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UT Libraries Home Page one of the most Popular on Campus

When comparing web page statistics across campus, the Libraries home page consistently scores in the top three. The university home page, registration pages and the College of Liberal Arts home page often land in the top three rankings as well. Snapshots of pages viewed in Spring, Summer, and Fall 2011 are below.

Spring (April) 2011
Summer (June) 2011
Fall (October) 2011

When analyzing the statistics, we see the Libraries home page not only receives a high number of page views, but also has a high count of unique views, which indicates that page views are often not from the same users. The time spent on the home page is two minutes, suggesting that viewers are scanning the page and not just clicking through. Because of the high usage the Libraries LIBsearch receives, it is not surprising that the Libraries home page is so frequently visited.

A sample of  Spring, Summer, and Fall was taken because a complete range of data was not available for the Spring and Fall semesters. In the future, we will compile semester-long snapshots; for now, though, it is clear that judging by partial semesters only, the Libraries home page is among the most visited and most popular on campus!


Improvements to Researching by Subject

In the past, the UT Libraries have had a variety of independent pages that list subject-related information. These pages include databases by subject, subject guides, subject specialists, and so on. TIS identified several issues with that approach:

  • Subject names were not consistent. One page might list a subject called Children’s Studies, while another might call it Youth Studies.
  • Subject pages were not integrated. If a user was browsing databases by subject, there was no easy way to view that subject’s bibliographer.
  • Maintenance was difficult. If a specialist changer his/her office, that information needed to be updated in several places.

Our solution was to create a single database of subjects that contains all of the relevant information in one location. This database can be updated using a password-protected web interface. Now, if we decide to change “Theater” to “Theatre”, we make that update in one location and the change is reflected throughout our site.

Below is a list of pages that are currently using the new subjects database:

  • Research by Subject – In the past, this page simply linked to research guides. Now, it links to guides, databases, and specialist information.
  • Subject Detail pages – In addition to listing the information from the Research by Subject page, this page also provides links to related subjects.
  • Specialist Profile pages – This page serves as a profile page for subject specialists. The contact information is pulled from the campus directory, which prevents us from having to maintain that information. It also lists interests, publications, personal sites, degrees, and more.
  • Databases by Subject – Previously, this page only listed databases for each subject. Now, it lists recommended databases and provides links to that subject’s detail page and the specialist profile page.

We plan on using the data from new database on several other pages in the future. For example, we will integrate it with our existing library2blackboard application and an upcoming mobile version of our site. The work invested in this project will hopefully pay dividends long into the future.

Social Networking at the UT Libraries

The following post was contributed by our Outreach Librarian, Meghan Sitar

The University of Texas Libraries have maintained a presence in Facebook for several years now, starting as a Group before transitioning to one of the newer Fan Pages.  We’ve used this space to post content from our other social media sites, including blog posts from our New for Undergraduates blog, video tutorials posted on YouTube, and event photos published on Flickr.

With the redesign of Fan Pages and the ability to publish our content to our fans’ News Feeds, it seemed like a good time to reexamine how we were managing all of this and to look for methods of automating the interaction between all of these different sites.  At the same time, we had been hearing from students who wanted to see us on Twitter, which seems to have finally gained some popularity among students on campus.

Matt Lisle, our intrepid Instructional Designer, had the brilliant idea to link Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, and our WordPress blogs together using FriendFeed.

This is where things get a little complicated.

When one of these sites posts to FriendFeed, the post is then exported to Twitter.

Using a Facebook application called Twitter Fan Page Sync, we’ve linked together our Twitter account and our Facebook Fan Page.  Twitter then posts the same information it receives from the Friend Feed to the status on our Facebook Fan Page.

Perhaps an illustration is in order?

(Click the image to see the full version)

The benefit of this system is that the cross-posting between all of these outlets is automated and no one person is responsible for repurposing the content.  The time investment in posting to any one of these sites returns a greater yield since the visibility of that post is at least doubled.

We’ve seen some problems with the stability of the Facebook application.  While the FriendFeed postings are readily feeding to Twitter and then to Facebook, direct posts to Twitter only showed up in Facebook onces we installed a second Facebook application, Selective Twitter Status, which requires tweets to include a #fb at the end.

That small nuisance aside, we’re pleased to have found a way to consolidate our social media empire into one relatively simple system.

Update: CMS and the Library

As reported during the last Web Author Brown Bag, work has progressed on the Content Management System for the Libraries’ site. Web Authors have added to and maintained the following sections; News Releases, Army Map Service Maps, For Undergraduates, Perry-Castañeda Library and the Computer Science subject guide. In addition, two of the Web Authors who did not edit their content before, have been editing their content in the CMS in order to provide a realistic evaluation of the system.

[pageview “CMS Site Sections” ]

Noted features include…

  • Managing users/groups and roles
  • Editing content in the browser
  • Tagging and automating views of content (Ex: RSS, News Releases and Tag Clouds )
  • Managing/inserting Media, PDFs and Documents
  • Scheduling publication
  • Saving and comparing revisions
  • Tracking page views

[pageview Features ]

Additional server configurations have been performed to optimize performance, flexibility and dependability. We are now ready to start the last phase of the evaluation. Thursday, April 22, the Library will display the News Releases, Perry-Castañeda Library, AMS Maps and Computer Science Subject Guide on the development server in preparation for publishing after all stakeholders have had a chance to review. This will help determine the scalability of the CMS and provide valuable information for further improvements.

Shared library2blackboard Code

A few months ago, we announced that the University of Texas Libraries created an application that would integrate subject-specific library information into Blackboard courses. Finally, we’ve gotten around to sharing our code.

All About Plagiarism

TIS, along with our Instruction staff, created a new All About Plagiarism tutorial that teaches students to:

  • Define plagiarism
  • Determine what sources need to be cited in your writing
  • Paraphrase the words of others
  • Effectively incorporate quotations in your own writing
  • Describe other methods that can be used to avoid plagiarism

The tutorial also includes some helpful tools for instructors, including the ability to embed portions of the tutorial into their own courses and a test that can be imported into Blackboard.

Feel free to point your students, faculty, or coworkers to our tutorial.

Text a Librarian

We are now offering the option of sending an SMS message to reference librarians by using the AOL IM hack described here. This enables us to answer questions via instant messaging, which means that we can answer these questions alongside those that we receive from our chat with a librarian service.

The text messages have already started rolling in. Hopefully this new service will be useful to students, faculty, and staff at UT.

Reviews in the Library Catalog using WordPress

The University of Texas Libraries just launched a new reviews feature in our Library Catalog. We used WordPress to create a blog that stores all of the reviews. By using the TDO Mini Forms plugin for WordPress, we were able to provide a way for users to submit content to the blog. Each user-submitted posts goes through a moderation process where they are approved or rejected by someone at the library. Then, using a bit of Javascript and PHP, we were able to embed the reviews within an iframe in our library catalog. Click here for an example.

Hopefully our users will find this new feature to be a useful addition to the information provided in the catalog.