Conservators treat, house Ulysses page proofs

Conservators at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin describe how they treated unreadable page proofs of James Joyce’s first edition of Ulysses, 1922. Printed on low-quality paper, the brittle pages were torn and bound together with adhesive when the book arrived in the conservation department. Treatment planning involved maintaining handwritten notations and corrections by Joyce, editor and publisher Sylvia Beach, and printer Maurice Darantiere, since the annotations continue to be the object of scholarly research.

Collections country-wide contain Kodakiana

After Eastman Kodak announced Jan. 19 that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Duke University’s library on its blog featured an article and some digitized ads from collections at The Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, as well as links to recent news articles that appeared with digitized ads from these collections.

Descriptions for collections containing Kodak advertising, especially in the center’s JWT archives and the Wayne P. Ellis collection of Kodakiana, can be found in ArchiveGrid along with links to more unexpected collections with Kodak-related materials which show how the company has adapted to changes. A postcard collection at the Indiana Historical Society has 100-year-old postcards of images manufactured on photographic paper, a technology Kodak used to take advantage of the postcard’s popularity after Congress allowed private publishers to produce postcards, and authorized their reduced postage rate from two cents to one. Individuals could have portrait postcards made for sending, and professional photographers in smaller towns to make postcards of local scenes and events for selling.

Talk to descibe how collections influenced scholar’s work

In his presentation “Building America’s Energy Corridor: Pipelines, Wetlands, and the Breaux Act,” environmental historian Jason Theriot will talk about how his research in the John Breaux papers at Louisiana State University help his focus, as a fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School for Government, on the impact of recent hurricanes and the Macondo oil spill on Gulf policy developments.

For those who cannot attend the Jan. 30 talk at LSU, there are descriptions available in ArchiveGrid for the Breaux collections that provided an important resources for Theriot’s research. Breaux’s efforts as a former U.S. Senator to secure a steady revenue source for coastal projects through revenue sharing are a central part of Theriot’s narrative and analysis. Theriot’s dissertation and book project, Building America’s Energy Corridor: Oil and Gas Development and Louisiana Wetlands, explores the history of pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, the environmental implications of oil and gas development for coastal Louisiana, and coastal restoration policy and funding.

Special collections materials feed Twitter content

Special Collections materials relating to the Civil War at University of Maryland will be shared via @CivilWarUM on Twitter to note the war’s sesquicentennial by highlighting authentic diaries, letters, records, and other primary sources in UM’s collections and in other sources outside the university libraries. Posts will offer insight into the Maryland perspective of the Civil War and function as a learning tool about conducting research using special collections materials. A blog post about the new project also links to other Civil War-related resources available online.

Cookbook commemorates symphony’s centennial

What do cooking, calligraphy, and the 100-year-old San Francisco Symphony orchestra have in common? The answer is a cookbook at the San Francisco Public Library’s history center that blends recipes contributed by symphony members and design and illustrations by Byron J. Macdonald, one of the city’s premier calligraphers. Published in 1963 by the San Francisco Symphony Foundation, “San Francisco Symphony cook book: a collection of international recipes, the favorites of San Francisco musicians, guest artists and patrons of music” was retrieved from the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering in connection with the symphony’s centennial and featured on the SFHS’s blog.

Richard Harrison was also a local calligrapher who in 1963, after being encouraged by a city librarian and another calligrapher and book artist, donated his private collection to the San Francisco Public Library. Nearly one hundred individual scribes and lettering artists are represented in the collection.

A Responsive ArchiveGrid Design

The idea that a website should be adaptable and responsive to its users and uses isn’t new, but achieving or even setting that goal has sometimes been difficult. It isn’t uncommon to look at website statistics and see most activity coming from what we imagine are desktop browsers, and then design for that use. Designing for specific devices also is a challenging and expensive enterprise when done properly.

Another approach, sometimes called Adaptive or Responsive web design, has attracted attention recently. It is often related to a Mobile First design philosophy, suggesting that by thinking about mobile users whose devices lack extensive displays and have cumbersome keyboard entry tools, you’ll naturally think first about the system’s key features and build those for efficient use.  The Adaptive/Responsive approach then leads you to use the same base of code, as much as is practical, for any device your users may find you with, incorporating display and input features accordingly.

Although ArchiveGrid’s use statistics suggest only a very small number of users reach us with smartphone or tablet devices, that isn’t a reason not to provide them with a good user experience. In fact, the low-use statistics could be directly correlated with issues that a design oriented toward desktop browsers has when it’s delivered to a different type of device.

