all celebrate our nation’s independence with the knowledge that our country will have an even more transparent and open government! The Founders would be pleased!

At a time when not much seems to be getting done in Congress, ALA was thrilled to see this important step forward for government transparency! The FOIA Improvement Act:

  • Codifies the “presumption of openness” for government documents for future administrations;
  • Harnesses technology to improve the FOIA process;
  • Limits, to a period of 25 years, the period of time that agencies may keep records of their internal deliberations confidential; and
  • Increases the effectiveness of the FOIA by strengthening the Office of Government Information Services (created in the last FOIA reform bill, the OPEN Government Act of 2007)

When the Senate bill was first introduced on February 2, 2015, at the start of this Congress, we were hopeful that FOIA reform would progress swiftly.  While that was not quite the case (the Senate bill passed on March 15th of this year and the House adopted its version on May 13th), Congress still successfully reconciled the two bills and sent the version just signed into law to the President on June 22nd.

The White House has said that they will release guidance for compliance with the new law later this year and has committed to setting up a centralized online request portal for all federal agencies by next year. Watch this space for more details as they become available and, in the meantime, have an extra-happy Fourth of July!

The post Fourth Feted with FOIA Reform! appeared first on District Dispatch.

State Library of Denmark: 2D visualization of high dimensional word embeddings

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 11:58

In this blog post I tried to make an method for a computer to  read a text and analyse the characters and then make a 2D visualization of the similarity of the characters. To achieve this I am using the word2vec algorithm and then making a distance matrix of all mutual distances and fitting them into a 2D plot. The three texts I used was

  • All  3 Lord of The Ring books
  • Pride and Prejudice + Emma by Jane Austen
  • A combined text of 35.000 free english Gutenberg e-books

Word2Vec is an algorithm invented by Google researchers in 2013. Input it a text which has been preprocessed I will explain later. The algorithm  then extract all words and maps each word to a multidimensional vector of typical 200 dimensions. Think of a the quills of a hedgehog where each quill is a word, except it is in more than 3 dimensions. What is remarkable about the algorithm is that it captures some of the contexts of the words and this is reflected in the multidimensional vectors. Words that are somewhat similar are very close in this vector space, where ‘close’ is measured by the angle between two vectors. Furthermore the relative positions of two words also captures a relation between words. A well known example is that the distance vector from ‘man’ to ‘king’ is almost identical to the distance vector from ‘woman’ to ‘queen’. Using this information you are able to predict the word ‘queen’ given the three words <man,king> <woman,?>. It is far from obvious to understand why the algorithm  reflects this behaviour in the vector space and I have not fully understood the algorithm yet. Before you can use the word2vec algorithm you have to remove all punctuations and split the sentences into separate lines and lowercase the text. The splitting into sentences is not just splitting whenever you meet a ‘.’ character. For instance Mr. Anderson should not trigger a split.

First I  create the multidimensional representation of the words using word2vec which is just all the words (like a dictionary) and the vector for that word.  Next step I manual input the characters (or words in fact.) that I want to create the visualization for and calculate the distance matrix for all mutual distances by taking the cosinus of the angle between the vectors. This gives a value between -1 and +1 which I then shifts to 0 to 2 so I have a positive distance between the words. Finally I take this distance matrix and turn it into a 2D visualization trying to keep the distances as ‘close a possible’ in the 2D visualization as in the vectorspace. Of course this is not possible generally. Even for 3 vectors this can be impossible (if the Triangle inequality is broken). I create the plot by dividing the 2D into a grid and place the first character in the middle. The next character is also easy to place in on the circle with the radius of the distance. For the following characters I place one a time in the grid that minimize the sum of the distance-errors to the already placed characters in the grid. This is a greedy algorithm that priorities the first characters added to the plot and this I why the plotted the main characters first and have the other characters place them accordingly to these.

I tried to use the Stanford entity extraction tool to both extract locations and persons from a given text, but there was way too many false positives, thus I had the manually feed the algorithm the characters. To do it perfect I should had replaced a character metioned with  multiple names by a single same. Gandalf, Gandalf the Grey, Mithrandir is the same character etc. but I did not perform this substitution. So when I select the character Gandalf I only get the context where he is mentioned as Gandalf and not Mithrandir.

And now lets see some of the 2D visualizations!

Lord of the Rings

0) Frodo
1) Sam
2) Gandalf
3) Gollum
4) Elrond
5) Saroman
6) Legolas
7) Gimli
8) Bilbo
9) Galadriel



Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice +Emma

0)Elizabeth ( Elizabeth Bennet)
1)Wickham (George Wickham)
2)Darcy (Mr. Darcy)
3)Bourgh (Lady Catherine de Bourgh)
4)Lydia (Lydia Bennet)
5)William (Mr. William Collins)
6)Kitty (Catherine “Kitty” Bennet)
7)Emma (Emma Woodhouse)
8)Knightley (George Knightley)



35.000 English Gutenberg books

In this plot instead of characters I selected different animals

0) Fish
1) Cat
2) Dog
3) Cow
4) Bird
5) Crocodile
6) Donkey
7) Mule
8) Horse
9) Snake


Does the 2D plotting catch some of the essence of the words/characters from the books? Or does it look like they are just thrown in random on the plane?

I look forward to your your conclusion! For the Gutenberg animals plot I believe the visualization really does match how I see the animals. Fish, reptiles are grouped together and in the upper left corner we have the horses family of animals. For the Jane Austin it is also interesting that the character Emma match Elizabeth most though there are from two different books but somewhat identical main characters.

Information Technology and Libraries: Let's Get Virtual: An Examination of Best Practices to Provide Public Access to Digital Versions of Three-Dimensional Objects

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 03:51

Three-dimensional objects are important sources of information that should not be ignored in the increasing trend towards digitization. Previous research has not addressed the evaluation of digitized versions of three-dimensional objects. This paper first reviews research concerning such digitization, in both two and three dimensions, as well as public access in this context. Next, evaluation criteria for websites incorporating digital versions of three-dimensional objects are extrapolated from previous research. Finally, five websites are evaluated, and suggestions for best practices to provide public access to digital versions of three-dimensional objects are proposed.

Information Technology and Libraries: In the Name of the Name: RDF literals, ER attributes and the potential to rethink the structures and visualizations of catalogs

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 03:51

The aim of this study is to contribute to the field of machine-processable bibliographic data that is suitable for the Semantic Web. We examine the Entity Relationship (ER) model, which has been selected by IFLA as a “conceptual framework” in order to model the FR family (FRBR, FRAD and RDA), and the problems ER causes as we move towards the Semantic Web. Subsequently, while maintaining the semantics of the aforementioned standards but rejecting the ER as a conceptual framework for bibliographic data, this paper builds on the Resource Description Framework (RDF) potential and documents how both the RDF and Linked Data’s rationale can affect the way we model bibliographic data.

In this way, a new approach to bibliographic data emerges where the distinction between description and authorities is obsolete. Instead, the integration of the authorities with descriptive information becomes fundamental so that a network of correlations can be established between the entities and the names by which the entities are known. Naming is a vital issue for human cultures because names are not random sequences of characters or sounds which stand just as identifiers for the entities - they also have socio-cultural meanings and interpretations. Thus, instead of describing indivisible resources, we could describe entities that appear in a variety of names on various resources. In this study, a method is proposed to connect the names with the entities they represent and, in this way, to document the provenance of these names by connecting specific resources with specific names.

