Zen and the Art of the Conference Proposal

(This post originally appeared on Letters to a Young Librarian, and was edited by Jessica Olin.)

Your first year as tenure-track faculty is an odd one. You’re not expected to publish right away, but it’s encouraged that you keep your CV active by adding to it in one way or another. Given the amount of time you spend acclimating to a new workplace during your first year (anywhere, not just in academia), you don’t necessarily have the time or the connections to do anything major. Often you’re expected to spend that first year choosing future research projects, and starting to design your research studies and maybe collect some data if you’re lucky. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you were hired to work on a specific project, and will spend much of your time tackling minor practicalities like building a website from scratch and migrating the entire former site’s content to it. Pish posh.

This forces you to be a bit creative with adding lines to your CV. I’ve looked for limited time and energy-commitment obligations, like less formal writing projects and talks at local chapter meetings. One opportunity I stumbled across on one of the CFP blogs I followwas a call for conference proposal reviewers. I’ve acted as a peer reviewer in the past, so it seemed like a good opportunity for some professional service.

About halfway through the 20-or-so proposals assigned to me for review, I realized that this was much more than just a line on my CV. I’ve submitted many conference proposals in the past (a handful of which were actually accepted,) but being on the other side of the submission process gave me some useful insights for the future. (For the record, the conference was not library-focused, and it was a blind review process, so I feel ok about talking about it publicly.)

First, I shouldn’t have to say this, but based on many of the submissions I reviewed it warrants a mention: Follow. The. Instructions. You’ll read this advice a lot in posts about applying for jobs, but it goes for pretty much any official process in the professional world. Sometimes you think can skip steps. Maybe you know someone. Maybe you’re a big name in the field. Maybe you presented last year. Well, I can’t see your name and I wasn’t at last year’s conference, so do us all a favor and complete all the fields in the form. If I don’t need a certain piece of information I’ll skim over it. Better safe than sorry.

Here’s another piece of advice that comes directly from job application best practices: customize, customize, customize. Maybe you’re submitting a similar proposal to several similar conferences. I don’t care. Take the time to tweak your proposal to at least touch upon this specific conference’s mission and theme. I know you have to put out a lot of proposals just to get a few acceptances, but try to make it feel like this conference is one you actually *want* to present at.

GradHacker recently did a post on Killer Conference Proposals, and while all their tips are good ones, I think their final tip is of particular importance: “Explicitly state an audience takeaway.” Of course *you* find your research interesting and relevant (or at least I hope so). But take a step back and think like a marketer. What are you offering presentation/panel attendees? So many proposals I reviewed talked exclusively about their own experience without in any way addressing why that experience should matter to anyone else. Is the technology you used attainably-priced? Are your assessment standards widely accepted? What kind of implementation time/resources did it take? I’ve sat through many presentations where the project discussed was fabulous, but I came away frustrated because the presenters made no effort to tell me how I could replicate all or part of it, or apply the knowledge elsewhere. Give me something I can use, or reserve this talk for a showcase or project update event.

My last piece of advice doesn’t really apply to a blind review, but I’ll mention it anyway. When I’m participating in an event, I make sure to publicize it throughout my own networks. I like to think this gives a person a reputation as someone who will actively work to help draw in attendees, and thus be an asset to future events.

If anyone else has been part of the conference proposal review process, please leave some tips in the comments! What causes you to reject a proposal outright? What puts a presenter on your good side right away?

Posted in academia, career, presentations, professionalism | Comments Off on Zen and the Art of the Conference Proposal

Hacking Google Forms

A few months back I pitched the idea of using Google forms for all the forms on the new website. Our current forms were created through a Joomla-specific add-on, and I’m not proficient enough in PHP or SQL to feel comfortable recreating them from scratch. Also, the forms on our current site turned into a pretty huge security risk as they aged, and I like the thought of using Google’s servers to house the forms and resulting data. However, on their own, Google forms are pretty limited in their functionality, just dumping data into a Google spreadsheet document (which can be exported, but you still have to regularly log into your Google account to view the data.)

