Category Archives: Project

Geology Redesign Update

We are making good progress migrating the Geology branch pages into Drupal with updated organization, content, and look & feel.

A former GRA, Rachel Lynch, did a spectacular and thorough job assessing and reorganizing the site’s content, separating out the parts that should be migrated into Geology Research Guides, and designing page-level wireframes based on actual content (which is so much better than dealing with actual content near the end).

Matthew Villalobos freshened the look & feel, which included some fun original photography for the banner images.

Ethan Persoff, our new webmaster, and Stefanie Roberts, our new GRA are now working in concert to theme it in Drupal and migrate the content.

One outstanding challenge is the Theses & Dissertations data which is currently separated out into several different chunks but should be combined into a single database with improved search and browse functionality. Stefanie and Ethan are tackling this in conjunction with Calla Smith-Dowling and Dennis Trombatore, the Geology staff.


Support Your Libraries Redesign Update

We’re iterating!

After spending time researching and documenting project requirements, benchmarking fundraising sites inside and outside of academia, and getting Staff Advisory Committee for Library Advancement (SACLA) suggestions on big impact stories to highlight, we created a set of wireframes.

The first design relied on a crowd sourced funding technology to replace our current Wish List of items ranging from $100 to $80,000. We’ve since learned that approach isn’t tenable at this time and we’re now working on a redesigned information architecture that doesn’t use crowd funding. The benefit is that it’s helped the project team reassess the number of different giving options we provide, and scale back in order to not overwhelm.

Things shifted, as they can, and we’re now working on a redesigned information architecture that doesn’t use ScaleFunder. The benefit is that it’s helped the project team reassess the number of different giving options we provide, and scale back in order to not overwhelm.

After the next version is done and approved, we’ll move into designing the look & feel and then building the site in Drupal 7.

Staff Web Redesign Update

You may have heard that our lovely Staff Web is being redesigned. “What? I love our staff web just the way it is!” I hear you saying. Don’t worry, change is good. In addition some of the other tools we use for collaboration and information sharing are being updated. We just finished upgrading the Libraries WordPress blogs with a new accessible and mobile friendly theme (you’re looking at it right now.) The wikis also received an update under the hood.

Our Staff Web’s more beautiful and charismatic twin SharePoint is currently undergoing a major upgrade. This upgrade is actually much more than a makeover. The new SharePoint site includes improvements in usability and mobile accessibility. You will, for example, be able to check out a shared Word doc and edit it on your iPad.

Technology Integration Services is working with central ITS to migrate the Libraries SharePoint site to the latest 2013 version. The migration process is already underway and TIS has begun reaching out to content owners to review their SharePoint sites and confirm that they do indeed want their content to be migrated to the new site. You will be hearing from us!

The Big C

Useful and usable web content is a big challenge for everyone, everywhere but it’s especially challenging in the Libraries because of our distributed authorship model with no central editing body.

This leads to:

  • Inconsistent tone and writing style
  • Content ROT (Redundant, Obsolete, Trivial)
  • Lack of cohesive information architecture
  • Inconsistent and confusing user experience
  • Training challenges
  • Lack of authority to address content issues
  • Difficulty creating and adhering to a thoughtful content strategy

Karen McGrane’s Responsive Design Won’t Fix Your Content Problem, published on A List Apart, is extremely important and pertinent to us right now.  As we gear up to do a responsive redesign of our entire site, it’s clear that we have a ginormous content challenge on our hands.  And we CAN’T sweep it under the rug and we CAN’T just use what we have and expect any measure of success.

Nutshell version:  The redesign will fail if we do not fix our content problems.

Scary thought.

We probably need to start talking about what we mean when we say “content.”

I’m thinking about it in terms of items like this being our Big C Content:

  • Events
  • News releases
  • Guides
  • Tutorials
  • Information Literacy
  • Hours
  • Physical location info
  • Study Room booking app
  • Interlibrary loan
  • Database access
  • Maps
  • Digital collections
  • Search
  • Policies

And within each of those areas, there is the Little c Content: the individual pieces, including the assets.

Things like:

  • headings
  • lists
  • paragraph text
  • metadata
  • images
  • logos/branding
  • buttons
  • videos
  • charts
  • infographics
  • (white space)

While it’s easy enough to make a style guide that outlines best practices for writing web content and achieving accessibility, that won’t fix the ROT, information architecture issues, and all the larger issues listed above. That alone doesn’t give us more useful and useable Big C Content.

I’m sure there are other ways to look at it but I think a good place to start is focusing more clearly on what we mean when talking about content. This will lead to more productive conversations about strategy and responsibilities.

We have a content strategy sub group who is focusing on this issue.

Members are:

  • Jade Diaz (topic co-leader)
  • Mason Jones
  • Natalie Moore (topic co-leader)
  • Minnie Rangel
  • Robyn Rosenberg
  • Kristi Selvaraj
  • Audrey Templeton
  • Travis Willmann

Contact any of us with feedback. We believe it’s crucial enough to push this conversation to a wider audience. So much hangs in the balance.


Hi, there, folks. I’m Jennifer Hecker, an archivist who has just joined the TIS team to help out with the development of digital access strategies.

My background in cultural history and archives — American Studies undergrad from UT-Austin, Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archival Enterprise from UT’s iSchool, and a decade of experience cataloging large (mostly literary) manuscript collections at the Harry Ransom Center and here at UT Libraries — will inform my work to help faculty and staff incorporate our digital collections into their teaching materials and research projects, and to help the library evaluate, select, and implement new technologies and tools.