Information Technology and Libraries: Hitting the Road towards a Greater Digital Destination: Evaluating and Testing DAMS at the University of Houston Libraries

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 03:51

Since 2009, tens of thousands of rare and unique items have been made available online for research through the University of Houston Digital Library.  Six years later, the Libraries' new digital initiatives call for a more dynamic digital repository infrastructure that is extensible, scalable, and interoperable. The Libraries’ mission and the mandate of its strategic directions drives the pursuit of seamless access and expanded digital collections. To answer the calls for technological change, the Libraries Administration appointed a Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) Implementation Task Force to explore, evaluate, test, recommend, and implement a more robust digital asset management system. This article focuses on the task force’s DAMS selection activities: needs assessment, systems evaluation, and systems testing. The authors also describe the task force’s DAMS recommendation based on the evaluation and testing data analysis, a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each system, and system cost. Finally, the authors outline their DAMS implementation strategy comprised of a phased rollout with the following stages: system installation, data migration, and interface development.

William Denton: Tidy data in Org

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-07-01 03:02

Today at work I was doing some analysis of spending on electronic resources. I’d done it a few months ago on fiscal year 2015, in a hacky kind of way, but now that F2016 is complete I had two years ago data to work with. As usual I used Org and R, but this time I rejigged everything to use Hadley Wickham’s idea of tidy data and his tools for working with such data, and it made things not only simpler to work with in R but also to present with in Org.

Here’s a simplified example of what it looked like.lo First, I load in the R packages I’ll need for this brief example. In Org hitting Ctrl-c Ctrl-c runs these code blocks. This one is configured to have no output.

#+BEGIN_SRC R :session :results silent :exports none library(dplyr) library(tidyr) library(ggplot2) #+END_SRC

Next, a table of data: costs of things that librarians spend money on. (We can’t share our eresource spending data … perhaps some day.) This table is meant for people to read and it will appear in the exported PDF. The way it’s presented is good for humans, but not right for machines. I call it tab_costs because it’s a table of costs and I’m going to need to refer to the table later.

#+NAME: tab_costs | name | F2015 | F2016 | |-----------+-------+-------| | books | 200 | 300 | | cardigans | 90 | 60 | | cats | 400 | 410 | | champagne | 80 | 90 | | internet | 130 | 140 | | notebooks | 50 | 60 | | tea | 30 | 35 |

The way I have Emacs configured, that looks like this (with extra-prettified source blocks):

Emacs rocks.

The next bit of R reads that table into the variable costs_raw, which I then transform with tidyr’s gather function into something more machine-useable. The gather statement says take all the columns except “name” and turn the column names into “year” and the cell values into “cost”. So I can see it and make sure it’ll work, the output is given, but :exports none means that this table won’t be exported when the document is turned into a PDF. Only I can see this, in Emacs.

#+BEGIN_SRC R :session :results values :exports none :var costs_raw=tab_costs :colnames yes costs <- costs_raw %>% gather(year, cost, -name) #+END_SRC #+RESULTS: | name | year | cost | |-----------+-------+------| | books | F2015 | 200 | | cardigans | F2015 | 90 | | cats | F2015 | 400 | | champagne | F2015 | 80 | | internet | F2015 | 130 | | notebooks | F2015 | 50 | | tea | F2015 | 30 | | books | F2016 | 300 | | cardigans | F2016 | 60 | | cats | F2016 | 410 | | champagne | F2016 | 90 | | internet | F2016 | 140 | | notebooks | F2016 | 60 | | tea | F2016 | 35 |

That’s hard for humans to read, but it means making a chart comparing spending across the two years is easy.

#+BEGIN_SRC R :session :results graphics :exports results :file /tmp/tmp.png :width 600 :height 400 ggplot(costs, aes(x = year, y = cost)) + geom_bar(aes(fill = name), stat = "identity", position = "dodge") + labs(x = "", y = "$", title = "Librarian spending") #+END_SRC What librarians spend money on.

Or (see the geom_bar docs for more):

#+BEGIN_SRC R :session :results graphics :exports results :file /tmp/tmp-year.png :width 600 :height 400 ggplot(costs, aes(x = name, y = cost)) + geom_bar(aes(fill = year), stat = "identity", position = "dodge") + labs(x = "", y = "$", title = "Librarian spending") #+END_SRC Another way to show.

Another Emacs screenshot showing how Org mixes code, graphics and text (well, text if I’d written some, but I didn’t here):

Emacs rocks!

Access Conference: New Brunswick HST Increases 2% at Midnight

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-06-30 15:49

While Early Bird Sales don’t end until Wednesday July 13th, New Brunswick HST goes up tomorrow by 2%. A 2% percent savings means more lobster in your carry-on for the trip home.

Don’t miss out on this amazing deal. Full conference (and Early Bird) tickets include admission to hackfest, two and a half days of our amazing single-stream conference and a half-day workshop on the last day. Plus there will be some amazing food and entertainment and chance to meet-up with colleagues near and far.

Buy ticket

Library of Congress: The Signal: DPOE Program Harnesses the Spirit of Kentucky Librarians

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-06-30 12:05

This is a guest post by Barrie Howard.

(left to right) Anne Abate, Anne Ryckbost, Joseph Shankweiler, Suellyn Lathrop, Heather Fox, Amy Rudersdorf, Mary Molinaro, Brittany Netherton, George Coulbourne, Lynn Kahkola, Sam Meister, Rachel Howard, Dieter Ullrich, Lori Thompson, Sarah Hopley, Jamie Haddix, Jackie Couture, Denise Fritsch, AJ Boston.

The Library of Congress’s Digital Preservation Outreach and Education program delivered a train-the-trainer workshop on June 10, providing professional development in digital preservation to library professionals from Kentucky and West Virginia.

The workshop was held at Northern Kentucky University and sponsored by the State Assisted Academic Library Council of Kentucky, which recruited 14 workshop participants from six of its member institutions, two from the Federation of Kentucky Academic Libraries and one from West Virginia.

The event in Kentucky marks the eighth workshop since the program began in 2010, which has trained 173 working professionals to date. The first workshop was held at the Library of Congress and since then the workshops have traveled as far afield as Alaska and Australia. Two more workshops are planned for the fall: one in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and one in Jackson, Mississippi.

The aim of the DPOE workshops is to produce a corps of trainers equipped to teach others the basic principles and practices of preserving digital materials. In this way, DPOE’s “teach-a-person-to-fish” model extends the workshop beyond only those who can attend.

DPOE trainers go on to develop training events of their own and have held webinars and workshops in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and Southeast regions of the United States, events that will be replicated across Kentucky over the next year. After each workshop, the new trainers enter into a network of practitioners and continue to engage with each other – and the broader digital-preservation community – online.

DPOE supports this network by providing an email-distribution list that allows practitioners to share information about digital-preservation best practices, services and tools, as well as stories about their experiences in advancing digital preservation.

SAALCK executive director Anne Abate worked with the Library’s George Coulbourne, chief of Internship and Fellowship Programs Division, and the three anchor instructors for the workshop: Sam Meister (Educopia Institute), Mary Molinaro (Digital Preservation Network) and Amy Rudersdorf (AVPreserve). The instructors have provided subject-matter expertise to the program in the past, offering guidance to DPOE by reviewing and revising the baseline curriculum for the workshop.

The workshops are just one way that DPOE seeks to foster outreach and education about digital preservation on a national scale. DPOE maintains a training calendar as a public service to assist working professionals discover continuing education opportunities in the practice of digital preservation. The calendar is updated monthly and includes training events hosted by DPOE trainers.