Forms do have the option of sending an email alert whenever someone fills out the form, but the alerting email doesn’t include the actual form data, so you’re still tied to constantly logging into that account to get the information. Enter: Google Apps Script. With a little knowledge of JavaScript, you can use their library of classes and methods to add functionality to basic Google forms.

I started out just wanting to be able to receive an email when someone submitted a form, with all the responses included. For this I found a really nice tutorial from Amit Agarwal (http://www.labnol.org/internet/google-docs-email-form/20884/). If that’s all you need your form to do, great! You got it, dude.

I needed a few extras though. First, some of the forms need to go to multiple people. You can easily do this with a slightly more advanced version of the sendEmail method. (You can find documentation on the MailApp class and various iterations of the sendEmail method here: https://developers.google.com/apps-script/reference/mail/mail-app. Also helpful, their Understanding Events cheat sheet: https://developers.google.com/apps-script/understanding_events)

Essentially, you just need to find this line in the original code:

MailApp.sendEmail(email, subject, message);

and change it to:

MailApp.sendEmail(email, subject, message, {cc: email of person you want to copy});

You can cc multiple people by just separating their email addresses with commas.

One of the librarians, however, wanted users to indicate what department they were affiliated with, and then have a copy of the form results go to the department liaison. This is where things start to get a little complicated, and it’s helpful to know a little bit about programming languages. I wrote a simple switch statement (with some help from Babs, of course, my go-to programming guru.)

var dept = e.values[array location of dropdown].toString();
var contact = toString("xx");

switch (dept) {
case "dropdown value 1":
contact = "email address 1";
case "dropdown value 2":
contact = "email address 2";
contact = "default email address";

The first line of code pulls whatever drop-down value the user selected (the associated Google spreadsheet stores these values as an array. ‘e.values’ accesses the values in this array. Position [0] of the array is the time-date stamp that gets put in automatically, so your array location is just the exact question number of the drop-down question.)

Your switch statement is then just comparing that value to values that you associate with email addresses, and then assigning the associated email address to the variable “contact”, so now your method call looks like this:

MailApp.sendEmail(email, subject, message, {cc: contact});

Ok, if I haven’t given you a headache yet, there’s one more tweak you can do to increase the usability of the form submission email. Using ‘e.values’ again, you can pull the user’s email address from their form submission, and set it as the reply-to on the resulting email. That way, if the person who gets the email has a question for the submitter, they can just hit reply (default reply-to is the gmail account that you’re using to create the form.)

Again, since the time-date stamp is [0], you just need the question number where you ask for the user’s email address, and now you’ve got:

var reply = e.values[array location of user’s email].toString();

MailApp.sendEmail(email, subject, message, {cc: contact, replyTo: reply});

You can check out the whole script, as I use it, here.

If you’ve done any Google form hacking, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I’ve only just begun delving into the possibilities here!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Anatomy of a Crash

In accordance with Finagle’s corollary to Murphy’s Law, the website broke the day our sysadmin went on a 2 week vacation on another continent. What’s most surprising about this is how little it surprised me. First, what happened:

Our library website is using a very old installation of the Joomla content management system (1.5.7 I believe.) Our implementation, for whatever reason, is insecure. I know very little about Joomla or server security, other than to nod sagely and say, “could be an SQL injection attack” (much in the same way dudes will surround an open car hood, though they know nothing about fixing cars, and say, “it’s probably the transmission.”)

So last Friday, sometime around 11am, our website stopped being an actual website, and started being just a page that displayed the site title. Not so useful for users, I’d imagine. My first instinct is to look at the main index.php page to see if it’s been replaced with a different one. I’ve dealt with this hack in the past, just the result of some asshole saying “LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!” You just delete the new index file they put in, and put yours back in.

