[BLT] Blog for Library Technology is published by the University of Michigan Library's Library Information Technology division. We'll talk about technological innovations we're developing in the U-M library. We welcome your comments and feedback! (If you don't have a U-M uniqname, you can sign up for a free Friend account and log in with it to post comments.)

A Semester of Searches: Fall 2012

December 21, 2012

The Fall 2012 semester is officially over at the University of Michigan. I thought it would be interesting to compile some statistics on site search and how this year compared to past years.

We built a log file parser a few years ago that crawls the web server logs every night and extracts some general information about the number of searches conducted on the library site. We include searches entered into any of the three tabs in the search box at the upper left of all library web pages as well as searches entered in Mirlyn, the library catalog. We anonymize the data, attempt to remove page refreshes and duplicate searches, and store the data away for future use.

The fall semester at the University of Michigan is 112 days long (111 in 2010). For year-over-year data gathering, I defined the semester as starting with registration and ending on the last day of exams. In 2012, that means August 31 to December 20, inclusive. During the fall semester, library website visitors conducted a total of 1,201,103 searches.

Search Category Searches 2010 Searches 2011 Searches 2012
MLibrary 440,220 431,592 431,500
Articles * 110,702 245,898 326,457
Catalog ** 15,154 492,157 443,146
Total 566,076 1,164,360 1,201,103

* Includes both searches from the ArticlesPlus tab in the search box and searches launched from the ArticlesPlus interface.
** Includes both searches from the Catalog tab in the search box and searches launched from the library catalog, except for 2010 where it only includes searches from the Catalog tab on the site search -- not searches originating in Mirlyn itself.

Search Patterns

The pattern of search volume overall is very regular and predictable year over year, as shown in this chart. For the previous two years, the peak day was on day 88; this year, it was (by slim margin of 175 searches), the following day, day 89 (November 27, 2012). Still the peaks and valleys track from year to year with clear regularity.

Click for full-size version of the Fall 2012 searches.

Searches by Category

One Search

Searches in the library's default MLibrary tab are remarkably constant across the past three years. The MLibrary tab is our "one search" tab, bringing back results from several categories: databases, journals, items from the catalog, research guides, web pages, collections, subject specialists, and the staff directory.

Click for full-size version of the Fall 2012 searches.

Article Discovery

The ArticlesPlus tab in our site search, and the ArticlesPlus article discovery service that underlies it, has shown significantly increased usage over the past few years. For most of 2010, from January through late September, the article search tool was driven by Ex Libris' Metalib product. In September 2010, the library launched a Summon-powered interface (see ArticlesPlus: Article Discovery on MLibrary Site for more information on ArticlesPlus). Usage increased immediately, and has been growing every since.

Click for full-size version of the Fall 2012 searches.

The growth of use of the Summon-driven article search compared to Metalib is striking from the day it launched (day 27, or September 22, 2010). Daily searches in fall 2012 exceeded the equivalent day in fall 2011 each and every day.


Where MLibrary searches were essentially the same for the past two years, and ArticlesPlus searches increased significantly, Catalog searches decreased by about 10%. The relative highs and lows tracked fairly well, though not as closely in step as the other two categories. (The blue line for 2010 shows only Catalog searches from the Catalog tab in the search box, unlike 2011 and 2012, when searches from within the catalog were included.)

Click for full-size version of the Fall 2012 searches.

Looking Forward

Looking ahead to Winter 2013, I'll predict that the peak search day will be day 99 or 100.

Posted by Ken Varnum on December 21, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

New DCU Setup Allows for 3D Capture

October 25, 2012

The Digital Conversion Unit (DCU) recently acquired a new setup that will allow for the digital capture of 3D objects, realia, and ephemera. The new equipment will create museum quality photos of 3D objects to be included in the Library's digital collections.

The normal lighting setup has two banks of stationary lights providing illumination from both sides. This works well for books, posters, and flat media by providing uniform lighting across the flat surface, but is unflattering for 3D objects. The new setup, pictured below, includes mobile lights, shades, and a background screen, making it possible to photograph 3D objects to best effect. The lights and shades can be repositioned to illuminate objects from different angles, and allows the photographer to separate and control front vs. back illumination. The screen can adjusted to create a shallow or deep space behind the object, as needed.