Information Technology and Libraries: Editor's Comments: Odds and Ends

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-06-30 04:00
Editor's Comments: Odds and Ends

DuraSpace News: German DSpace User Group Meeting 2016

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-06-30 00:00

From Jan Weiland, Publication Services, EconStor

Hamburg, Germany  The ZBW (German National Library of Economics) gladly invites you to join the next German DSpace UserGroup meeting in Hamburg:

Date: Tuesday, 27th September 2016, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Venue: ZBW, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg, Germany, fifth floor, Room 519

Shelley Gullikson: UXLibs II: Conference Thoughts

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-29 19:05

My UXLibs II experience started with the opening reception. There was a bit of a lull at the bar as I checked out the drinks menu, so the bartender said he’d make me a nice garnish while I decided. He then proceeded to carve a couple of limes into a fish(!) and gave it rather smashing strawberry eyes. I was utterly delighted during the entire process and then had a drink that acted as a fun ice-breaker for the rest of the evening, helping me to connect with some lovely people for great conversations.

And that – great connections with lovely people – continued throughout the conference (though I didn’t have my little lime-fish friend after Wednesday).

UXLibs is an intense conference, demanding a level of focus and engagement that I just don’t feel other conferences. The hands-on workshops and the team challenge mean that we’re not just listening and thinking to ourselves, but we’re creating and thinking with other people. Connecting. Collaborating. It’s really rather marvelous.

The conference organizers have thought a lot about the UX of UXLibs. For instance: everyone’s name badge had a personalized program inside, and beside the listing for my own presentation was a little “Good luck!” A small touch but a delightful one, like my little lime-fish. On Friday, the organizers were clearly exhausted and devastated and chose to be vulnerable and open about how they were feeling. The honesty and hard work (and fun!) the team models made it easier for me to be honest and open and to work hard and have fun too.

This year, the referendum loomed, creating low-level anxiety on Thursday and general sadness on Friday. Friday was hard for a lot of people. As a Canadian I’m a bit detached, but absolutely felt the heartbreak around me. First thing in the morning, Andy underlined the importance of us all being kind to each other and it felt like that really happened. Not that people were unkind on Thursday, but Friday felt different somehow. Emotions were definitely heightened and the sense of community felt heightened too. Last year I said that UXLibs was the best conference I’d ever been to. UXLibs II feels like it might be the best community I’ve ever belonged to.

How UXLibs II will have an impact on my work

I took away a lot from the conference, but Andy Pristner’s workshop on cultural probes – while also making my inner 10 year old snicker – has me really keen to try this method for my project on delight in the research process. How can I not try such a delightful method to explore delight itself? I’ll have to finish analyzing the data I’ve already gathered first, but I’m very excited about future possibilities!

When Ned described the team challenge this year, I’ll admit that I wasn’t immediately won over. I was in the Marketing Up category, where we had to pitch to senior management. I feel like my superpower in my job is that I seem to fly below the radar of senior management. Or at least they’re happy enough with what I do that they let me keep doing it, but are not so interested that they want or need to know much about it. (The latter isn’t ideal, but if it leads directly to the former then I’m not complaining. Yet.) So I thought the pitch wouldn’t be all that relevant to me. But my team was wonderful. Everyone was generous in both offering ideas and (this can be less common) letting go of them. People were happy to step up and happy to step back. It reminded me a bit of my beloved Web Committee; we worked hard but it didn’t feel hard. And after creating our pitch, hearing the other teams’ pitches, and mulling over bits from Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps, I’m starting to realize that flying under the radar will not be a superpower for much longer. I will need to step up to not just do the work (and wow oh wow do I ever love doing this work) but I’ll need to start advocating for it to be a larger thing. I think I’m doing some good things in “stealth leadership” mode at the moment, but I need to think about when and how to go beyond, to amp up my swagger and diplomacy (à la Deirdre Costello).

Finally, I’m keen to embark on more collaborative projects. I have a sabbatical coming up in a couple of years, and I don’t think I’m constitutionally suited to squirreling myself away and working on my own. I feel like I could reach out to the UXLibs community (beyond my fellow Canadians) to find collaborators. Perhaps even on a larger-scale project like Donna was talking about in the final panel. It may not happen, but the possibility is exciting.

I’m already looking forward to UXLibs III, reconnecting with this lovely community and making new connections.

My personalized program/name badge plus winning key ring/bottle opener

Roy Tennant: The Big Flip

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-29 15:50

I just returned from ALA Annual 2016 in Orlando, Florida, and besides enjoying more temperate weather I’ve also been thinking about some of what I experienced there. One experience in particular stands out.

Every ALA in recent years my employer (OCLC) has sponsored a “Linked Data Roundtable” where practitioners discuss their cutting edge work with linked data. The Library of Congress is a fixture on this panel, as are we, but we also try to have another one or two others who are doing work with linked data also. This year we invited Marlene Van Ballegooie to talk about the Canadian Linked Data Initiative. We limit presentations to 10 minutes so we can have a lot of time for questions and discussion.

But forgive me, for I have buried the lead.

It was toward the end of the session when I found occasion to assert that there was an elephant in the room that no one was discussing. It is this: the day will come when we will need to completely change our (mostly backend) systems and processes from being MARC-record-based to linked-data-entity-based. For the lack of a better term, I dubbed it “The Big Flip”.

“No one” is an exaggeration. Certainly we are thinking about this at OCLC, and the UC Davis BIBFLOW project is specifically chartered with the goal of figuring this out. Unfortunately, I fear that they may be too far ahead of their time. I’m not sure the profession as a whole is ready. Mostly we aren’t thinking about it, we aren’t discussing it, and we certainly aren’t planning for it.

I’m not privy to internal discussions at other integrated library systems vendors, and perhaps they are planning — and perhaps even working on — updating their systems. But I doubt it. Partly because there is too little to work with that has any kind of stability. BIBFRAME is still very much in development, with the latest version only just released. Even LC is not prepared to produce BF 2.0 records until probably sometime in the Fall.

One of the reasons why this worries me is that people are still thinking about our foundational data in terms of records instead of collections of linked data assertions. And with that old thinking comes old assumptions that must be questioned and replaced with new realizations and opportunities. But without seeing the elephant we can continue to remain ignorant and complacent.

Meanwhile time marches on and The Big Flip only gets closer. It might be nice if we could at least start talking about it as if it will happen one day. Because it will. It would be nice if we were ready for it, and poised to exploit the opportunities it will bring.


Image by Rachelle Meyer, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY-2.0) License.

Karen Coyle: Catalog and Context Part III

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-29 15:03
Part I
Part II

In the previous two parts, I explained that much of the knowledge context that could and should be provided by the library catalog has been lost as we moved from cards to databases as the technologies for the catalog. In this part, I want to talk about the effect of keyword searching on catalog context.
KWIC and KWOCIf you weren't at least a teenager in the 1960's you probably missed the era of KWIC and KWOC (neither a children's TV show nor a folk music duo). These meant, respectively, KeyWords In Context, and KeyWords Out of Context. These were concordance-like indexes to texts, but the first done using computers. A KWOC index would be simply a list of words and pointers (such as page numbers, since hyperlinks didn't exist yet). A KWIC index showed the keywords with a few words on either side, or rotated a phrase such that each term appeared once at the beginning of the string, and then were ordered alphabetically.

If you have the phrase "KWIC is an acronym for Key Word in Context", then your KWIC index display could look like:

KWIC is an acronym for Key Word In Context
Key Word In Context
acronym for Key Word In Context
KWIC is an acronym for
acronym for Key Word In Context

To us today these are unattractive and not very useful, but to the first users of computers these were an exciting introduction to the possibility that one could search by any word in a text.