When I checked our index file, it was present, not renamed, and all the content was accounted for. At the end of the file there was a php command that was trying to redirect the site to some .biz.tr website, so I took out that code and figured the problem was fixed. Nope, site was still b0rked. I went into all the sub-folders’ index files, and found some malicious code in them too, so I decided to just replace all of them with clean backup versions. Still. B0rked. On to the config file. Everything looks fine there, but I replace it with a back up version anyway.

Also it was about this time I sent out an email to the staff that basically said YES I KNOW THE SITE IS DOWN YOU CAN ALL STOP CALLING ME ABOUT IT.

At this point I’m stumped, so I call the head of Media Services, who maintains the servers. He goes in to check which files were accessed at 11am that day. None. Uh, ok. He has me go into the database, to see if the content looks ok, and it does. It occurs to me that I’m able to get into the site from the admin panel, which is a subfolder in the site root, so it’s not that the whole site directory is corrupt. Subpages of the actual site, however, are not loading.

We finally realize that this is not going to be an easy fix, so I put up a temporary webpage linking to common services, most of which are on different servers, so they’re fine (catalog, database list, LibGuides, and Google forms.)

The head of Media Services then spent his weekend picking through all the myriad of folders on the server to find workable backups of pretty much all the pieces of the site (which, in a content management system, are many.) He then pieced the site back together, file by file. I honestly don’t know the details of how he made this happen, because whenever I asked him about it, he sounded like he was going to cry or murder a baby panda, so I’m just gonna let that go. He obviously has some sort of PTSD, and I don’t want to poke the painful memories of “the incident.” He did mention something about finding out that the site was actually hacked in June, and was only taken down just now by a remotely-issued command that activated the previously-inserted code. Insidious bastards.

I did a Google search for the spam url I found in the main index page, and it’s been injected into tons of insecure Joomla installs. I only mention this because people keep asking what kind of douchebag hacker makes it his life work to take down crappy college library websites. It was just a bot that looked for vulnerable targets. Nothing personal, my friends.

So say your site gets hacked, and you try fixing the index and config files, as I mentioned in the last post. And you try checking the server logs to see what files were messed with so you can replace them with backups. And you turn on error-reporting in your CMS to try to see what’s going wrong. And you Google some of the malicious code you found in your files. And say none of these fixes work, or yield any useful information. What now?

Well next you’ll want to search for common hacks to your specific CMS and version, to see if anyone can walk you through fixing them. Here’s a pro-tip though: in the end, most fixes will just tell you to install a fresh version of the software, and if you’re in my situation that’s not an option, so learn from our fail. Set up your website in such a way that disaster recovery is a relatively easy job, or at LEAST a viable option.

I will admit that much of this advice is based on my experience with Joomla and WordPress. I have much less experience with Drupal, so some of it may not apply there. If you’re a Drupal person, and have advice for keeping your site safe from hackers, please post it in the comments!