New DCU Setup

The setup is already in place and has allowed DCU to photograph various 3D objects from library collections. Below is an example of an item from the Jewish Heritage Collection Dedicated to Mark and Dave Harris using the new equipment.

Example from Jewish Heritage Collection Dedicated to Mark and Dave Harris

For more information about the setup, please contact Larry Wentzel, Digital Conversion Production Manager, DCU.

Posted by Meghan Musolff on October 25, 2012. Permalink | Comments (2)

Retiring MTagger

September 17, 2012

MTagger, the University Library's social bookmarking tool, has been turned off, having been replaced by the new MLibrary Favorites tool. We launched MTagger in early 2008 as a way to allow site visitors to save library resources (web pages, items in the catalog, etc.) for future use. (For more information about the tool, please see "MTagger Update.") MTagger was modeled after popular Internet tools such as Delicious. Once someone saved a page and added one or more tags (labels), these tags would then be shown on the item. Each tag linked to every item that shared that tag (regardless of who applied it), allowing future visitors to explore other resources.

Sample MTagger tag cloud

MTagger Tag Cloud

In addition to public "tagging" of items, we also used MTagger as the storehouse for items saved as a "favorite" in the library catalog. A favorite is distinct from a tagged item in that favorites are personal and private, accessible only to the individual who saved them. For example, if I had "tagged" the catalog record for a particular book, my tag would have appeared for all users in the tag cloud. Anyone could have clicked it, seen what else might have been identically tagged (by me or by others), explored other items that I had tagged, or other tags that I had used. By contrast, an item that I marked as a favorite was available only to me. Using MTagger was an inherently public act; using favorites is inherently private.

Usage patterns over the four and a half years that MTagger was part of our web site show a clear preference for "favoriting" items rather than tagging them. Of the total number of MTagger users and items, items saved through the catalog's favorites mechanism are the overwhelming majority (the "favorites" function in the catalog is a bit newer than MTagger, having been launched in the second half of 2009). MTagger's usage stats can be summarized as follows:

Measure Total Number
MTagger & Favorites
Created through Favorites Percentage
From Favorites
Distinct users 8,300 > 7,000 > 75%
Items tagged 88,000 > 72,000 > 80%
Tags used 9,300 N/A N/A

Retiring MTagger, Launching MLibrary Favorites

We have now completely retired MTagger. The tag cloud has been removed from the web site, catalog, and DLPS image collections. The new Favorites tool is more closely integrated with the resources that were used most frequently in MTagger (the catalog and Search Tools), and focuses on resources over which the library has control. To learn more about MLibrary Favorites, read the MLibrary Favorites post in this blog.

If you have questions, please contact Library Web Systems.

Posted by Ken Varnum on September 17, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

Introducing MLibrary Favorites

September 14, 2012

Over the past months, a team of library staff comprising the MLibrary Favorites Working Group (Albert Bertram, Sigrid Cordell, Jonathan Rothman, Sonu Mishra, and Ken Varnum), together with Bill Dueber from Library Systems, have been working on an improved Favorites tool for the library web site.

MLibrary Favorites allows library patrons to save citations from the catalog (Mirlyn), our article discovery system (ArticlesPlus), and the database and online journal finder (Search Tools) into a single favorites list and organize them with tags. This replaced the "siloed" favorites services, where there were independent favorites interfaces for each of those 4 tools, but no way to see all favorites at once.

Where favorites were accessed from within the "silo" they were created, Favorites are now accessed through "My Account" pages. Along with Favorites, you can also see your Mirlyn checkouts and holds, fines, media bookings, and interlibrary loan requests.

When someone saves an item as a favorite, they can optionally add one or more tags to help categorize saved items. When you decide to add tags, you can do one or more of the following:

  1. Type in a comma-separated list of tags;
  2. Pick from tags you have previously used; or
  3. Use the abbreviations for the courses you are taking this semester.
tag interface

One of the features of the new favorites tool that we're particularly excited about is the "Course Tags" option as an easy way for people to organize their saved resources for future use and bundle them together, perhaps with other library-provided resources. It seems a natural evolution of this tool to pull together Research Guides for a course or academic department, course syllabi, and an individual's saved resources in one place.