We find the current design isn’t working well on smartphones and on some tablet devices, although it’s fine at medium to higher-range desktop displays. Here’s how it would look on a display with a resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels (a pretty common size for desktop systems these days):

ArchiveGrid's version 1 desktop design
ArchiveGrid's version 1 desktop design

We’re testing an adaptive/responsive redesign now, which would give the system a different look. At that same desktop resolution, we’ve made some adjustments to allow  more information to be visible without scrolling, to highlight the search box, and to fix the display width so that it works more effectively on much higher screen resolutions:

ArchiveGrid's version 2 desktop design
ArchiveGrid's version 2 desktop design

When the same page is viewed on a tablet device, we start to make some choices on what’s most important to see and do. We drop some of the collection highlights and tune the amount of space used by the search box.

ArchiveGrid's version 2 tablet design
ArchiveGrid's version 2 tablet design

And for smartphone users, we highlight the search box, drop a few other less-critical home page widgets, and expect some scrolling to reach other widgets.

ArchiveGrid's version 2 smartphone design
ArchiveGrid's version 2 smartphone design

There’s still more to think about with this design, and much to learn. We expect to promote it to the Beta version of ArchiveGrid soon. When it surfaces, we will be glad to hear your reactions and suggestions to improve it.

The Personas of ArchiveGrid Users

The Genealogist
The Genealogist by MegBiallas, on Flickr

As we began rethinking ArchiveGrid in OCLC Research in 2011, one of our first steps was to develop some personas to represent the system’s users. We felt that earlier user studies had presented a fairly good picture of the general audiences that a system like ArchiveGrid could well serve. It appeared to be best for faculty members, upper-level undergrads and post-graduates, and researchers of other types including amateur and professional genealogists.

The development of personas to give life to anticipated audiences is a common practice in user-centered design.  Though there are more details we developed for ours than represented here, a few of the people we envisioned using ArchiveGrid included:

Dr. Matthew Simon, a 59 year old History Department head. On typical work days Dr. Simon may teach mid to upper level history courses, serve on multiple faculty committees, work in collaboration with others and advise students.  He carries an iPhone, uses a desktop computer at work and owns a laptop, which he mostly uses at home, uses email regularly, and checks Facebook several times a week. He owns a digital camera and his collection of photographs from his travels are well-organized on his home computer. The proximity to campus libraries and the role librarians play in helping Dr. Simon develop course material keeps him in-the-know about information resources and services and what’s going on in the world of libraries online searching. Dr. Simon and his peers are highly skilled information seekers because they are well-versed in at least a dozen of the paid databases and periodicals the campus libraries subscribe to. However, he has gotten attached to the convenience of Google and Wikipedia to find facts fast but is hesitant to call them information influencers because he believes quality research shouldn’t be as easy and convenient search engines have made it.

Elizabeth Mann, a 45 year old 5th grade teacher.  Elizabeth carries a smart phone, uses a desktop computer at work and at home, uses email regularly, texts close friends and family … she recently joined  Facebook.  Elizabeth has researched family history for nearly a decade and in that time she has become familiar with online searching beyond search engines, although she uses Google and Wikipedia to help focus her information search into keywords. She is familiar with some big-name databases for family history researchers and she knows how to evaluate her information sources, although when she thinks she has completed her research at her tried-and-true places online and at libraries, she doesn’t always know where to look next.  Elizabeth prefers web sites with simple interfaces and search options.  Databases should be intuitive and easy to navigate and she increasingly expects free and open access to materials.

Amy Powell, a 32 year old journalist. Amy researches and prepares stories in multi-media packages for print and online audiences, and aims to be an effective and accurate storyteller.  She’s influenced by colleagues, websites, radio, tv, books, magazines, and social networks; she considers Google search abilities to be advanced, but if she can’t find what she’s looking for after a couple of keyword search attempts, she will move on.  Amy recognizes and values authority in her research resources. She uses software and web-based tools on a daily basis but is less comfortable relying on it to make decisions for her.  Amy sometimes looks for new ways to do carry out research online, and figures out software and web-based tools on her own.

These are just a few of the personas we developed in the early design stages, and we’ve returned to them at times to give life to, and help us focus on, the audiences we think ArchiveGrid is best able to serve.

New labor archives collections open for research

Two new collections – Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection and the Daily Worker and Daily World Negatives Collection – are available for research at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University, culminating the end of a two-year project funded by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant. By attempting to speak to the left-wing community in the United States, including labor, civil rights, and peace activists, both papers depicted individuals and events in the Communist Party USA and left-wing political movements, as well as people and events not affiliated with those movements. The papers are also notable for the many images of social conditions and daily life in New York City, particularly in neighborhoods such as the South Bronx, Harlem and Chinatown.