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Web > Web Committee Annual Report 2010-2011

Web Committee Annual Report 2010-2011


This is the 2010-2011 annual report of the Web Committee of York University Libraries. The Web Committee lives online at Its meetings and mailing list are open to everyone in the Libraries.

This document is available as a web page at and as an EPUB ebook at (which may lack hyperlinks and embedded video). It is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.


Web Committee membership this year:

  • Web Librarian: William Denton (chair)
  • E-Learning Librarian: Sarah Coysh
  • Digital librarian: Anna St.Onge
  • Library staff representative: Dana Craig, then June Hill
  • Reference librarian (Scott): Walter Giesbrecht
  • Reference librarian (not Scott): Angela Hamilton
  • Metadata librarian: Aaron Lupton
  • Representative from Circulation: Linda Hansen
  • Representative from LCS: Robert Thompson
  • Librarian from Osgoode: F. Tim Knight
  • ULO representative: Mark Robertson
  • Student representative: Tonya Giuliani
  • Secretary: none

Only Connect was again our guide. It has five areas, with a lead in each:

  1. Improve the user experience (Walter Giesbrecht).
  2. Create an environment of ongoing assessment (Aaron Lupton).
  3. Develop and enhance our online resources and services, and educate our users about them (Anna St.Onge).
  4. Support mutual use and reuse of content and services by YUL and others (F. Tim Knight).
  5. Provide training, maintenance, and support (Angela Hamilton).

This report attempts to cover all of YUL’s accomplishments on the web this year. It is organized around the five Only Connect areas, but the work described below was done by many people throughout the library. The web is a basic part of all library work now.

1. Improve the user experience

Lead: Walter Giesbrecht.

YUL joins the mobile web

Our mobile-friendly web site went live in June at after months of work, including Tuan Nguyen’s world-class addition to VuFind of a mobile-friendly theme. The library has played a leading role in York’s move to the mobile web, with Tuan, William Denton and John Dupuis sitting on York’s Mobile Sites and Applications Working Group. A survey of what students most want on a mobile-friendly web site found that the library catalogue, My Account, and group study room bookings were all highly ranked. The first two are now there, and a mobile study room booking system awaits.

Here is a screenshot of our home page as seen in a smartphone:

Screenshot of the librarys mobile-friendly home page

The Libraries are part of York’s promotion:

Reaction was good:

#yorku mobile is actually pretty awesome. Works well on Android 2.2 - finally, a mobile university catalogue!

Home page improvements

Screenshots of the home page in August 2010 and July 2011

Our home page is much improved over last year: the subject research guides were brought from behind a tab and put out front where they will be easier to see, a link to the new advanced search was added, and the eResources search changed to go into VuFind. The improved design of the home page was due to design intern Audrey Chia, who gave it a cleaner, tidier, more spacious look, and made the web site look better overall by changing our top navigation bar. The new look launched on 1 September and was written up in Library News. In September the Learning Commons logo and link was added, in October the News section was moved, and in February the Ask a Librarian section was updated to include in-person questions.

The home page special features box continues to be a useful tool for advertising new products, exhibits, events and workshops.

VuFind enhancements: release 3 and mobile interface

The third release of our discovery layer went live in August and included these enhancements and new features (see the Library Computing Committee‘s web site (password-protected) for more about VuFind):

  1. Complete advanced search
  2. Interface revisions
    • Indent the kinds of eResources under eResource format facet
    • Make subject lines stand out more
    • Add tool tips to formats
    • Add link to Ask A Librarian chat reference on every page
    • Do not display home location for items on course reserve
    • Show revised due date after recall
    • Add previous and next links on the detailed item view page
    • Full citations in e-mailed messages with proper call number formatting.
    • Allow for printing of multiple items from search results
    • Move 856 tags with indicators (4 , 40 and 41) to availability tab
  3. Add support for Zotero
  4. Enrich with outside content:
    • Google Books integration subject to review of the Information Literacy Committee

Tuan Nguyen’s development of a mobile-friendly VuFind interface (source code) built on jQuery Mobile was a major contribution to VuFind and will go into use around the world.

2. Create an environment of ongoing assessment

Aaron Lupton is the lead in this area.

In order to accomplish the goals of this objective, he developed a Web Assessment Plan in 2009-2010. This is an update on the activities within that plan, as well as some new ones.

Home page assessment

a) Usability:

i) Surveys. As of July 2010, the homepage was going through some new redesigns and some additional usability testing was required to determine the effectiveness and success of those changes.

ACTION: William Denton and Aaron Lupton performed usability testing using surveys to test three mockups of how the home page could be updated to include the eResource “Best Bets” listings.

