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 at 11:26 AM. 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 at 10:06 AM. 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 at 10:59 AM. 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 at 02:25 PM. 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 at 08:48 AM. 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 at 09:32 AM. Permalink | Comments (0)

ArticlesPlus: Article Discovery on MLibrary Site

September 27, 2010

Our Articles search is now even better. The University of Michigan Library is now using Serials Solutions Summon article discovery tool for the new improved ArticlesPlus tool. Now, when you search the ArticlesPlus tab on the library web site, you are searching across 190 million full-text and citation-only records available to the University of Michigan community through the University of Michigan Library.

ArticlesPlus Search Box (screenshot)

Rather than using either Summon's default interface or VuFind (which we use for Mirlyn, the library's catalog), we built the tool in the library's web site in Drupal. We did this using a custom module that interacts with Summon's Solr index through their API to retrieve search results and facets. (If you are interested in the Drupal module we developed, please contact us -- we're putting together a version for public release later this fall.) The site's design was created by the library's User Experience Department working with a group of librarians.

Just as with any Summon installation, anyone can search ArticlesPlus and see citations. It is at the point of clicking through to the full text by clicking the "MGet It" icon, taking you through to our link resolver, that you must authenticate.

In the next few months, we'll be adding articles searches to our one-search MLibrary search and adding librarians to the articles results pages. We're also soliciting feedback from ArticlesPlus users through a survey link on the site. If you try ArticlesPlus, let us know what you think!

Posted by Ken Varnum at 02:46 PM. Permalink | Comments (1)

New List of Digital Collections

September 17, 2010

The Digital Library Production Service or DLPS (part of our MLibrary Library Information Technology division) has created and hosted a very large number of digital collections over the last 10+ years. We have been working for many years to integrate those collections into MLibrary services, and we are now ready to present the next link in this chain-- a more easily navigable and more fully featured list of these collections:


The road to building this collection list has been long and sometimes difficult. Four years ago, Suzanne Chapman and John Weise discovered the Exhibit tool (part of the SIMILE set of tools from MIT Libraries). They worked through many of the initial hurdles regarding how, where, and what we host using this tool. After a languishing period, it was revitalized by Kat Hagedorn, Jose Blanco, Roger Espinosa and Saurabh Koparkar to its current state. We would not have gotten half so far without two ULAs who kindly volunteered their services to help categorize, describe and find image thumbnails for each collection-- Ellen Wilson and Lorelei Rutledge. Many hearty thanks to all involved in the process of putting this tool together.

The new collection list replaces the the old, which was created originally to gather administrative information about each collection, including the responsible party, and statistics about size and usage. Public discovery and usage of the list was not intended nor anticipated, but the list became a popular public access point for DLPS collections. The old list can still be seen: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/c/collsize/collsize. Better, no?

Posted by Kat Hagedorn at 02:09 PM. Permalink | Comments (0)

Putting a Librarian's Face on Search

July 26, 2010

When you do a search on the University of Michigan Library's web site, you get not only results from the catalog, web site, online journal and database collections, and more, you also get a librarian who is a subject specialist related to your search term. While the matching is not perfect, it provides a human face on search results. So, for example, if you search for "Kant," in addition to books and databases, you also get the subject specialist librarians for humanities and philosophy. A search for "Jupiter," you get the subject specialists for Astronomy & Astrophysics and Humanities (after all, we don't know if you're searching for the planet or the Roman deity). When we can't make a reliable match to a subject specialist, we provide a link to Ask a Librarian, our reference service.

How does the matching work?

The University of Michigan library has long maintained a database of Library of Congress Call Numbers and "Academic Disciplines" -- which is what we call our subject taxonomy. (You can see it in action in the site's Browse function.) These categories broadly mirror the schools and departments at the University of Michigan. Librarians have assigned Library of Congress call numbers to each academic discipline. This mapping was originally done for our New Books tool so that students and faculty could find out when a new book related to their area of study was acquired by the library. A single call number can be assigned to multiple Academic Disciplines, so a given book could appear in multiple places.