  1. Keep your site software up to date.
    Also your plug-ins. Also your themes. Because chances are, if they’re all from reputable sources, the developers will be addressing vulnerabilities as they pop up. The world of hacking is a shifting landscape, and what’s secure today is not necessarily secure tomorrow.
  2. Keep your customization modular.
    In WordPress, this means using a child theme, rather than making changes to the main theme. When you update a theme, it will override any changes you made to those files. Now you’re in a situation where you have stop updating your theme, and are thus breaking RULE NUMBER ONE. You will regret this.
  3. Keep your site root clean.
    Actually, not just the site root, but all its sub-directories. Part of the problem with our site is that the root folder is cluttered up with custom includes, images, project folders, etc. If you’re not the one who put them there (as in my case, where I’m taking over a site from someone who is no longer here) it’s hard to know what folders are part of the CMS’s software, and which ones are not. In general, if you re-install the software, it should just ignore these unrelated files and folders, but if the software contains new files and folders that have the same name as yours, you can accidentally overwrite your files. I’d say either place these files one level up, OR, if you want them to have the site root’s url, create onefolder in the site root, and put all of it in there. Clearly mark that that folder is NOT part of the CMS’s file structure.
  4. Documentation!!!
    Srsly. Updating or re-installing your CMS may not be a difficult process, but YOU may not be around when it needs to be done. YOU may be on another continent, or at another job. YOU may have gotten hit on the head or killed those particular brain cells with alcohol. There are so many pieces to a CMS (plugins, templates, images, forms, database(s), etc,) it’s supremely helpful to know which of these need to be backed up in like six places before you re-install, so you don’t lose the hours and hours of work you put into customizing them. Which leads to…
  5. Keep backups of important files and folders.
    Yes, I know you’re backing up your entire site on a regular basis, because to not do so would be INSANE, but even so, keep an extra copy of important stuff, JUST. IN. CASE. I have a folder on my desktop with my config file, my entire child theme folder, and my custom plugin folders. WordPress is smart, and names the blank config file something else, so when you update, that default config file doesn’t overwrite yours, but still. (Remember to update these backups every time you make a change. I got in that habit anyway, because I keep an entirely local copy of the site to make changes to before making them live, so it’s kind of a reflex at this point that when I make a change in one place, I update those files everywhere else.)
  6. Minimize the use of 3rd party modules or vulnerable code.
    Wherever possible on our WordPress site, I used CSS/jQuery to create my own custom features (like our tabbed search box) rather than install another plugins. Plugins can increase the vulnerability of your site, so use them with caution (and, not to drill it into your head or anything, but keep them updated!) We’ve also made the switch to Google forms for all our forms, so we have the benefit of their security features (and so the forms are connected to off-site databases, rather than databases on our servers.)
  7. Create a simple html backup site ready to go at all times.
    Honestly, I never even thought of this until the head of Media Services suggested it. Libraries subscribe to many services that are hosted off-site (such as the catalog, research guides, databases, resource managers, and discovery services.) These services are the core of our business, and are still available even when your site is down. Create a simple site that links to whatever services and resources are still available, as well as basic information like hours and contact info. I just downloaded a free CSS template and created a quick and dirty 2 page website that can be put up during downtime (unless the entire server is down. Then I guess you have to put them elsewhere and do a redirect? ACK! SERVER STUFF FRIGHTENS AND CONFUSES ME.)

So ok, there you have it. I am by no means an expert on the topic of hacking, or disaster recovery, or even web development for that matter. This is just an attempt to learn from my own experiences, and to put what I learned out there, just in case it can help someone else in a similar situation. If anyone else has some advice on these matters, please share in the comments!

Posted in hacking, web development, websites | Comments Off on The Anatomy of a Crash

Spring cleaning your LibGuides

I’m in the process of revamping my library’s LibGuides, and I’ve come across a few small changes you can make to your guides that make a world a difference for design and usability. First of all, as far as headers/banners go, I am NOT a graphic designer, so I kept it simple, with just the school logo, and “Library Research Guides” in our official font. I don’t recommend random images and color-fading if you’re not really, really good at it. Otherwise it looks like a page for your local pre-K, coded with Microsoft Word.

old design
new design


I’ve also created a hidden tab (hidden from public view, that is. It’s visible to anyone signed in through the admin interface.) I’m using this tab to post instructions, screenshots, and tips for guide creators. I’m also using it as a content repository for boxes I want to be available, but that don’t necessarily have a logical home in the template itself (more on this in a minute…)Second, take advantage of SpringShare’s excellent documentation. As a company that markets guide-creation software, they really put their money where their mouth is. Seriously, they’ve created a guide for pretty much everything. Here are some I found particularly useful:

As the library’s LibGuides admin, I’m currently building a template that all librarians can start from when creating new guides. They are free to not use it if they don’t want to, but if the majority of them do use it, this will ensure some consistency across guides. It also acts as a repository for all the custom search-boxes I’ve built, so other librarians can pick and choose which ones they want to add to their guides.