Anyone who used the previous favorites tools will find all their items in the new MLibrary Favorites, with the added benefit of being able to organize their saved items (including items previously saved). For easier access to your account, including Favorites, there's a new link at the top right of all library web pages:

new login links

The Favorites tool requires a uniqname or friend account. Anyone can sign up for a friend account; all you need is a valid email address. A friend account allows you to authenticate, but does not grant any particular permissions.

The new MLibrary Favorites tool will replace MTagger, the library's social bookmarking service. There will be an article posted in this blog in the coming weeks when MTagger is decommissioned.

Posted by Ken Varnum on September 14, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

Advanced Search for HathiTrust full-text seach

April 18, 2012

In February we released the first part of the advanced search interface for HathiTrust full-text search. Advanced search allows users to combine a full-text search with searches within specific metadata fields such as Title, Author, or Subject.

For example if you want to find out where Charles Dickens used the phrase "the best of times" you can search for: [All of these words] [Dickens, Charles] in [Author] AND [This exact phrase][the best of times] in [Just Full Text]

The advanced search interface also allows you to set limits by publication date, format, or language. Multiple languages or formats can be selected.

Today we released the second phase of advanced search. You can now combine up to four different fields connected by the "AND" or "OR" operators, and any limits set are retained if you click on the "Revise this advanced search" on the search results page.

Posted by Tom Burton-West on April 18, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

Tagging and Favoriting

April 02, 2012

Since February 2008, the University Library has offered a service called "MTagger" as a way to allow site visitors to save resources for future use. (I wrote about the service several months after launch in an article titled "MTagger Update.") MTagger was patterned after Delicious, the popular social bookmarking site. The idea was that visitors to the library web site could save individual books, web pages, images from our digital library, and so forth for future use. People would "tag," or add their own descriptive keywords, to the items they saved. These tags would then be shown on the item, allowing future visitors to explore other resources.

MTagger Tag Cloud

Sample MTagger tag cloud

In addition to public "tagging" of items, we also used MTagger as the storehouse for items "favorited" in the library catalog. A favorite is distinct from a tagged item in that favorites are personal and private, accessible only to the individual who saved them. For example, if I had "tagged" the catalog record for a particular book, my tag would have appeared for all users in the tag cloud. Anyone could have clicked it, seen what else might have been identically tagged (by me or by others), explored other items that I had tagged, or other tags that I had used. By contrast, an item that I marked as a favorite was available only to me. Using MTagger was an inherently public act; using favorites is inherently private.

Usage patterns over the four years that MTagger was part of our web site show a clear preference for "favoriting" items rather than tagging them. Of the total number of MTagger users and items, items saved through the catalog's favorites mechanism are the overwhelming majority (the "favorites" function in the catalog is new, existing for the most recent 2 1/2 years of MTagger's existence). MTagger's usage stats can be summarized as follows:

Use of MTagger & Favorites

Measure Total Number
MTagger & Favorites
Created through Favorites Percentage
From Favorites
Distinct users 8,300 > 7,000 > 75%
Items tagged 88,000 > 72,000 > 80%
Tags used 9,300 N/A N/A

Moving Toward Favorites

In fall 2011, the library launched "Search Tools Favorites", a way for authenticated library web site users to save databases and online journals (from Search Tools, our database and journal finder) and article citations (from ArticlesPlus, our SummonTM-powered article discovery tool). From its launch on November 2, 2011, through March 29, 2012, 549 library visitors have added a total of 4682 favorites (3097 article citations, 1012 databases, and 573 journals).

We are also in the process of migrating Mirlyn Favorites into the new Favorites system (they still are being saved as tags behind the scenes). Here, 305 users have favorited 3031 catalog items.

