~ 1. August 2011 ~
I’ve been thinking for a while that we need to give more support to faculty who might want to use database materials in their classes. Profs who like to use the databases and actually have students read particular articleswill likely provide PDF or HTML full-text files via our LMS. That’s not really the correct way to do it, of course, and those profs who do want to do it the correct way shouldn’t have to jump through too many hoops or internalize knowledge that we librarians are paid to keep up with.
Our website already had a page purporting to explain how to link to articles, but it was out-of-date, stingy with explanation, and hard to find. So, after my improvements, it is now up-to-date, overly detailed, and still almost impossible to find from our home page. Best of all, I managed to get this done while working at the ref desk this summer.
I had thought long ago that I might create a bunch of search tools—opensearch plugins, bookmarklets, search toolbars and the like—so I took the liberty of creating a directory in our website (which I do not control) for “tools”. But this directory for a long time had only our D2L search widget. Now that there are two, I needed a listing page as well, which will perhaps spur me to add more….
On to the other thing. Way back in April, I made a few changes to our D2L widget: I updated the JQuery (now using the Google-hosted version), made a separate OPAC search box limited to ebooks, a Google Scholar search box (since we now have Google Scholar integration for our Ebsco and JSTOR content), and replaced faculty-oriented blog headlines with the more student-oriented Twitter feed. Also finally updated the Ebsco search box. It seems that Ebsco replaced its search box builder sometime after I made the original box, I have no idea when since this sort of thing does not rise to the level of their support news. But the previous version had some unpleasant attributes, such as forcing Boolean rather than the automatic “and”-ing that is the default on our search page. All better now….
Having done all this, I added a small, red “New Features” link on the front page of the widget leading to a Google Doc summarizing the changes. 19 unique viewers clicked it! More than I expected. (I’ve removed the link now, it’s been months.) And it makes me think: that is some real estate that could probably be used productively…
Then, more recently, I updated the widget’s Google Analytics code to the latest version. Word to the wise: this update broke the “virtual URL” version of outbound link- and search-tracking, and, worse, made all those searches open up within the widget frame. Not a bad thing in the end—after I hastily removed all of the extra tracking code, it was an opportunity for me to figure out the newer, more rational version of event tracking, where you categorize and label the events. I’m pretty happy with the system I figured out, since it will allow me to quickly get more views of how the thing is being used.