Mockup 1: “Articles and databases” tab added

Mockup 2: “Articles and more” tab added and subject guides moved to a tab

Mockup 3: Subject guides moved to a tab, Articles and Databases listed below where subject guides are now

The results of the testing were not completely conclusive: almost everyone preferred the last option we showed them, no matter what it was.

In the end it was decided that the simplest, easiest, and least upsetting option was to add a tab to the search box. It will be labelled “Articles and Databases.” More revisions can be examined in the summer, when CampusGuides is ready and we know more about what we want to do with that.

Also this year, the Web Committee proposed removing the eResources tab from the Library search page, since electronic resources could also be found in the main search box, making the tab redundant. We wanted to communicate the idea of “one search box” for all of our resources. To test how removing the tab would impact users, William Denton and Aaron Lupton performed on the spot testing in Scott Library. Users were asked to find a journal by a given title, find an eResource by a given name, how to begin research on a particular topic, and how to find an item on reserve. Unfortunately, our findings revealed that users had a difficult time answering these questions without the eResources tab. Most did not understand that you could locate electronic resources in the main VuFind search box, and so unsuccessfully or awkwardly tried to answer the questions by browsing other parts of the Library pages. As a result, it was decided that the eResources tab will remain for now. The materials used for this usability testing and the results can be located at: H:PUBLICPermanentWeb Committee2010-revised-home-page.

ii) Google Analytics.

Use of the web site is constantly monitored using Google Analytics.

ACTION: It was decided this year that homepage content, views, visitors and overall traffic does not need to be continually tracked, but instead it would be more useful to use Google Analytics to ask and answer questions on an as-needed basis. In Fall 2011 we decided to use Google Analytics to examine usage of VuFind compared to the classic catalogue, to get a sense of when we can begin to plan for the eventual removal of the latter. In the results, between 1 January 2010 and 31 October 2010, VuFind was used 2.9 million times, peaking in January and October at approximately 500,000 page views. In comparison, the classic catalogue was viewed 111,000 times. Its usage peaked at 15,000 views in January, then immediately dropped off, ending October with only about 2,000 views.

Day by day, VuFind was used about five times as much as the classic catalogue from September 2010 to May 2011:

Graph shows VuFind page views are about five times usage of classic catalogue

Here is a snapshot, using Google Analytics, showing web site usage from September 2010 (the beginning of a new year for the Web Committee) to June 2011 (current) compared to the same period last year:

As you can see, web site usage was higher last year, until the beginning of 2011 when usage began to pick up and surpass that of last year.

Finally, here is a comparison of web use vs. gate counts:

The web site receives significantly more visits than physical libraries. Of course, many of these web visits would take place in the library so we should not interpret this to mean that people are going to the web instead of the physical library. If you look at the number of unique visitors (i.e. people as opposed to visits) it is about two million per year versus 3.3 million gate counts. (Note that the library gate counts do not include Osgoode Library. They have tracked gate count since moving to their temporary facility in HNES.)

iii) Add This.

This tool allows users to bookmark web pages using a variety of social media sites, thereby allowing the Library to see who’s been bookmarking and sharing what where.

ACTION: In February 2011 we examined its analytics feature to see how much it is being used. From Feb 2010 – Jan 2011 it had been used 872 times, which, when compared to the nearly 4 million visits the Library site received during that same period, is basically 0%. We could see that the top sites that are bookmarked are “Find by Subject”, “Search this Site”, and the old eResources search. The most common functions being used were Facebook, Twitter, and then the Print function. At the April 2011 Web Committee meeting, these numbers were presented with the question “can we use this data to learn anything about our users?” No one had an answer although K Maidenberg pointed out it does give a way of emailing the URL of a page to a student at the reference desk, which can be useful. However, overall it serves no apparent use. Therefore we decided to remove it.

iv) ClickHeat.

Members of the Web Committee have access to this tool to examine most/least used parts of home page.

ACTION: This data can only be kept for 90 days historically so it is being kept by Aaron Lupton to use for trend analysis.

v) LibQUAL+.

LibQUAL+ contains questions regarding Library web site usefulness.

ACTION: Mark Robertson and Aaron Lupton examined LibQUAL+ results in Spring 2010 and reported them to Web Committee, whose response will go towards a larger Assessment and Action Plan by the Assessment Committee. Categories for the action plan:

  • What we heard.
  • What can we do about it?
  • Who is doing it?
  • When is it being done?
  • How will we know it’s successful?

VuFind-related list of problems: Everything has been done, for example relevancy and the advanced search).