I’ve recommended that users link to boxes in the template, rather than copying them, so the template can also act as a content hub, where changes can be made in one place and pushed to all guides linking to the content. This is also why it’s a good idea to import your database A-Z list into LibGuides, even if you have one on your library website. If librarians link to links in the database A-Z guide, it will automatically pull the description (which can be hidden or changed if they want) and it will allow you to make changes to database links and names in one place, that, again, will be pushed to all guides that use those links.

I’ve also noticed that most libraries that use LibGuides just use the default homepage options, which include a list of guides (featured, popular or recent,) a random user profile, email sign-up and/or a tag cloud. But you can choose instead to display a box from elsewhere in the site, by just entering the box id. So, on my hidden template page, I created a box of popular links (I called them “quick links”) and put that on the homepage. I also replaced one of the boxes with our “help” box, that contains our various methods of contact. A good example of a nice customized LibGuides homepage is Worcester Poly’s site: http://libguides.wpi.edu/

I also like how Rutgers made their homepage a complete list of guides, listed alphabetically on one tab, and by discipline on another: http://libguides.rutgers.edu/home

This is still a work-in-progress, so if anyone has any other helpful hints, please leave them in the comments!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments


I’ve been tasked by my director to somehow wrangle our LibGuides implementation into shape. Apparently the library subscribed to the software sometime last year, and librarians have slowly been migrating their subject guides from the CUNY-grown SRMS (Subject Management Resource System) to LibGuides. LibGuides offers much more flexibility and back-end usability than SRMS (which was maintained by one person, with all users sending their edits to the e-resources librarian.) Having a system that allows each subject librarian to create and update their own guides makes much more sense, but the ease-of-use and flexibility have a DARK SIDE. Yes. Dark side. In all caps.

So all the librarians, who have varying degrees of technical expertise, are copying and pasting content, willy-nilly, into hastily-created guides in the LibGuides system. Some of them have used the software in the past, and so are comfortable removing unwanted formatting (which often requires you to toggle out of the WYSIWYG and into the html editor) and customizing pages and tabs by adding, removing, or changing the widths of columns. Some of them are understandably daunted by guides that contain giant text and random fonts that they never chose.

I plan on giving a workshop for staff in the coming months, to cover topics such as pasting into a text editor to remove formatting (I’ve also been installing PureText on people’s computers for them. I use it myself, and love it for instant conversion to plain text.) I’ll also be going over how to add, remove, and adjust column widths, and when to use special content boxes (such as for multimedia or books from the catalog.)

While putting together this workshop, I’ve realized that while I can show people how to use the software, I don’t really know what to tell them about design. Personally, I can’t stand cluttered guides (3 rows of tabs?! Go home LibGuide, you are drunk,) but I can’t refer the librarians to any best practice guides outside of the LibGuides system. To this end, I started doing some research to look at best practices (based on assessment/usability testing) for creating subject guides. I’d love to turn this research into an article, but until I see what’s already been written on the topic, I can’t say if that will happen or not.

I did, however, create a Zotero user group (zotero.org/groups/libguides) for my research, so you can read up on the topic yourself, if you feel so inclined. I’ll be adding to it on an ongoing basis, so you can join the group if you want to keep up with what I’m finding. I also opened up comments and discussion, so feel free to share your thoughts. Oh, and if you want me to add you as a contributor to the group, let me know. It might be cool to see what a bunch of us can find, if we all pitch in.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on MISSION: LIBGUIDES

Open access is easier than you think

I recently attended a talk by Jill Cirasella, a librarian at Brooklyn College, on open access publishing (check out the slides here: http://www.slideshare.net/cirasella/cuny-oa-ir-york). I kind of went as a professional courtesy to my colleague who set up the talk, because I honestly thought I was pretty well-informed on the topic. Turns out I was sadly mistaken on that count. I figured the talk would be about seeking out and publishing in open access journals, but what I didn’t realize was that there are actually two types of open access publishing: gold and green.