Our current Favorites tool is "siloed" -- that is, users who have marked items as a favorite can see them in separate lists in Search Tools, one each for articles, databases, and journals. Users who want to see their Mirlyn favorites must go to Mirlyn to see them. During the summer, we will be launching a new integrated favorites interface that will allow people to see all their favorites in one place and to organize them into categories -- so that books, articles, and databases for a single project can be listed together. We are still working on this interface and related programming. User studies for the interface will take place in the coming month, and we expect to launch the new integrated favorites interface in the first part of the summer.

Retiring MTagger

We are in the process of retiring MTagger. We have removed the MTagger tag cloud from the catalog and DLPS image collections. At some point in May, after Commencement, we will remove the tag cloud from the footer of pages on the library web site, as well. Where we can, we will migrate any items saved with MTagger (items from the catalog, databases, or journals) into favorites.

If you have questions, please use the Web Systems Feedback Form to reach us.

Posted by Ken Varnum on April 02, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

Bookmarks, Favorites, and Lists: A Question of Names

March 01, 2012

At the University of Michigan library, we are working on such a tool to integrate four separate tools (one for each of these kinds of resource: databases, online journals, library catalog records, and article citations). But what should we call such a tool, one that is designed to allow site visitors to save resources into their account for later access?

Several weeks ago, I sent a link to a quick poll to a couple of listservs looking for information about what libraries have chosen to name their "save this for later" or "favorite" tool on the site. I received 12 responses (actually, 13; two people responded independently on behalf of Northwestern University's version of the tool; I consolidated their responses into one). The following table summarizes the information we received.

% Name Number Satisfied Notes
23.1% Bookmarks 3 3
15.4% My Favorites 2 2 Drexel's implementation
7.7% Book Bag 1 1
7.7% Cart 1 0 Makes me feel I'm buying something on our catalog
7.7% GalterLists 1 1 Northwestern University's implementation
7.7% My Library 1 1 "My Library" encompasses a bunch of stuff including "Saved Databases," "Saved Journals" and "Saved Citations" plus all the recommendations we make for the three categories.
7.7% My List 1 0 Its function is not as clear as I'd like, but fit within the space constraints of the tab and was the most self-explanatory of the options we looked at.
7.7% Other 1 1 Had 'favorourites' but it confused patrons (mixed up with IE's bookmarks)
7.7% Save for Later 1 1
7.7% Shelves & Lists 1 1 Shelves are public; lists are private. Boston Public Library's implementation

"Bookmarks" and "My Favorites" were the most common answers (5 out of 13 responses), and were the only names that garnered more than one response. Three respondents had some flavor of "list" (GalterLists, My List, and Shelves & Lists).

Most respondents reported being satisfied with the name they selected.

So what are we going to name our implementation? We're leaning toward keeping the same name as we have now, "Favorites," despite a small amount of discomfort with the idea that a scholarly article or a book is really a "favorite" resource, when it is simply being saved for future use. It's not perfect, but its function seems to be broadly understandable to users who favorite things on various web sites all the time, from Tweets to URLs in Internet Explorer.

Posted by Ken Varnum on March 01, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

Wikipedia Blackout and MLibrary Site Search

January 20, 2012

The Great Wikipedia Protest Blackout of 2012 did not result in any particularly significant increase in site searching at the University of Michigan Library. While traffic was up on January 18, 2012, over the same day the previous week, (January 11), the increase was about the same as for the day before and the day after -- reflecting the increasing workload of the academic semester more than any Wikipedia-inspired bump.

January 18 compared to January 11, 2012

Here are some numbers to illustrate the point. For "Outage Wednesday" compared to the previous Wednesday (January 11), searches were up slightly: 4% overall, and 14.5% for the default default "MLibrary" site search:

Search Kind 1/18/12 1/11/12 Change Percent
MLibrary 4260 3719 541 14.55%
Catalog 4518 4870 -352 -7.23%
Articles 1805 1579 226 14.31%
Total 10583 10168 415 4.08%

January 17 compared to January 10, 2012

However, a somewhat larger overall increase is noted between the Tuesday before (January 17) and the Tuesday a week earlier (January 10): up 9% overall and 10% for the default "MLibrary" site search:

