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Category: Search and Discovery

Updating URLs after transitioning to the new Primo interface

If you work at a library that has or soon will be transitioning to the new Primo interface, and if you have research guides or other web pages that link into content from the old interface, read on because you may want to consider doing a URL updating project even though there’s an automatic redirect.

First of all, if you link to searches done in regular Primo (not the journals a-z list), those apparently don’t redirect. If you link to items from regular Primo or to Journals list items or searches, there’s a redirect but it takes a long time to resolve — about 25 seconds in my library’s configurations. Long enough for me to click a link, get a drink of water from the fountain outside my office, come back, and still wait a bit for the screen to load. (Plus it flashes through a couple of weird pages including a “zero results” page that just isn’t true.) And finally, the old Journals list didn’t have an option to search by ISSN, so many results (like if you’re looking for the journal Science) were pretty messy. The new platform does have an ISSN search, which is far more accurate for direct linking.

Given all of this, I’m updating every URL from our libguides to our catalog, both to make it resolve directly to the new interface and to have journals resolve to an ISSN search whenever possible. If you want to do something similar you can follow (or improve upon) my process.

Learn how to distinguish between old an new URLs.

The main distinguishing features of my campus’ configuration is that the old URLs contain /primo_library/ and the new URLs contain /primo-explore/ instead. In addition, there are three sub-types of URLs that might be useful to know:

  1. Primo Query URLs (the ones that probably won’t redirect)
    1. Old: [your institution].com/primo_library/libweb/action/…
    2. New: [your institution].com/primo-explore/search?…
  2. Primo single record permalinks
    1. Old: [your institution].com/primo-explore/fulldisplay?…
    2. New: [your institution].com/primo_library/libweb/action/…
  3. Primo Journals A-Z list
    1. Old: [your institution].com/primo_library/libweb/action/…
    2. New: [your institution].com/primo-explore/jsearch?…

Pull your list of old URLs

So now you can go into the Search/Replace feature of Libguides and do a search for all content items containing the URL snippet either for all of the old versions, or for each of the three sub-types of the old version, depending on your workflow.

NOTE: You cannot use the Replace feature built into Libguides because the old URLs put search terms at the end of the URL, but the new URLs put the search terms both into the middle and at the end.

So, do your search, and then select all the records Libguides pulls back for your search, and paste them into a spreadsheet. I then delete the messier/unnecessary columns so that I end up with a first column to indicate whether I’ve fixed that URL or not followed by three of the columns that Libguides generated: Asset ID, Asset Type, and Asset Title. (I used Google Sheets for this.)

If you’re like us, you’ll have several hundred links to update, all told. And obviously this will be a lot less painful if you do a project BEFORE starting this project to go through and consolidate multiple copies of links. And unfortunately there’s no automated option to do that consolidation project, either.

Updating Libguides assets

Now the fun part ends and the tedious part begins. Here’s a little screen cast of how I change each link. And if you prefer words, here’s the process:

  1. Have two tabs open: your new Journals A-Z search and the spreadsheet from Libguides.
  2. Click on the link to the Asset ID to open the Libguides record for that asset
  3. Open the asset for editing
  4. Collect the URL and open it in a new tab – you now have two tabs that are “temporary,” the Asset and the Redirected-and-Resolved Primo tab
  5. For journal records, open a record for the correct journal and collect its ISSN
  6. Back in the tab for the Journals search on the new platform, search for that ISSN
  7. Collect the URL from the new platform’s ISSN search and paste it into the Libguides asset’s URL field.
  8. Click “Save” and close the two “temporary” tabs.
  9. Mark the column in your spreadsheet so that you know that this asset has been updated.

For URLs that don’t need any special investigating (figuring out exactly which journal was intended or if there are special limiters invoked in the original Primo search that you need to recreate in the new search, etc) it takes nearly a minute per asset, so it’s definitely a good idea to listen to podcasts or audio books or something while you work your way through the spreadsheet.

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How vegging out in front of the boob tube improved my professional skills

I’ve been going for the most passive of all passive entertainment the last couple of weeks while my health has been on the fritz. The hard part of my super-passive entertainment regimen is right at the beginning, where you choose a series on Netflix, preferably one with many episodes since the initial choice is the brunt of the work. Man, I wish I liked Mad Men… Anyway, after that initial hard work Netflix does the rest for you — all you have to do is wait for the next episode to cue up for you, and the next, and the next.

So there I was, catatonic in front of the screen on Sunday evening. There may or may not have been drool. I probably hadn’t showered recently. There were probably orange peels scattered around my coffee table (I’ve been on a bit of an orange binge lately). Netflix was serving up endless episodes of one of my favorite genres: BBC mysteries. You know the ones. They have an interesting, complex character for the main detective, and then far more murders than any one tiny country town in the British Isles could possibly sustain without completely depopulating. I love them. Anyway, this particular detective (Inspector George Gently) has an annoying, immature jerk of a second in command (Sergeant Bacchus),¬†Gently has to spend some considerable time explaining to Bacchus just how prejudiced and immature he really is. In this particular episode, Bacchus’ primary vice was “racialism.”

Hold on! Racialism? You mean, in the UK people are Racialists rather than Racists? Or at least it’s a totally accepted term for that form of prejudice?