Web site improvement: small number of problems about finding eResources, which we think are from faculty. Room for education and instruction here, since now VuFind takes care of all of that, and old habits lead to more problems than using the new system.

b) Mobile device compliance: launched in June.

ACTION: Our mobile site will require assessment activities.

VuFind assessment

a) Mobile device compliance: the mobile VuFind interface launched in June.

ACTION: The mobile VuFind interface will require assessment activities.

b) Advanced Search: As a new advanced search function for VuFind was rolled out, Kalina Grewal and Sophie Bury (not members of the Web Committee) performed usability testing with surveys.

ACTION: Results of this usability testing: use subject terminology other than LC; ability to restrict to online resources; position of the search button was changed; ability to limit by language. The materials used in this testing can be found on H:PUBLICPermanentVuFindVuFind Usability Testing - Advanced Search - Aug. 2010

eResources assessment

a) Access:

i) LibQUAL+. LibQUAL survey asks questions regarding remote accessibility of eResources.

ACTION: Mark Robertson and Aaron Lupton examined LibQUAL results in Spring 2010 and reported them to Web Committee, whose response will go towards a larger Assessment and Action Plan by the Assessment Committee.

Finding Articles: The subject guide redesign and MULER Best Bets work will handle this problem.

Online Access problems: This is many different smaller problems scattered around, so it will be skipped.

ii) Click-through analysis. William Denton can see what are the most clicked-on eResource links on our site.

ACTION: William will perform click through analysis and report to Web Committee.

3. Develop and enhance our online resources and services, and educate our users about them

Anna St.Onge is the lead in this area.

Many things were accomplished over the year. Highlights include several new online exhibits and the move to a new CMS. The home page special features box continues to be a useful tool in advertising new products, exhibits, events and workshops. Anna developed Promoting and Marketing on the Web, a guide on how to develop online promotional material about collections, events or acquisitions.

Online exhibits

Ongoing developments using the digital exhibits platform Omeka included:

  • Letters Home: A selection of wartime correspondence from the Lennox, Aplin, Stepler and Shore families, held at the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections.
  • Ruth Dworin Collection: Words like strange, perverse, forbidden and queer cling to the paratext of many of the works housed in the Ruth Dworin Collection. This exhibit provides a window into a collection that contains many classic, forgotten and often-censored works of lesbian fiction from the early to late 20th century. It consists of over 800 items acquired from Ruth Dworin, a Toronto women’s activist and owner of women’s music production company Womanly Way Productions. An associate of York University’s Canadian Women’s Studies journal office, Dworin began collecting in the early 1970s. The scope of the collection encompasses fiction, graphic novels and critical studies of lesbianism, published between 1904 and 1998. Over 400 of these titles are considered pulp fiction paperbacks, books known for their explicit lesbian themes and provocative cover art. (Selections and interpretive text were done by graduate assistant Renee Jackson from York’s Department of English.)
  • PCHP: Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projecto de História Luso-Canadiana: An online exhibit featuring extensive archival photographs, community newspapers, oral history interviews and interpretive text by three graduate students of York’s Department of History: Raph Costa, Gil Fernandes and Susana Miranda. The PCHP project includes an active blog to assist project partners in promoting the project. (PCHP is waiting to be launched pending changes by LCS to the Omeka template to allow for video streaming.)
  • Extreme Modernism: An online exhibit featuring essays by graduate students in York’s English Department re. the Wyndham Lewis Collection held by ASC. To be launched pending copyright clearance of images and changes by LCS to the Omeka template.

Subject research guides

The Subject Research Guides Working Group, led by Sophie Bury and Sarah Coysh, worked intensively through the year. Its goal was to move our subject research guides from our CMS to a new platform. The members assessed needs, did an environmental scan, decided on LibGuides, designed an interface, did usability testing to perfect it, became expert LibGuides administrators, and gave training for all librarians. By August the move to the new system will be done and up to one hundred subject research guides will be in their new home. Course guides will follow later.

Screenshot of the LibGuides header

Timothy Bristow and Angela Hamilton deserve special attention for their user interface design. Most LibGuides customers make few changes to their setup, and it shows. Our interface is one of the nicest of any LibGuides customer and integrates beautifully with our web site.

The move of a large set of content to a hosted service is worth noting. Springshare, the company that makes LibGuides, makes updates and improvements to it many times a year. For a reasonable price we benefit from their work and free up valuable staff time here.

eResource best bets

eResource best bets was a sister project to the above, co-ordinated by Sophie Bury, Sarah Coysh and Aaron Lupton. It added subject designations to indexes and databases in MULER. Librarians were asked to identify the five most useful databases in their subject area. All other indexes/databases were divided among the working group members and were assigned subjects.