Search Kind 1/17/12 1/10/12 Change Percent
MLibrary 4297 3894 403 10.35%
Catalog 5326 5427 -101 -1.86%
Articles 2211 1465 746 50.92%
Total 11834 10786 1048 9.72%

January 6-12 compared to January 13-19, 2012

For a 7 day week extending from the Friday before the outage to the Thursday after, when compared to the previous week, we see an actual decrease in Outage Week over the week before (a decrease of 2.45% overall, although a small 2.2 percent increase in the default "MLibrary" site search:

Search Kind 1/13-1/19 1/6-1/12 Change Percent
MLibrary 23640 23130 510 2.20%
Catalog 28499 32906 -4407 -13.39%
Articles 11114 8805 2309 26.22%
Total 63253 64841 -1588 -2.45%

Posted by Ken Varnum on January 20, 2012. Permalink | Comments (0)

HathiTrust "Search in this text." Now with relevance ranking and better multilingual support!

August 29, 2011

Today we released the third high priority feature identified by the HathiTrust Full-Text Working Group: Relevance ranking for "Search in this text." Now when using the "Search in this text" feature, instead of having to scroll through numerous pages of results in page order, the results are now returned in relevance order with most relevant pages at the top of the list. The default is to list only pages that contain all the words in a user's search (a Boolean "AND" search.) However, there is also a link that will search for pages containing one or more of the search terms. If this option is selected, the pages containing more of the user's search terms are ranked higher.

In addition to relevance ranking, searching for non-Latin languages such as Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew, or Thai, now matches the capabilities of the Full text search of all 9 million volumes.

Posted by Tom Burton-West on August 29, 2011. Permalink | Comments (0)

HathiTrust Full-Text search: Now with Facets!

August 10, 2011

On July 27th we went live with faceted search and relevance ranking based on both OCR and MARC metadata in Full-Text search. (www.hathitrust.org) These are the top two features identified by the HathiTrust Full-Text Working Group.

The relevance ranking now will give volumes that match a user's query terms in both the OCR and in the title or author or subject a higher ranking than a match in only the OCR. There is much more work to be done in tuning relevance ranking, but this is a first step.

Search results can now be refined by selecting facets such as subject, date or author. Although selecting facets can help users drill down to narrow large result sets, using very specific terms and especially using phrases in quotes remain one of the best ways to get reasonably small result sets.

Over the next few months we will be releasing further improvements in ranking and more of the features identified by the task force.

Posted by Tom Burton-West on August 10, 2011. Permalink | Comments (0)

Updated Site Search Results

July 22, 2011

Several months ago, the library’s Usability Working Group and User Experience Department completed a review of the way large academic libraries present combined search results on their web site. (See "A Look at Combined Search"). That review was the first phase in a process to help us revise the way we presented our combined search results with an end goal of deciding whether or not to include results from our article discovery environment in the mix with everything else.

As we looked at what our colleagues were doing and solicited feedback from library staff and library patrons, we realized that before we could contemplate adding another chunk of information to our search results, we needed to streamline what we already have. Therefore, we embarked on a redesign of the interface to give us room for new content and to improve the usability of what was being shown.

Google Analytics told us that most clicks to results were on the first 2 or 3 items in a result list; in some categories (such as our catalog) we were presenting up to 10 results. User feedback told us that we were not providing enough context for individual results to tell the user what they would get when they clicked. And just about everyone we asked noted that the results were presented in too small a font size for comfortable reading.

In response to this range of data and comments, we have revised the interface, giving more space to search results and drawing more attention to other sources of information for our site’s visitors. We have reduced the number of items in each section to a maximum of three, with more prominent "see all" links to get to all results for each category. (See screen shots at the bottom of this post -- or try it yourself from the library site.

We continue to present librarian subject specialists to match the search query in the right column, but have pulled out staff directory contacts to that column as well, removing them from the library web pages section. We have also added a new “Didn’t Find It?” section to the bottom center of the search results, inside of which are links to conduct the same search in ArticlesPlus (our Summon article discovery tool), Deep Blue (our institutional repository), and the HathiTrust. Links to subject-focused browse pages are also included here.