So, being the librarian that I am, I told my coworkers the next morning about my startling discovery, and we started searching Google Scholar, as one does. Turns out, you get two pretty distinct sets of results if you search for racialism vs racism.¬†So bear that in mind next time you’re searching a free-text database.

Next weekend I intend to continue my vegging… er… RESEARCH. For science.

[UPDATE: My friends in the UK say that “racialism” is an old fashioned term for the concept. It still yields interesting and useful Google Scholar results, should be in a dwindling minority for contemporary scholarship.]

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Good searching really isn’t about searching

I’m a librarian. My brand is Search. And I do a lot of searching every day, and I know a lot of fancy ways of making that search go well for me (much of the time). But today a chance comment underscored something I think I’ve always known: good searching really isn’t about Search, or at least not in the way that people think of Search.

Here’s what happened this morning. I’m part of a grant-funded “iPad Learning Community” on campus. We get iPads (woo!) and we commit to attending learning community sessions several times during fall term to build a better understanding of how iPads work with higher education. So I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with iPads lately, and one of my favorite things to do on an iPad is read and annotate PDFs (I’ve been using iAnnotate, though I just got Good Reader to play with, too). The thing is, it gets very tiring to write without letting your palm hit the iPad surface, and if your palm hits the iPad surface it can suddenly not tell where the tip of your finger or stylus is and so annotation goes all wonky.

So I fired up my trusty Google, and typed in iPad stylus wrist guard thinking that these were probably terrible search terms but thinking that any page that used all of those terms would probably talk about the problem I was having. Even if all I found was someone else talking about the problem, I might learn better ways to ask the question, or see someone’s answer to the question. Meanwhile, Google suggested as I typed, and thought maybe I should search for iPad stylus wrist protection, which seemed reasonable to me, so I hit “search.”

I don’t remember the next steps very clearly because this was yesterday, and yesterday is a long time ago, and I did it all really fast and without thinking too hard because this is what I do for a living — find stuff when I don’t really know what I’m looking for or how to ask the question. But eventually I learned that there’s a useful term, “palm rejection,” which is the name of a feature that people aim for in tablet applications. So I searched for iPad palm rejection and came up with some pretty useful results, including a site recommending a glove that I’m going to try out.

When I got to the learning community thing this morning, I said I’d found this glove and one of the technologists asked “how did you figure out that it was called palm rejection?” (None of us had heard the term before.) I said, kind of flippantly, “I’m a librarian!”

But then I realized that yes, it was because I had a different goal in mind for searching in the first place. I was first searching for terminology that would help me do a good search. And that’s what I do with students all the time — work with them to figure out what some key terminology might be so that they can make those search boxes work for them.

So I guess good searching, at least in the case of novices looking for information, is often more about learning to look for clues than it is about fancy search strings.


Breaking up with best practices; Hooking up with learning goals

Last weekend* I heard two sentences that sparked one of those great “ah hah!” moments. A writing center director said, “We’ve moved away from best practices and toward learning goals. This helps us prioritize and it helps us evaluate whether we’re accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish.”

I’ve talked before about how learning goals keep me focused and keep me from burning out on instruction, but it occurred to me in what felt like new says how the framework of learning goals could solve a lot of problems for me in ways that their less actionable cousins (like “best practices” or “standards” or even phrases like “user centered”) couldn’t.

Here’s what I mean in three examples:

  • In my own teaching, there are usually 15 or 20 Very Important things that I wish I could teach my students in any given session. Using learning goals helps me prioritize from among the very important things, feel less guilty about letting some very important things fall by the wayside, remember to think about what they’re learning rather than what I’m teaching, and feel connected to the broader, more interesting issues of information literacy.
  • In selecting a discovery tool, there are long, long lists of features and functions that user-centered design relies on. No interface has each specific feature, so how do we choose? How do we prioritize the list of very important features? What if we developed learning goals for our discovery system? What if these goals were something like being able to learn the differences between kinds of sources, be able to pick out important terms for the topic and field, and see where to go from here (different searches, different databases, different people). Maybe one system doesn’t have faceting but does have something else that reveals terms and directions. Maybe our usability tests could be more a long the lines of assessment of what the students learned by interacting with the system. Maybe this would all help us prioritize from the long list of important things to choose a system that functions in service of the mission of our library.
  • In first year seminars (the context in which the original phrase came up), focusing on programmatic learning goals could help prioritize from the long list of things it’d be nice if all first year students knew. Maybe it would help guard against creating impossibly long check lists of things students should be exposed to, and therefore guard against treating first year seminars as massive inoculations that transform high school students into college students. Maybe it would also grant the teaching faculty the freedom to explore interesting topics in interesting ways while having similar learning outcomes.

Or maybe I’m just creating my own buzz phrase. Or maybe everyone else already knew this.

But for me, at my institution, expanding this framework beyond my direct teaching or my department’s strategic planning is helping me make those hard decisions that crop up all over the place and to make them with more confidence.

* Last weekend I attended a workshop called Teaching and Maintaining Mulitdisciplinary First-Year Seminar Programs hosted at the gorgeous Pomona College campus. This is the second blog post drawing on my experiences there.