It wasn't until the 1980's, however, that keyword searching could be applied to library catalogs.
Before Keywords, Headings
Before keyword searching, when users were navigating a linear, alphabetical index, they were faced with the very difficult task of deciding where to begin their entry into the catalog. Imagine someone looking for information on Lake Erie. That seems simple enough, but entering the catalog at L-A-K-E E-R-I-E would not actually yield all of the entries that might be relevant. Here are some headings with LAKE ERIE:

Boats and boating--Erie, Lake--Maps. 
Books and reading--Lake Erie region.
Lake Erie, Battle of, 1813.
Erie, Lake--Navigation

Note that the lake is entered under Erie, the battle under Lake, and some instances are fairly far down in the heading string. All of these headings follow rules that ensure a kind of consistency, but because users do not know those rules, the consistency here may not be visible. In any case, the difficulty for users was knowing with what terms to begin the search, which was done on left-anchored headings.

One might assume that finding names of people would be simple, but that is not the case either. Names can be quite complex with multiple parts that are treated differently based on a number of factors having to do with usage in different cultures:

De la Cruz, Melissa
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de
Because it was hard to know where to begin a search, see and see also references existed to guide the user from one form of a name or phrase to another. However, it would inflate a catalog beyond utility to include every possible entry point that a person might choose, not to mention that this would make the cataloger's job onerous. Other than the help of a good reference librarian, searching in the card catalog was a kind of hit or miss affair.

When we brought up the University of California online catalog in 1982, you can image how happy users were to learn that they could type in LAKE ERIE and retrieve every record with those terms in it regardless of the order of the terms or where in the heading they appeared. Searching was, or seemed, much simpler. Because it feels simpler, we all have tended to ignore some of the down side of keyword searching. First, words are just strings, and in a search strings have to match (with some possible adjustment like combining singular and plural terms). So a search on "FRANCE" for all information about France would fail to retrieve other versions of that word unless the catalog did some expansion:

Cooking, French
Alps, French (France)
French American literature

The next problem is that retrieval with keywords, and especially the "keyword anywhere" search which is the most popular today, entirely misses any context that the library catalog could provide. A simple keyword search on the word "darwin" brings up a wide array of subjects, authors, and titles.

Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 – Influence
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 — Juvenile Literature
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 — Comic Books, Strips, Etc
Darwin Family
Java (Computer program language)
Rivers--Great Britain
Mystery Fiction
DNA Viruses — Fiction
Women Molecular Biologists — Fiction

Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882
Darwin, Emma Wedgwood, 1808-1896
Darwin, Ian F.
Darwin, Andrew
Teilhet, Darwin L.
Bear, Greg
Byrne, Eugene

Darwin; A Graphic Biography : the Really Exciting and Dramatic  Story of A Man Who Mostly Stayed at Home and Wrote Some Books
Darwin; Business Evolving in the Information Age
Emma Darwin, A Century of Family Letters, 1792-1896
Java Cookbook
Canals and Rivers of Britain
The Crimson Hair Murders
Darwin's Radio

It wouldn't be reasonable for us to expect a user to make sense of this, because quite honestly it does not make sense.

 In the first version of the UC catalog, we required users to select a search heading type, such as AU, TI, SU. That may have lessened the "false drops" from keyword searches, but it did not eliminate them. In this example, using a title or subject search the user still would have retrieved items with the subjects DNA Viruses — Fiction, and Women Molecular Biologists — Fiction, and an author search would have brought up both Java Cookbook and Canals and Rivers of Britain. One could see an opportunity for serendipity here, but it's not clear that it would balance out the confusion and frustration. 

You may be right now thinking "But Google uses keyword searching and the results are good." Note that Google now relies heavily on Wikipedia and other online reference books to provide relevant results. Wikipedia is a knowledge organization system, organized by people, and it often has a default answer for search that is more likely to match the user's assumptions. A search on the single word "darwin" brings up:

In fact, Google has always relied on humans to organize the web by following the hyperlinks that they create. Although the initial mechanism of the search is a keyword search, Google's forte is in massaging the raw keyword result to bring potentially relevant pages to the top. 
Keywords, ConcludedThe move from headings to databases to un-typed keyword searching has all but eliminated the visibility and utility of headings in the catalog. The single search box has become the norm for library catalogs and many users have never experienced the catalog as an organized system of headings. Default displays are short and show only a few essential fields, mainly author, title and date. This means that there may even be users who are unaware that there is a system of headings in the catalog.
Recent work in cataloging, from ISBD to FRBR to RDA and BIBFRAME focus on modifications to the bibliographic record, but do nothing to model the catalog as a whole. With these efforts, the organized knowledge system that was the catalog is slipping further into the background. And yet, we have no concerted effort taking place to remedy this. 
What is most astonishing to me, though, is that catalogers continue to create headings, painstakingly, sincerely, in spite of the fact that they are not used as intended in library systems, and have not been used in that way since the first library systems were developed over 30 years ago. The headings are fodder for the keyword search, but no more so than a simple set of tags would be. The headings never perform the organizing function for which they were intended. 
Part IV will look at some attempts to create knowledge context from current catalog data, and will present some questions that need to be answered if we are to address the quality of the catalog as a knowledge system.

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Inclusivity, Gestalt Principles, and Plain Language in Document Design

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-29 13:28

In Brief: Good design makes documents easier to use, helps documents stand out from other pieces of information, and lends credibility to document creators. Librarians across library types and departments provide instruction and training materials to co-workers and library users. For these materials to be readable and accessible, they must follow guidelines for usable document design.

Improving document usability requires a basic understanding of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning, plus a few simple tips found in Gestalt and plain language principles. Using Gestalt principles helps connect concepts within the document in a coherent way. Plain language principles emphasize clarity in writing. This includes evaluating linguistic complexity and readers’ comprehension of the text. Keeping the needs of people with visual, motor, and cognitive impairments in mind when creating a document can also improve readability for all users.

The authors will demonstrate how adhering to these principles will improve accessibility and functionality of library documentation for everyone who uses them. They will also direct readers to resources to help librarians create usable documentation for library processes and procedures.


Documents, in the sense we use them here, include external resources such as teaching handouts and library websites as well as internal documents like training guides and policies. As a profession, we should be mindful of the impact of intentionally incorporating usability and accessibility in our practices. Librarians can adopt a document design approach that proactively considers accessibility needs when creating documentation, rather than performing retroactive modifications upon request by a user. (Kumbier and Starkey, 2016; Guest Pryal, 2016) After reading this article, librarians will have tools to make sustainable improvements to their document design processes.

Document Accessibility

Accessibility is not accommodation. Accessibility is the deliberate provision of access through a thoughtful awareness of the multiple ways in which our users might need to interact with our resources. Accommodation puts the burden on our users. Accommodation requires people to request mediation from “a gatekeeper, to ask for something extra, and often to prove that she deserves accommodation in the first place” (Guest Pryal, 2016). When we design resources without considering different abilities or resources that are inaccessible to whole segments of our population, we exclude some of our users from full participation in library services (Williams, 2012; Copeland, 2011).

The Report of the Association of Research Libraries Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities states that “Research libraries have a responsibility to make library collections and services universally accessible to patrons” (ARL 2012, p. 4). As defined in this report, print disabilities are inclusive of visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning impairments that hinder people’s ability to process textual information. Text-based library services include discovery tools, subject guides, electronic resources and documentation about how to use these services. If we as a profession do not design our resources to be inclusive of as many people as possible, we may be creating barriers to learning instead of offering pathways.

