The Impact of the Interface: Traditional and Non Traditional Content

Virtual Conference

Rob Sanderson of the J. Paul Getty Trust tweeted in 2018 that “The interface /is/ the application, regardless of the technology. Building better interfaces is building a better world.” What are the implications of that for both library and vendor communities?  Data sets, open educational resources, video and audio files are part and parcel of academic activity. Such output may be properly housed on institutional servers but is the associated metadata for those materials sufficient to enable reuse by others in the long-term? What might libraries need to do to better support discovery and reuse of research output that has not been (or may never be) fully integrated with more traditional publication formats? What elements (descriptive or otherwise) might need to be included in order for users to understand the potential reuse of the material?

And at the same time, is it reasonable to expect a single interface to satisfy the diverse needs of the domain expert, the interdisciplinary scholar, as well as the undergraduate just beginning to explore? How complex can a useful interface be? Is it possible to reverse devotion to the single search box? It’s time to talk about design and use of a service’s native interface!

Confirmed Speakers: Elizabeth German, Assistant Professor and Service Design Librarian, University Libraries, Texas A&M; Andrew Nagy, Director of Software Innovation, EBSCO Information Services; Marydee Ojala, Editor-in-Chief, Online Searcher, Information Today; Julia Caffrey, Web Services Librarian, Towson University; Allen Jones, Director, Digital Library & Technical Services, The New School and Dylan Burns, Arts and Humanities Librarian, University of Washington. 

Event Sessions

12:00 Noon - 12:15pm Welcome


12:15pm – 12:45pm The Academic Institution: The Interface In Use


Information seeking has been longed linked to the metaphor of berrypicking and foraging. This imagery is apt as we can imagine as someone bouncing from berry to berry and bush to bush as the same as users bouncing from content to content and interface to interface in search of knowledge. Within the scholarly research environment, a user will encounter many interfaces such as commercial search engines, library websites, traditional online catalogs, discovery systems, digitized collections, authentication platforms, open access journals, and database vendors.

An academic library has many choices about how to facilitate and support scholarly research in consideration of the research journey. This presentation will give an overview of an academic libraries interface ecosystem, give examples of common design patterns for search interfaces, and provide insights into future directions of library interface management.

12:45pm – 1:15pm The Provider Perspective: The Engineered Interface


Andrew Nagy

Director of Software Innovation
EBSCO Information Services

The user interface is critical in proving library value, but it is also a component in the larger chain that impacts the overall experience that a user has with the library. Optimizing that experience is about understanding and subsequently connecting library goals with user expectations to maximize the overall value of every interaction with the library. Studying user behavior and measuring activity leads to making evidence-based decisions about the Interface design. Evidence-based design creates a user experience that is an engaging experience for researchers of all types and from all parts of the world. It ensures the library remains a cornerstone in the research process. From EBSCO, the vendor’s perspective, the focus has been to ensure that we meet the expectations and needs of researchers when and where they need it. This methodology continues to drive more discoveries through a user experience that delivers value to the end user. But, how do we consider user personalization amidst needs for upholding privacy? And how can we help users uncover new perspectives on relationships across data that lead to greater library impact?

This talk will explain how EBSCO leverages user feedback, interface performance metrics and user personas to innovate on the user experience with more a more personalized approach to researchers needs rather than a one size fits all approach.

1:15pm – 1:45pm The Sophisticated User


Information professionals believe they fit the profile of sophisticated searcher. But so do all the people who search the web on a regular basis—which is pretty much everybody these days. Teaching people to effectively search the multitude of subscription databases, mounted on a plethora of platforms, each with distinctive search syntax and capabilities, can be an uphill slog. Sophistication comes in many forms, some of which require information professionals to unlearn long-held approaches to search. Acknowledging that behind-the-scenes technologies exist to help streamline the research process, Marydee Ojala provides some tips to create and accommodate sophisticated searchers.

1:45pm - 2:00pm Comfort Break

2:00pm – 2:30pm Selecting Accessible (and Usable) Interfaces


Libraries and their users expect interfaces and content that promote access for all. How can professionals building or selecting user interfaces help ensure equitable access? What are some practical first steps to review interfaces for accessibility and usability? This brief overview will provide key definitions and practical recommendations. It will outline several activities and rules-of-thumb that professionals across roles within the library can apply and identify resources for continued self-education.

2:30pm – 3:00pm Enabling Discovery in the Library


Allen Jones

Director, Digital Library & Technical Services, Library
The New School

Allen will discuss the use of the Ex Libris Primo discovery service at The New School.  Working with Ex Libris through usergroups (the ExLibris User Group of North America or ELUNA), the Primo product working group collaborated with product management and their international counterparts on a javascript-based customization framework which allowed libraries to make local customizations to the interface.  This presentation will show some of the customizations that are available from Primo customers via GitHub, an open-source code repository, what he has implemented at The New School, and discuss how the user community and Ex Libris work together to create their library user experience.  He argues that sharing code, and not just customization in terms of logos and brand colors, is a space for considerable innovation for academic libraries.

He will discuss some of the challenges that still remain, particularly in the areas of archives, non-text-based materials and special collections. He will end with some recommendations for content suppliers that could improve the discovery experience for library users.

3:00 – 3:30pm Visibilities and Invisibilities: The Scholarly Record, Digital Scholarship, and the Library’s Present


Dylan Burns

Arts and Humanities Librarian
University of Washington

David Lewis, in Reimagining the Academic Library, comments that “until quite recently what constituted the scholarly record seemed clear, or at least we understood that portion that was the library’s responsibility.” (Lewis 32) As we move closer to the third decade of the 21st century, the role of the library has noticeably shifted from the repository of other scholar’s work to the accessibility of the tools of scholarly production. Added to this is our patron’s growing expectation and need for digital materials, which has challenged, not only the meaning of the library in a philosophical sense but its existence as a space. Going so far as Spring 2016’s Ithaka library survey commenting that “all libraries are now digital…users think libraries are—or at least should be—digital.” So ubiquitous is the digital world that oftentimes librarians struggle to explain that despite the apparent instant availability of all information on the internet, our library collections are not ,and most likely will never be, completely digital any time soon. Licenses, costs, space limitations, metadata confusions, accessibility all stand in the way of the driving forces behind the digital library of the future; forcing us to have more meta-discussions with our patrons about infrastructure than we previously would have ever imagined. Yet, it is not the case that we are as behind as we think we are. There are ways in which the future of the library looks like the present and like the library’s past. 

In this presentation, I would like to explore the potential of digital scholarship and digital humanities as keys to the future of information literacy and the present of the library. How does digital scholarship and pedagogy mirror long standing discussions in library circles over information literacy and the role of the library in furthering scholarship? Furthermore, this presentation will speak to the ubiquity and invisibility of digital libraries, the context in which we find ourselves as intermediary to and on the sideline of the classroom’s information economy.  How we foster connections between information and patrons may be shifting, but the walls of the library and the spirit of the library are not changing. Instead, the principles which unite librarians hold an important key to how our patrons create and build scholarship into the future. The cycle has reversed itself, in some ways, where scholarship starts with the patron as opposed to the collection. I will talk about projects I have led where users have contributed to the scholarly record in surprising and challenging ways and how library resources and distinctive collections can be used to showcase student ideas and voices.

3:30 – 4:00 Roundtable Discussion

Moderated by Todd Carpenter, Executive Director, NISO

Additional Information

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