In a site search, we do a special query of the library catalog behind the scenes and get the first 100 catalog results (sorted according to the catalog's relevance ranking algorithms). We sort those results into Academic Disciplines. If more than 25 items are in a single Academic Discipline, we include the subject specialist responsible for that particular area. (We set the threshold at 25 matches to help ensure a relevant match, but a librarian specializing in the "wrong" subject is arguably better than no librarian at all.)

We make the call number-to-academic discipline mapping available on our site at http://www.lib.umich.edu/browse/categories/. There is also an XML version of the mapping free for all to use or adapt.

Posted by Ken Varnum at 04:10 PM. Permalink | Comments (3)

Library Gateway Usability Testing

July 22, 2010

The Usability Group & its Usability Task Force conducted a series of
evaluations of the Library Gateway (http://www.lib.umich.edu/) during the Fall 2009 and Winter 2010 semesters. We used a number of different methods, some new to us, to conduct our evaluations.

Participatory Design
This method was designed to gain a better understanding of which parts of the Gateway users find most and least useful, and to help inform our follow-up evaluations. (Discussed more fully in a later post.)

Card Sorting
This method was designed to help us re-categorize content currently grouped under Services, Departments and Libraries.

For the card sorting, we purchased a license to OptimalSort that would allow us to place a card sorting exercise in front of many individual users. We sent this exercise to all of our Library staff and received 104 responses to the exercise, an excellent rate of return. We also ran group card sorting sessions, a new method for us, with undergraduates and graduate students. Groups of up to 5 people sorted paper cards into categories through consensus.

Several similarities between categories surfaced across the various user groups performing the card sort, whether performing a paper sort or using the online tool.
* Physical Locations: libraries and/or services with a physical location and hours of operation.
* Publishing: MPublishing, SPO and University of Michigan Press.
* Services: a broad category used by all groups which ranged from getting help with library resources to internal services for library staff.
* Administration: background support for library staff or as one student said, “Stuff that students wouldn’t necessarily need.”

As a group, the Task Force also came up with "unified" categories that carried the general scope of the categories suggested by our participants. Our categories were based on the categories the participants created, as well as the comments they made during the card sort. Both the similar groupings and the "unified" categories were suggested as bases for further tests.

Guerrilla Tests
This method was designed a) to help determine the order of the headings on our search results and browse results pages, and b) to fine-tune the contents & labels for our Quick Links section.

We have used this method for many years. We call this "guerrilla testing" because we hope to get quick and short answers to quick and short questions. Five minutes is our goal!

For the search and browse results pages, we found that the section labels were confusing and inconsistent across the results templates, and that there was not enough metadata available for users to make informed choices. Participants in our guerrilla tests also wanted to see sections in a different order (e.g., Databases before Catalog). Our recommendations were to add more metadata to the catalog results (e.g., author, publication information, format) and to change the order on the results pages according to participant consensus.

For the Quick Links section, we found that our Library Outages link (when databases are inactive or not working correctly) was not understood or considered to be useful inside this section. More than half of users also requested the addition of a University-wide Webmail link. The Quick Links section was modified to take into account what we heard from participants.

You may access the full reports of the evaluations:
* Organization of Services, Departments and Libraries: http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/services/usability/libs-svces-depts-card-sort-report.pdf
* Search and Browse Results: http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/services/usability/Search_Browse.pdf
* Quick Links: http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/services/usability/QuickLinks.pdf

We were also fortunate enough to have a poster accepted at ALA Annual 2010 detailing our year's work: "Budget Usability without a Usability Budget".

Many thanks to the Task Force project managers-- Kat Hagedorn & Ken Varnum-- and the group members-- Gillian Mayman, Devon Persing, Val Waldron, Sue Wortman, and Karen Reiman-Sendi-- for all their hard work!

Posted by Kat Hagedorn at 09:48 AM. Permalink | Comments (1)

The New University of Michigan Library Web Site

August 03, 2009

The University of Michigan Library launched its new web site today. The new site marks a significant change from the old. More than two years in the making, the new site has been vetted through extensive user testing and a four-month beta period. Our goal was to improve access to the information resources the University Library provides through its 19 physical locations, hundreds of databases and research guides, and thousands of online journals.