This redesign has put off the question of including ArticlesPlus results in the search results page, although we are likely to include them here now that there is space to do so. We are leaning this way for two reasons. First, because a review of search queries indicates that about a quarter of the searches conducted on our site would benefit from the inclusion of article-level results. Second, because of direct patron and staff queries requesting this feature.

New Search Results

Click for a full-size image.

Screenshot of updated University of Michigan Library search results

Original Search Results

Screenshot of original University of Michigan Library search results

Posted by Ken Varnum on July 22, 2011. Permalink | Comments (0)

Announcing a Drupal Module for Searching Summon via API

June 03, 2011

The University of Michigan Library's Web Systems department built a Drupal module for searching Serials Solutions' Summon product using the Summon API. Developed by Web System's lead developer, Albert Bertram, the Article Discovery module conducts searches in Summon, replicating much of the search functionality offered by Summon's native interface. It presents search results with facets, offers an advanced search, and allows users to export selected records to EndNote, RefWorks, or a simple citation list that can be emailed.

You can see the Article Discovery module in action on the University of Michigan Library web site. Simply type your query in the search box and click "Go."

The Article Discovery module requires a Summon API key, Drupal 6, PHP version 5.x, and a copy of the Summon API library for PHP to operate. The module provides a configuration page, a search results page, and blocks for displaying a search box and a facet box. Though the Article Discovery module will work in a generic Drupal theme, you will likely need some customization to fit cleanly into your library's existing site.

The Article Discovery module is available for installation: http://drupal.org/sandbox/bertrama/1119778. We look forward to hearing your experiences when using this module. Please provide feedback through the Drupal site or by contacting us directly.

Posted by Ken Varnum on June 03, 2011. Permalink | Comments (0)

A Look at Combined Search

May 12, 2011

The Usability Group and User Experience Department have partnered on a project to improve the display of library website search results. A search of the library's website using the default "MLibrary" tab currently retrieves:

  • databases
  • items listed in the Mirlyn catalog
  • online journals
  • research guides
  • webpages from the library's website
  • collections (both digital and other collections)
  • items from the library's database of government documents
  • items listed in the UM institutional repository, Deep Blue
  • relevant library contacts, such as specific subject specialists and services

In each category, a maximum of 4-10 matches are displayed, depending on the category and the number of matches found.

Continue reading "A Look at Combined Search"

Posted by Julie Piacentine on May 12, 2011. Permalink | Comments (0)

NIH/NLM Oral Histories Served by DLXS

December 07, 2010

As the creators of DLXS, we're quite impressed with their adaptation of Text Class by NLM/NIH to provide access to oral histories. The following is an excerpt from the press release.

The National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine Division is pleased to announce the release of a new Web interface (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/manuscripts/oh.html) to its oral history collections, as part of its growing electronic texts program. Content includes digital editions of transcripts and any accompanying audio content when feasible. Users can browse content by title, interviewee name, and subject. Full-text searching is available across all sub-collections, across each sub-collection, and within each transcript.

Browse the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Oral Histories to jump right into the audio content.

Posted by John Weise on December 07, 2010. Permalink | Comments (0)

ArticlesPlus Browser Bookmarklet

November 19, 2010

Ever visited a web page and wanted to find more information, from the academic or popular press, on the same subject? This bookmarklet will automatically search ArticlesPlus for the title of the page you are visiting. (You can edit the query if you like, to remove or add other keywords.)

What It Does

Say, for example, you're on the Wikipedia page for President Franklin Roosevelt. You want to quickly find scholarly articles about him. Click the bookmarklet and you're given a box to edit the search query:

Screen shot of Wikipedia page with ArticlesPlus bookmarklet window superimposed

Click "OK" and you're taken to an ArticlesPlus search results page for that same query:

ArticlesPlus results for 'Franklin Roosevelt' search

Where to Get It

The ArticlesPlus bookmarklet is on the University Library's MLibrary Labs site.


This bookmarklet is based on a similar one developed by Barbara Arnett and Valerie Forrestal at the Stevens Institute of Technology's S.C. Williams Library.

Posted by Ken Varnum on November 19, 2010. Permalink | Comments (2)

See the full archives for this blog.