It’s not just patrons who need to use library documentation. Library employees also need to be considered. While specific accommodations are negotiated with local human resources offices in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this again puts the burden on the person with disabilities to self-disclose and to go through the bureaucratic accommodations process. Imagine how much easier things would be on everyone if we designed documents with inclusivity in mind.


The ADA states that “[p]ublic entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens” nor make modifications that “fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.” (DOJ, 2009) However, we advocate approaching our work as though these exceptions do not exist. Making utilitarian or rule-based ethical evaluations of accessibility are unnecessarily limiting. While a number of library patrons’ and employees’ disabilities are visible, any number of our users might experience hidden or undiagnosed disabilities. Also, due to stereotypes of people with disabilities, individuals may be hesitant to declare an accessibility need. (Brune and Wilson, 2013)

As we cannot assume to know everyone’s specific situation, we should aim beyond meeting the letter of the law. We should proactively create tools and resources to benefit the widest community of users possible. This includes both internal and external documentation.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a curriculum development method that strives to proactively provide inclusive opportunities for the widest range of learners possible through multiple avenues of representation, expression, and engagement.

Practitioners of UDL are advised to ask two questions about design choices as they create instructional materials:

  1. How does the design choice help learners meet the goals of the learning situation?
  2. How does the design account for learner variability? (CAST, 2014).

UDL co-exists with accessibility. Neither practice requires us to develop more content. Instead, they ask us to be intentional about the content we produce and seek to identify the multiple ways content users might approach the materials.

Throughout this article, we will make a case for asking these questions during the document design process to ensure design choices are purposeful and accessible. As Edyburn states, “[t]o meet the needs of some, UDL is committed to giving the tools to everyone” (2010, 39).

Gestalt theory and documentation

In this section, we will present design recommendations that come out of Gestalt theory. These principles help us understand how people make sense of visual information, which can guide our display decisions. In keeping with the principles of accessibility and UDL, visual displays of information should make a document easier to understand. Follow UDL’s overarching theme of providing options to learners (CAST, 2014) by providing alternative ways to accesses information. Make these alternatives available to all potential users, not just those who request accommodations.

Principles of Gestalt and Relation to Design

Gestalt theory was developed in the early twentieth century by German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka. As opposed to the structuralist concept of breaking wholes into component parts, a Gestalt is a complete structure whose parts must be understood in relation to each other. A basic understanding of each Gestalt component in relation to document design will aid document creators in identifying and developing effective documentation. We will also reference related W3C guidelines, as they are becoming the emerging legal standard for disability access in web design.

Figure 1. Visual Gestalt

This work, “Visual Gestalt,” is a derivative of “7 Laws of Gestalt” by Valessio used under CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. “Visual Gestalt” is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Jennifer Turner.

Figure-Ground Segregation

Figure-Ground Segregation advises that type and essential design elements be distinctly separated from the background image or coloring. This aspect of Gestalt theory is supported by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines principle 1.4, which instructs designers in how to make content distinguishable (W3C 2008). In the “Visual Gestalt” image, we can read the word “Gestalt” with relative ease. In part, this is because it is black text on white background. Use contrast to ensure readers can clearly identify and read the information.

In figure 2, the text in the first box is difficult to read, because it is dark text on a dark background. The second box is slightly better, because a light gradient has been applied to the background. However, it still lacks the contrast that would make it easier to read. The third box demonstrates improved figure-ground segregation. The black text is clearly segregated from the white background. Note that while most people are aided by strong black-white contrast, some people with dyslexia prefer lower color contrast such as black-crème (Rello and Baeza-Yates, 2012).

Figure 2. Figure Ground Segregation


Closure identifies our need to fill in gaps to create complete concepts and images. In the design world, closure advises us to clearly identify and separate different parts of a text. WCAG guideline 1.3.2, which describes creating meaningful sequences, is related to this concept (W3C 2008). We can tell the first letter in figure 1 is a “G,” because our minds fill in the gaps created by the white line through the letter. Unclear closure can make reading documents complicated. In documents lacking closure, images or insets may blend into the surrounding text. This is especially true if these insets are text-heavy.

In figure 3, the table may be difficult for some users to differentiate from the surrounding text. Adding a standard table template from Microsoft Word allows readers to more easily see this information as an inset. The use of shading and lines between table rows also aids readers in following lines of information across gaps. Readers can more easily identify that 337 people asked about the bathroom, while 328 people asked for office supplies.

Figure 3. Closure


Proximity provides information about how to group content. In figure 1, we know the little boxes form the letter “E” because they are close to each other. When information is clearly grouped, we can easily identify conceptual relationships between document parts.

In figure 4, it is difficult to attach the labels for the reference and check out desks to the appropriate map feature. Placing the text in closer proximity to the associated object makes it more clear that the check out desk is the circular structure and the reference desk is the curved structure to its right.

Figure 4. Proximity


Continuity occurs because our brains continue shapes and forms past their actual stopping points. Although not a perfect example of continuity, the “S” in figure 1 is recognizable because we naturally assume the curves of this letter continue behind the rod running through it. Continuity is especially important when designing informative tables. We need to continue lines of information and make sure information at the bottom of a table is clearly associated with information at the top of the table, especially when page breaks are involved.

In figure 5, continuity is interrupted in the first table through the use of lines between information for different semesters. Removing these lines, as demonstrated in the second table, makes it more clear that the information in the last rows of the table still refers to weekly circulation totals. If this example were longer and divided between pages, it would also be important to repeat the column headers and, possibly, the table title across the top of the table on each page to encourage understanding through continuity.

Figure 5. Continuity


The principle of similarity reminds us our minds group things that resemble each other. Although separated by two letters, the letters “T” in figure 1 are similar in shape and texture. As a result, our minds cannot help but see them as related. This element of Gestalt reminds us to use font changes deliberately.

In figure 6, the first box demonstrates how fonts and colors encourage us to seek connections that may not really exist or neglect to connect related information. For example, our minds want to see a relationship between the words “click” and “chat, email, or phone.” However, these pieces of information are unrelated. Conversely, “Class and Subject Guides” and “Ask a Librarian” are both links on a page, but this is not clear, because different fonts and colors are used for each link. The second box removes the confusing relationship, while clarifying the desired relationship between the links.

Figure 6. Similarity

Past Experience

Past experience saves us time by allowing us to interpret designs based on preexisting knowledge. The “AL” in the “Visual Gestalt” image might be difficult for newer readers of Latin script. However, past experiences allow experienced readers to interpret the connected angular images as an “A” and an “L.” On the other hand, experienced readers of English who have dyslexia may still struggle with this particular example because of the unfamiliar font style in the image. (Rello and Baeza-Yates, 2013)

Past experience can also help users navigate cultural aspects of document design. For example, documentation about finding books may tell library users to write down an item’s call number. However, users may have difficulty identifying a call number in the catalog, if this information is not clearly labeled. For new academic library users in the United States searching for Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, E185.615 .C6335 2015 might not look like a call number for the book. Instead, past experiences in public or school libraries might tell them to look for something like 305.8009 Coates to find this item on the shelf. UDL advises us to “provide options for comprehension” by “activating or supplying background knowledge” (CAST, 2014). When possible, refer to prior knowledge, but also enable those without this knowledge to gain it.