Implemented in Drupal with Solr to power our search results, the site integrates what was a varied and highly decentralized network of library web pages. We pruned and weeded the roughly 100,000 pages on the old site - many of which were leftovers from past redesigns - into about 7,000 pages and 13,000 resource entries. We also introduced powerful new discovery tools for our patrons.

We will be writing more in the coming days about how we built our new site. This post will give an overview of its basic functions.

MLibrary's Find Bar

Several significant changes are obvious in the new site. The first is the fixed navigation across the top of the entire site. The "Find Bar" is the connection to all library resources. The bar has three parts: Search, Browse, and Get Help.


MLibrary Search

Search box in MLibrary Find Bar

The Search area of the Find Bar has three tabs, each with different functionality. The main tab, "MLibrary Search," covers the breadth of resources offered by the library:

  • The Drupal site itself -- full text)
  • Research & Technology Guides (hosted by LibGuides) - full text
  • Library catalog (Mirlyn, including all items in the HathiTrust) - bibliographic data
  • Institutional Repository (Deep Blue) - bibliographic data
  • Electronic Journals - titles
  • Databases - titles, keywords, descriptions

The broad MLibrary search exposes site users to our varied resources, providing a discovery environment, even for topics that users might know well. A search for a particular journal title will bring up, under separate headings, relevant books, web pages, resource guides, and papers by UM scholars, among other resource types.

Search results occupy the center part of the search results listing. Library Contacts are in the right-hand column. These might be libraries or departments in the library with an expertise in the subject area reflected by the patron's query, or it might be subject specialists whose expertise matches the patron's query. For many queries, library contacts place a human face on the search results and give the researcher a specific person or place to turn to for more help. If we are not able to make a match the query to a person or place, we display a link to our online reference service, "Ask a Librarian."

We will be writing more about our search features in the coming days.

Articles Search

Articles search allows users to search across multiple databases simultaneously. We are using Metalib's X-Server to query predefined collections of databases (users pick a broad subject area or stick with the default "General Interest" selection). Results are not as speedy as our users would like - a basic problem of traditional federated search - so while the patron is waiting for results to come back from Metalib, we provide links to specific databases likely to be relevant. For example, a search in the Social Sciences subject area for "Britain" provides links to several specific databases and Google Scholar, for an alternate broad search.

Recommended databases in articles search results

Catalog Search

We also provide a search of Mirlyn, our VuFind-based library catalog. (We launched our new public catalog at the same time as the new web site.) The catalog search offers the same options as are available on Mirlyn's front page; results are in our catalog's native interface.


Browse box in MLibrary Find Bar

The second part of the Find Bar is browse. We organized Browse around the academic disciplines taught at the University of Michigan. Librarian subject specialists pick resources in three of the four categories (Electronic Journals, Databases, and Research Guides); librarians responsible for page content note which library web pages should appear in a browse category. Browse pages also include the subject specialists responsible for the page and for that subject area so the patron has a person to contact should he or she need additional help.


Get Help box in MLibrary Find Bar

Most library users are either searchers or browsers and find one or the other approach useful as a starting point. Everyone, from expert searcher to first-time library user, can need some guidance. "Get Help" is on equal footing with the other two basic functions of the site. From this section of the Find Bar, patrons can contact our reference desk (by email, chat, or phone), read our guides and tutorials, and access other forms of assistance.

Posted by Ken Varnum at 09:49 AM. Permalink | Comments (2)

University of Michigan Library spotlighted on Creative Commons Blog

February 19, 2009

The Creative Commons blog has a great interview with Molly Kleinman, our Copyright Specialist.

Over the past year, the University of Michigan Library has shown itself to be particularly sensible in regards to open content licensing, the public domain, and issues of copyright in the digital age. The U-M Library has integrated public domain book machines, adopted CC licensing for their content, and independently had their Copyright Specialist, Molly Kleinman, articulate the importance of proper attribution in using CC licenses. We recently caught up with Molly to learn more about these efforts - primarily how they came to be and the results they have yielded - as well as discuss CC’s place in educational institutions at large and how CC and Fair Use interact in the academic sphere.

Read the full post here: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/12859

Posted by Suzanne Chapman at 04:25 PM. Permalink | Comments (1)