An “Articles & databases” tab was added to the home page to hold these listings:

Screenshot of search box on the home page

Moving to WordPress as a new CMS

This fall we will begin our migration to a new content management system. Our current system, the Red Hat CMS, is eight years old and far behind what the web demands now. In September we will begin the move to WordPress, a platform we can build on for years to come.

The CMS Review Group (William Denton, Angela Hamilton, and Anna St.Onge) formed last year, met with Robert Thompson, then later toured branches and departments to find out their needs in a CMS: Scott Reference, Steacie, Frost, Bronfman, Maps, and the Cataloguing Committee. LCS set up a test instance of Drupal and Denton set up Drupal 7 and WordPress and then experimented with them to investigate themes and content migration.

The February Content Management System Review report said: “Recommendation: Move to a new CMS.” The report was tabled at the Library Computing Committee and in April the decision was made to move to WordPress.

VuFind screencasts

Angela Hamilton and Sarah Coysh wrote two screencasts about basic and advanced searches in VuFind. Angela created them with Captivate and (after lengthy delays caused by video format problems) loaded them into YouTube. They are now on the VuFind landing page.

Social media: Twitter and blogging

The Scott and Steacie libraries (and many librarians) were active on Twitter. It’s an easy way to post news and updates:

Writing essays? Need help? One-on-one writing instruction services resume in the Learning Commons Hub today from 1-3 pm

And also to have fun and stay in touch with students and others:

apparently,we smell good RT @josielauzon RT @noora888 @ilamzzone I totally miss Scott Library too. i miss the smell of libraries & old books

Official blogs carry on, including Library News, the Bronfman Business Library Blog and Anna St.Onge’s News from the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, all of which are included in Planet York. Steacie’s Facebook following continues to grow.


Sarah Coysh reported to the Information Literacy Committee that the Libraries continue to develop online tutorials and other e-learning tools to meet the needs of a diverse student population with varied abilities, interests and backgrounds, wherever they might be. She worked with LTS (Learning Technology Services) to develop a library presence in Moodle, on its homepage, in course pages and in a specific Moodle library course.

Home page special features

Home page special features were developed by staff with Christina Pringi:

  • July 12 2010 — Rastafest
  • July 19-26 — Margaret Laurence anniversary | feminist work
  • August 2-9 — Ruth Dworin and Didi Kyhatt Special Collections
  • August 16 — YorkSpace
  • August 23-30 — Historical photographs of CNE
  • September 6-27, October 4 — Undergraduate Library Guide
  • October 11 — Nursing Research Day
  • October 18 — Open Access Week | Learning Commons
  • October 25 — Learning Commons | Heavy Metal Music Collection for Hallowe’en
  • November 1 — Learning Commons
  • November 8 — Derek Walcott | Remembrance Day
  • November 15 — Simply Map
  • November 22 — Eradication of Violence Against Women Day
  • November 29 — Canada in WWII display | World AIDS Day
  • December 6 — Canada in WWII display
  • December 20 — Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • January 2011 — What Am I? Artifacts in the archives
  • January 10-17 — Faculty News
  • January 24 — Martin Luther King Jr.
  • January 31 — Live In For Literacy and Tessera Launch
  • February 7-14 — Black History Month
  • February 21 — Freedom to Read Week
  • May 10 — Barbara Godard memorial
  • June 20 — “Articles & databases” tab
  • June 27 — Book feature of Stuart Henderson’s Yorkville featuring Toronto Telegram photos

(Not all special features are listed because records are incomplete.)

4. Support mutual use and reuse of content and services by YUL and others

Tim Knight is the lead in this area.

Tim monitored developments with LibX and rebuilt a new edition compatible with Firefox 4.0 and later Firefox 5.0. He worked quite a bit with Zotero personally but workload prevented him from organizing the evangelical session/workshop together that was discussed. He, Walter Giesbrecht and June Hill created the BONUS (Betas and Other Neat Useful Stuff page.

The APIs for the My Research Guides, My Course Guides, and My Librarian web services are integrated into the student portal and Moodle and continue to provide customized research help to students in the web sites they use. The API for the eResources best bets remains to be built.

5. Provide training, maintenance, and support

Angela Hamilton is the lead in this area.

LibGuides took up the bulk of Angela’s web time this year, culminating in packed training sessions given days before she left for a permanent position at University of Toronto Scarborough.

In November Angela and William Denton gave a CMS Refresher workshop — the last of the training to be done on our current CMS.

New documentation:

The libweb support mailbox saw low traffic this year. The Library Information Systems group and William Denton provided general support there and elsewhere through the year.

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