Although not always included in articles discussing Gestalt theory, symmetry or equilibrium allow readers to clearly identify starting and ending points for a document.

Figure 1 was created for an English-speaking audience. While experience tells us to begin reading from the left, visual clues of symmetry tell us the entire image is contained in the outline. We know that this image is not a direct part of the surrounding text. Symmetry and equilibrium also allow readers to feel at ease while consuming a document. When symmetry and equilibrium are used in keeping with UDL’s advice to enable users to monitor their progress (CAST, 2014), readers do not need to struggle to figure out if there is more information hidden somewhere or if they started reading the document in the correct place.

In figure 7, poor symmetry is demonstrated through the use of a page number without surrounding contextual information. Think of an online survey without a progress bar. The second image demonstrates improved symmetry by placing the page number in context. Instead of simply knowing they are on page seven, they now know they are about halfway through the document.

Figure 7. Symmetry/Equilibrium

For additional information about and examples of each of these Gestalt elements as applied to design, see Moore and Fitz (1993).

Appropriate image and design use

Even a well-designed image must be used carefully. It can be tempting to include images throughout your documentation. Technology allows us to create images, change fonts, add color, or otherwise modify our work quite easily. However, we need to clearly identify the purpose of any image or design choice. If the image adds meaning the text alone cannot convey, include it. If it does not add meaning to the surrounding content, carefully consider it. Question whether it distracts users from important content or if it might be confusing to readers.

In addition to making sure images and designs are purposeful, it is essential to make sure users with visual impairments can understand the concepts without visually seeing the image or design. Use alt-tags to describe visual images. It is important to make sure these tags are adequately descriptive. Ensure document text is comprehensible when read in plain text format. Keep in mind that screen readers and other reading aids may not navigate a website or document in the same way a sighted individual navigates the content.

This isn’t to say you should stay away from images or special formatting for fear of excluding a segment of the document’s users. While people with visual impairments may find images to be less useful than text, people with cognitive impairments like dyslexia may be helped by supporting images, diagrams, and visual representations that clarify written material (Currier, 2015). As with all design choices, be mindful of the varied ways users will consume a document and look to create a flexible, usable document for these variations.

Plain language and documentation

This section will present recommendations about language use. These principles help us understand how people make sense of textual information, which can guide our writing decisions. The primary principle of plain language is to use language that is clear to readers.


“Logic (in the popular, rather than the logician’s sense of the word) which is the basis of rhetoric, is evolved out of a culture; it is not universal.” (Kaplan, 1966, p. 2) English speakers expect information to be presented in a linear way, with topic statements and topic subdivisions representing either inductive or deductive logical ordering. Many of the following guidelines are based on Western rhetorical preferences, adapted to library contexts from information provided on and in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s [PDF] A Plain English Handbook.


In keeping with the Gestalt principle of past experience and UDL’s guidance to supply background knowledge, present context before going into details. If you need to use library jargon or an acronym, explain what it means each time it’s used. This is especially important for external documentation and documentation intended for new employees. However, don’t assume that all members of your staff are capable of the cognitive load required to have all library jargon utterly memorized at all times.

For example, when drafting instructions for using the tagging feature in LibGuides, provide information about what these tags do and when they should be added to a library guide. Although this information is not essential to performing the desired task, it will help new or less familiar guide creators in processing and applying the information.


Use descriptive headers and sub-headers. This is consistent with WCAG guideline 2.4, which describes how to make content navigable. Use questions instead of noun phrases. Be consistent with heading levels. These actions lower a reader’s cognitive load and enable them to more easily navigate a document. Additionally, using official headers will assist screen reader users in navigating the document, by allowing them to skip from header to header, rather than reading through an entire document to find relevant sections.


Use short sentences and active voice. Use subject-verb-object order. Avoid embedded clauses and parenthetical statements. Use positive phrasing instead of using “not.” If you can use both visual and textual cues, do so. Generally speaking, don’t post images of text. If you must do so, remember to use alternative text on the images so they are readable by a screen reader.


  1. Library cards can be used to check out books. (passive)
  2. You can use a library card to check out books. (active)


  1. Children must be accompanied by adults. (object-verb-subject, also passive)
  2. Adults must accompany children. (subject-verb-object, also active)


  1. These are the resources you cannot use. (negative)
  2. These are the resources you can use. (positive)


  1. If you find a damp or wet book in the Library collection, and it’s during regular business hours, please bring it to the Preservation Department immediately; if it is on the weekend or in the evening, place the book in the freezer, and contact the Preservation Department. (complex sentence with embedded clause)
  2. If you find a damp or wet book in the Library collection, contact the Preservation Department. If no one is available to help, leave a message. Then, place the book in the freezer. (shorter sentences with no embedded clauses)

Use everyday words. Documentation does not need to be written in highly academic, obfuscatory language. Documentation needs to be written using words that are understood by your audience. If your audience is multilingual, try to find the resources to offer documentation in multiple languages. However, don’t just copy and paste text into Google Translate and call it good. Even if you use your clearly written English version as the basis of a non-English draft, you need to hire an expert speaker to edit and proofread it for you (Wallwork, 2014).

Using a succinct, clear, and active voice directly supports UDL’s guidance to use clear vocabularies and structures (CAST, 2014). This practice also supports access for multilingual learners, who may have more limited vocabularies in their non-native tongues.


You may want to choose a different font type for headings versus the body of a document to help your reader quickly understand the content organization. In keeping with the Gestalt principle of similarity, be consistent in your font choice within those categories. To make documents more readable for people with dyslexia, researchers recommend using common fonts that people are used to seeing. Rello and Baeza-Yates (2013) studied the readability of different fonts for people with dyslexia. They found that sans serif, monospaced, and roman font styles were much more readable than serif, proportional, and italic font styles. They recommend using Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana, or Computer Modern Unicode.


When making spacing decisions, keep in mind the Gestalt theories of closure, proximity, past experience, and symmetry/equilibrium. For Western audiences, left-justified text is easier to read than centered or fully-justified text because the spacing is more consistent. Inconsistent spacing is often unnecessary information that adds to the cognitive load. Additionally, spacing should be used to clearly group pieces of information together. Although white space adds length to a document, don’t be afraid of using it to help clarify concepts and simplify the reader’s journey through the material.

Assuring usable, accessible documentation

“Great text + weak design and weak text + great design will both have the same effect: a document that doesn’t achieve its goals” (Bush and Zuidema, 2011, p. 87).

One of the primary recommendations from Copeland’s study of the needs of library users with disabilities is a reminder that ADA compliance “does not always ensure usability” (2011, p. 236). Actively seek the voices and input of your community, including those with disabilities.

Usability testing

Usability testing does not need to be an arduous process. If you’ve followed accessibility recommendations, you are already well on your way to creating a usable document. Even informal usability tests can help maximize a document’s effectiveness.

Depending on your needs, there are a variety of user tests you can conduct. Make sure your study group has diverse members of your user population, including people with disabilities. Try to build time into your design process to do multiple iterations, so you can modify your documentation and test it again.

If your testing is based on prior knowledge, you could conduct interviews, focus groups, card sorts, participatory envisioning, story boarding, or surveys with users to ask what parts of existing documentation they found easy or hard to understand.

If your testing is not based on prior knowledge, you could have users try to use your documentation. Ask them whether they were able to successfully complete their task. Ask them if they have ideas about how to make the documentation better. Conduct paraphrase testing, where you ask users to explain what the documentation said in their own words. This is helpful for finding comprehension problems.