I have some development experience, but I also have a lot to learn. I’ve made some websites using HTML, CSS, WordPress, and Drupal Gardens, and I have a little experience programming with Ruby on Rails. One of my first priorities in this new role is to get down and dirty with Drupal 7. In 2014, I’ll be using Drupalize.Me to accomplish some online training.

I am also currently leading a team evaluating ArchivesSpace, a new, open source archival management tool, for possible implementation at UT Libraries. We are hoping this new tool can help us, among other things, manage information about our archival collections more efficiently.

In the new year, Dustin Younse (UT Libraries Webmaster) & I will be attending a three-day intensive Islandora training called Islandora Camp, CA at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on these three new tools, so I can better contribute to their deployment and implementation here at UT!

Wish List

Wish List view
Wish List view

We just released the new Wish List on the Support Your Libraries pages, along with some minor updates in design and navigation across the development site. Working in collaboration with the development team and bibliographers, we designed and built the list of desired books, electronic resources, and general equipment.  A user can donate any item on the list.  Users may sort the list by item name, type, subject and price.  Selecting a donate button clicks thorough to the central giving form with the price and description of the selected item pre-populated in the notes field. Bibliographers will be able to submit future item requests via a form on the staff site under Forms.

Library Hours

UT Libraries Hours

On January 15th, TIS launched a brand new Hours interface for the UT Libraries branches at  This is the first time the Libraries has had a central location to display the operating hours of all of the affiliated branches with the ability to make changes on the fly, including the display of Holiday and Emergency exceptions to operation hours.  This interface is powered by a modified version of a Drupal module released under an open source license by the University of Houston.

The original module was crafted by Sean Watkins of the UH Libraries Web Services team and can be found at, and that version of the module can be seen in action at  There are several Drupal based hours modules available, but this module had a combination of ease of administration, centralized control, flexible output and an attractive base style that made it an easy sell to stakeholders as a project to undertake.  There were some shortcomings that needed to be addressed, but it was generally the right tool for the job.

Prior to this module, branch hours publication was a tedious task that involved an input php script, multiple php scripts for output in various web locations and the manual construction of a printable file that would be distributed throughout the branches.  Our focus in this project was to turn the branch hours process into a flexible and easily modified system that eliminated all but the most necessary on-demand printing.  We now have a single administrative web interface for 12 branches, 11 subordinate service points and the self-managed research centers on campus.  Each of these has a separate page that can be permanently linked to, pulled up easily on a mobile device or printed on a semesterly basis as needed.  You can see this in action at

There are obvious cosmetic differences between the two – replacing Cougar red with our familiar burnt orange, of course – however the largest changes on the front end are noticeable by pressing print in your browser or visiting the mobile version of the page at  Printing is somewhat of a vestigial necessity, while mobile interfaces become increasingly important in our modern world.  One very real issue that was found with the original version of this module is one of scale – the University of Houston Library system has four – yes four! – branches, with a total of five service points represented in the software.  Our own library consists of the aforementioned 12 branches, for a total of 23 service points, plus research centers and the Law Library.  This severely crowded the navigation and required some stylistic gymnastics to create a readable and attractive presentation.

Open Now Hours View

One non-stylistic trick employed was the creation of an Open Now page, which was not present in the original module.  This custom view displays the names of only the currently open branches.  If they have a scheduled lunch break or it is past their closing time, they fall off of the list.  With a quick glance, a student should be able to find a study location or a professor should know whether it’s worth it to trek to campus to get in some quality stack time.  This view is replicated on the mobile side and elevated in importance to the default landing page with the thought that a mobile viewer is likely in transit and needs just in time information versus a desktop user who might be making future plans.  Hopefully this assumption bears out in real world use.

Mobile Open Now Hours View

As part of this project, here in TIS we are moving into a new mode, with a new public brand, The Libratory, and making a concerted shift to a more open development process, rolling the software out in stages rather than waiting for a grand reveal, and beginning to utilize open GitHub repositories for our development platform, with the hopes of being more transparent and contributing back to the web community that has provided us with so many great stepping stones in the past.  Please check out our ongoing development work at, check out the back end implementation details of this project at, and keep up with our general work on this blog.  This project could not have been completed without the guidance of Jade Diaz and Stephen Littrell, the visual aid of Casey Hunt, or the patience of Fred Gilmore, whose server I kept breaking.

Interactive Maps and Technology

A current trend of interactive map making is for institutions to bring in a third-party vendor who has experience building maps, the proprietary software for interactivity and the hardware muscle to keep these interactive sites running on the vendor’s servers (while being accessed on the Client’s local web browser).

UT’s own Tarlton Law Library at the UT School of Law has implemented a product called “StackMap” to create their own online catalog called “Tallons”.  In doing so, Tarlton has created an interactive map that when accessed from a catalog entry within Tallons displays within the floor plan the location of the book or material in question.

When the desired material is found in Tallons, click on the title of the material, then click on the “Map It!” button and a multi-functional pop-up window appears with a location marker displaying the material sought.  (See image below.)

“Tallons” the Online Catalog of the Tarlton Law Library.

Interactive Maps Interacting with Technology
Some interactive maps will feature a larger, more detailed pop-up image of the one on which the site visitor clicks or over which the mouse hovers.  These pop-ups can contain detailed information such as the person occupying the space, their e-mail and phone number; all of this information being pulled from an active directory.

Simple Interactive Pop-Up Window of an Individual’s Details. (

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