Before, during, and after usability testing, there are several additional actions we can take to ensure usable, accessible documentation. Usability testing should assist document creators in working through each of these factors and help clarify which document choices are most appropriate for a given document situation. For more inclusive usability testing ideas, see Langdon et al., 2014.


In addition to testing, careful editing helps streamline documentation to the essential pieces, making the document more usable. When editing for content, ask questions like:

  • What is missing?
  • What is unneeded?
  • Does this make sense to me? Will it make sense to other people?
  • Can people navigate the document easily to find relevant documentation and use it to accomplish specific goals?
  • Is jargon explained?

It’s not always easy to edit your own work. Usability testing or an outside editor is great for this. Text-to-speech functions can help identify confusing pieces of information or awkward phrases. This software is standard on many modern computers.

Checking Accessibility

Just as technology assists people with diverse needs, it can also help identify accessibility issues in your documentation. Some tools are freely available online or come standard in frequently used software.

Microsoft Word Accessibility Checker

Many recent versions of Microsoft Office include an accessibility checker. Document creators can use this tool to identify potential issues that may make it difficult or impossible for some people to consume a document, along with tips for fixing the issues.

Unfortunately, accessibility checkers are not universally available in all word processing platforms. This functionality is not yet available on Microsoft Office for Mac. However, there is some movement among software developers to enable software users to create accessible documentation. While not a default feature of LibreOffice, it offers an extension allowing users of this software to check their documents for accessibility. Google Docs also lacks an accessibility checker, but offers a checklist writers can use to develop more usable documents.

Online Color Blindness Simulators

Color blindness can be difficult to describe and understand. Thankfully, online color blindness simulators exist to assist in making documents accessible to these users. Some allow you to upload your own images to check for accessibility for different types of color blindness. Others run entire websites through simulators to give an idea of how color choices may impact users’ interaction with content.

Figure 9. Color Blindness Simulation

Image simulation source: Coblis—Color Blindness Simulator

Other Resources

In addition to using freely available accessibility checkers and simulators, software may be available through an associated office in your school, university or corporate campus. If none of these options is sufficient, libraries should consider purchasing access to accessibility tools such as JAWS Screen Reader or OpenBook. These tools will help you learn how your patrons interact with your documentation. Patrons will also benefit from access to both the tools and library staff with knowledge of tool functionality. If a library cannot afford a large investment in accessibility aids, some may be accessed on a trial basis or at a lower cost for a temporary period. This may be of use when updating, testing, or creating large quantities of materials.

Beyond using tools to help ensure accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide information about making web content more accessible to people with visual impairments, hearing disabilities, cognitive and mobility limitations, and photosensitivity. These guidelines cover topics including contrast ratios for readability of text and providing text alternatives for image and audio content so it can be changed into usable formats (W3C, 2008). For assistance creating accessible documentation beyond the web, many colleges, universities, and other educational organizations often provide guidance for meeting the needs of diverse learners in the classroom. This includes how to create accessible handouts and other materials.

Turner’s Five Laws of Document Design

Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science have provided a foundation for library work since their original publication in 1931. These simple guidelines allow librarians to assess library practices and make decisions.

We propose a second set of five laws, Turner’s Five Laws of Document Design, to help guide librarians in developing usable and accessible documentation.

  1. Design is for use. Consider your users. What will make the document more useable for them? Fonts, screenshots, and colors should be considered with the intended user or users in mind.
  2. Every document its design. What format is best for the task at hand? Task-oriented activities might be well-suited for a list format, while complicated concepts might require lengthier explanations. Additionally, consider multimodal documentation. Videos may help document users understand the text and vice versa.
  3. Every design its purpose. Just because a design or format choice is possible, doesn’t mean it is the correct choice for a given document. A fancy font or video should be employed to achieve specific means. Return to the first law of document design and consider the needs of potential users over your own needs. Colored paper may make it easier for you to organize handouts, but document users with vision impairments may benefit from high contrast black-on-white printing.
  4. Save the time of the user. What are the document’s end users looking for in the material? How will they use it? Do they want or need to consume the entire document or would it be better to divide the content into smaller pieces for point-of-need reference?
  5. Documents are changeable organisms. Documents should be continuously updated to reflect feedback from users, changes in conditions, and new information about document design best practices.

The final law, “documents are changeable organisms” reminds us not to wed ourselves to any of our document design choices. Instead, we should be willing to modify our documents to meet newly identified needs.

Principles in Action

We have used these principles to revise a printed document we distribute to newcomers to the university. The resulting document relies heavily on the Gestalt Principles of proximity, continuity, and closure, while also taking into account plain language and native speaker translations for the Spanish version. We also did usability testing to streamline content, so we could make the document a single-sheet multilingual handout.

Linked are examples of Library Quick Sheets


In this article, we discussed the social value of accessible document design. We presented theories and principles to help librarians make visual and textual decisions. We also discussed specific populations that are particularly affected by some of those visual and textual decisions.

Document design is not necessarily an arduous and mysterious process. Using Turner’s Five Laws of Document Design will allow us to be intentional with our design decisions. By thinking about how users will interact with our documentation, we create a more welcoming library environment. It might take more time upfront to design usable, accessible materials, but by being proactive, we can save ourselves time spent retrofitting materials to meet accessibility demands while also meeting the needs of individuals with unstated needs.


Many thanks to the peer reviewers for this article, Bethany Messersmith, Brett Currier, and Dorothea Salo, and publishing editor Ellie Collier for their work to polish and improve our ramblings. Thanks also to the attendees at our October 2015 presentation on this topic who provided us the encouragement necessary to form our thoughts into a written document.

Works Cited

Association of Research Libraries. (2012). Report of the ARL Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities. Retrieved from:

Brune, J. A., & Wilson, D. J. (2013). Disability and passing: Blurring the lines of identity. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Bush, J. & Zuidema, L. A. (2011). Professional writing in the English classroom: Beyond language: The grammar of document design. The English Journal 100(4), 86-89.

CAST National Center on Universal Design for Learning (2014). UDL Guidelines—Version 2.0: Examples and Guidelines. Retrieved from

Copeland, C. A. (2011). Library and information center accessibility: The differently-able patron’s perspective. Technical Services Quarterly, 28(2), 223–241.

Currier, B. (2015). Comparing Dyslexia and Visual Impairments under W3C’s WCAG: A Legal Standard for Web Design? Retrieved from:

Edyburn, D. L. (2010, Winter). Would you recognize universal design for learning if you saw it? Ten propositions for new directions for the second decade of UDL. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(1), 33-41.

Guest Pryal, K. R. (2016, April 12). Can you tell the difference between accommodation and accessibility? [Web log post]. Retrieved from:

Kaplan, R. (1966). Cultural thought patterns in intercultural education. Language Learning 16(1), 1-20.

Kumbier, A., & Starkey, J. (2016). Access Is Not Problem Solving: Disability Justice and Libraries. Library Trends, 64(3), 468-491.

Langdon, P., Lázár, J., Heylighen, A., & Dong, H. (2014). Inclusive designing: Joining usability, accessibility, and inclusion. New York : Springer.

Moore, P., & Fitz, C. (1993). Using gestalt theory to teach document design and graphics. Technical Communication Quarterly, 2(4), 389.

Plain Language and Information Network (PLAIN). : Improving Communication from the Federal Government to the Public. Retrieved from:

Ranganathan, S. R. (1931). The Five Laws of Library Science. Madras: Madras Library Association.$b99721

Rello, L. and Baeza-Yates, R. (2012 November 19). Optimal colors to improve readability for people with dyslexia. Text Customization for Readability Online Symposium. Retrieved from:

Rello, L. and Baeza-Yates, R. (2013). Good fonts for dyslexia. ASSETS 2013. Retrieved from:

US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. (2009). A guide to disability rights law. Retrieved from:

US Department of Securities and Exchange Commission. (1998). A Plain English handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents. Retrieved from:

W3C. (2008). Web content accessibility guidelines 2.0. Retrieved from:

Wallwork, A. (2014). User guides, manuals, and technical writing: A guide to professional English. New York: Springer.

Williams, G. H. (2012). Disability, universal design, and the digital humanities. In, ed. M. K. Gold, Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 202-212.

M. Ryan Hess: The State of the Library Website

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-06-28 22:20

T’was a time when the Library Website was an abomination. Those dark days have lightened significantly. But new clouds have appeared on the horizon.

Darkest Before the Dawn

In the dark ages of Library Websites, users suffered under UX regimes that were rigid, unhelpful and confusing. This was before responsive design became a standard in the library world. It was before search engine optimization started to creep into Library meetings. It was before user experience became an actual librarian job title.

We’ve come a long way since I wrote The Ugly Truth About Library Websites. Most libraries have evolved beyond the old “website as pamphlet” paradigm to one that is dynamic and focused on user tasks.

Public libraries have deployed platforms like BiblioCommons to serve responsive, task-oriented interfaces that integrate their catalogs, programming and website into a single social platform. Books, digital resources, programs and even loanable equipment are all accessible via a single search. What’s more, the critical social networking aspects of library life are also embedded along the user’s path. Celebrated examples of this integrated solution include the San Francisco Public Library and Chicago Public Library. Queens is also hard at work to develop a custom solution.

In the academic realm, libraries have turned to unified discovery layers like WorldCat Discovery and EBSCO Discovery Service to simplify (Googlize) the research process. These systems put a single-search box front and center that access resources on the shelf, but also all those electronic resources that make up the bulk of academic budgets.

And while there are still many laggards, few libraries ignore these problems outright.

The Storm Ahead

While the general state of online library interfaces has improved, the unforgiving, hyperbolic curve of change continues to press forward. And libraries cannot stay put. Indeed, we need to quicken our pace and prepare our organizations for ongoing recalibration as the tempo of change increases.

The biggest problem for library websites, is that there is little future for the library website. That’s because people will get less and less information through web browsers. Indeed, consider how often you use a web browser on your phone versus an app. Developments in AI, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will compound that trend.

If you’re like Chris Milk, videographer and VR evangelist, you see the writing on the wall. The modes of how we experience information are about to undergo a fundamental revolution. Milk likens the current state of VR to the old black and white silent films at the dawn of motion pictures.

I’d extend this line of thinking to the web page. Within a decade or two, I expect people will look back on web pages as a brief, transitory medium bridging print information to linked data. And as our AI, VR and AR technologies take off, they will liberate information from the old print paradigms altogether.

In short, people will interact with information in more direct ways. They will ask a computer to provide them the answer. They will virtually travel to a “space” where they can experience the information they seek.

Get Ready to Re-invent the Library…again

So where does the library fit into this virtualized and automated future?

One possibility is that the good work to transform library data into linked data will enable us to survive this revolution. In fact, it may be our best hope.

Another hope is that we continue to emphasize the library as a social space for people to come together around ideas. Whether its a virtual library space or a physical one, the library can be the place in both local and global communities where people meet their universal thirst for connecting with others. The modes of those ideas (books, ebooks, videos, games) will matter far less than the act of connecting.

In a sense, you could define the future online library as something between an MMORPG, and the TED conference.

So, the library website is vastly improved, but we won’t have long to rest on our laurels.

Ready Player One? Put on your VR goggles. Call up Siri. Start rethinking everything you know about the Library website.



DPLA: Job Opportunity: Developer (Data and Usage Analytics)

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-06-28 15:00

The DPLA has an opening for the position of Developer (Data and Usage Analytics).

The Digital Public Library of America seeks a full-time Developer to support large-scale processing and analysis of descriptions of and usage data about open access materials from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. This position will be directly involved in improving DPLA’s ingestion and extract, transform, and load processes, in addition to helping develop processes and platforms to identify usage patterns of content aggregated by DPLA across user-facing platforms, social media, and APIs.

We are seeking a curious and enthusiastic individual who recognizes both their technical strengths and areas for growth, who can help us work effectively to further DPLA’s mission to bring together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and make them freely available to all. A belief in this mission, and the drive to accomplish it over time in a collaborative spirit within and beyond the organization, is essential.


Reporting to the Director for Technology, the Developer:

  • Improves DPLA’s metadata ingestion and ETL processes to generate RDF metadata and address data quality issues at scale in a repeatable manner over time.
  • Implements hooks and workflows for data collection, analysis and reporting on data quality and usage metrics throughout DPLA’s infrastructure.
  • Collaborates closely with internal and external stakeholders in data management and reuse of DPLA content, including the DPLA Data Services Coordinator, DPLA engagement and use staff, and staff at DPLA partner institutions.
  • Actively contributes to the development of staff- and partner-facing tools for data analysis and business intelligence.
  • Performs other related duties and participates in special projects as assigned.

As a member of the DPLA Technology Team, the Developer:

  • Contributes to design, development, testing, integration, support, and documentation of user-facing applications and back-end systems.
  • Supports content management policies, process, and workflows, and contributes to the development of new ones.
  • Collaborates with internal and external stakeholders in planning and implementation of applications supporting DPLA’s mission, strategic plan, and special initiatives.
  • Maintains knowledge of emerging technologies to support the DPLA’s evolving services.
  • Embodies and promotes the philosophy of open source, shared, and community-built software and technologies.
  • Ensures both high quality and reasonable throughput in data processing.
  • Brings creative vision around possibilities for work with data that we haven’t yet imagined.


  • 5+ years professional experience in software development or a related discipline.
  • A proven ability to build large, reliable, and scalable infrastructure.
  • Experience with data integration to support analytics and business intelligence.
  • Demonstrated experience with REST API design.
  • Demonstrated experience working effectively in a team environment and the ability to interact well with stakeholders.
  • Desire and enthusiasm about learning new toolsets, programming languages, or methods to support software development.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Excellent problem-solving and organizational skills.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience with extract-transform-load workflows with varying input sources.
  • Broad experience and understanding of analysis and aggregation of metrics from heterogenous sources, including usage analytics
  • Experience developing visualizations, dashboards, or other user-facing tools to support business intelligence.
  • Advanced knowledge of semantic web technologies such as RDF, SPARQL, and LDP, and semantic enrichment and reconciliation processes.
  • Demonstrated experience with standards, data models, and protocols including Dublin Core, MODS, METS, MARCXML, IIIF, OAI-PMH, OAI-ORE, and ResourceSync.
  • A successful history of working effectively in a geographically-distributed organization.

This position is full-time. DPLA is a geographically-distributed organization, with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Ideally, this position would be situated in the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, but remote work based in other locations will also be considered.

Like its collection, DPLA is strongly committed to diversity in all of its forms. We provide a full set of benefits, including health care, life and disability insurance, and a retirement plan. Starting salary is commensurate with experience.

About DPLA

The Digital Public Library of America strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated more than 13 million items from 2,000 institutions. DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

To apply, send a letter of interest detailing your qualifications, resume and a list of 3 references in a single PDF to First preference will be given to applications received by July 15, 2016, and review will continue until the position is filled.


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