Gold open access journals are ones that make their articles freely available to the public, and sometimes (often?) require their authors to pay a publishing fee. This funding model puts payment for access to scholarship at the beginning of the publishing process, or the time of submission, not at the end, or time of access. This is also what most of us think about when people talk about open access publishing.

But it turns out this talk was focused on green open access publishing, or traditional journals that allow their authors to self-archive some version of their work, and make it openly available on the web. Some restrictions can include an enforced embargo period, or only allowing authors to make available the pre-print (article before any editor or peer review comments) or post-print (final version of the article, but not in the format published by the journal.)

Jill gave us some tools to easily find out the copyright rules for specific journals, including the SHERPA/RoMEO website, which allows you to search for a journal title, and view a summary of authors’ rights. Turns out, the publisher of the two journals I’ve written articles for, Taylor & Francis, have a very lenient open access policy for library science journals. They allow you to self-archive the post-print of your article, with no embargo period. (Oh how I wish I knew that earlier! My articles have been languishing behind paywalls all this time!)

Once you find out if you can self-archive your article, (it turns out that 94% of the journals covered in RoMEO allow some form of it. Wow!) you need to find a repository to deposit your article in. You can, of course, self-archive on your own site, but large repositories are far more stable and vastly increase find-ability. (You do want to be cited, don’t you?!) If your institution has an institutional repository, that’s the best place to start. If it doesn’t (as my school does not) you can check out this list of discipline-specific digital repositories: http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/Disciplinary_repositories.

It turns out there are 2 pretty prominent library science repositories, E-LIS and DLIST. I plan on submitting my papers to both, but have only gotten around to submitting to E-LIS so far.

e-lis screenshot

e-lis accepted screenshot 1

e-lis accepted screenshot 2
and… accepted!

So now you can access the final, peer-reviewed, full-text of my articles here: http://bit.ly/Y1uQZd. I’ll keep you all posted on whether my citations go noticeably up or not, now that they are out from behind a paywall.

A pro-tip for you, so you can learn from my fail: KEEP SEPARATE COPIES OF ALL VERSIONS OF YOUR PAPER. I cannot stress this enough. When the editors sent me the first round of comments, I opened up the Microsoft Word document and made the changes (without enabling the track changes function.) So when I was told I was free to make my pre-print publicly available, I didn’t HAVE a pre-print to make available.

THEN, because I’m an IDIOT, I had the opposite problem with the post-print. The final round of edits are usually made directly in the publisher’s online system, and I didn’t bother going back to my word document to mirror the changes I had made in the system. So when they told me I could make the post-print freely available (but not their version of it) I didn’t HAVE a post-print to make available. ::headdesk:: For you fine people, I actually went through the final pdf version of the document, copied and pasted it page by page into a text file to remove formatting, and then transferred the whole thing, plus images, back into a Word document. This was monotonous and cumbersome and I DON’T recommend you do it.

So, make sure you have a copy of the article that you originally submit, BEFORE you receive any comments from the editors or peer-reviewers, and make sure you have your own copy of the final version, with all the edits, and make sure they’re clearly labelled _preprint and _postprint. You’ll thank me later.

PS- Thanks, Jill, for a really enlightening presentation!!! 🙂
PPS- You can find a list of all the links from the talk (including a link to the slides) here: http://bitly.com/bundles/scwlibrary/5

Posted in academia, copyright, institutional repositories, open access, publishing, self-archiving | Comments Off on Open access is easier than you think


Well it’s a snowy Friday, and I thought I’d take some time today to compile and post the links I’ve collected since my last link post. Cuz I’m nice like that. UR WELKUM.

Library Stuff

From Wikipedia to our libraries | Everybody’s Libraries
Wikipedia can be a big help in making online readers aware of their library’s offerings. How can libraries facilitate this?

Thank You, Librarian – a Tumblr of love notes to the people who inspire us

Cracking the Code: Librarians Acquiring Essential Coding Skills | The Digital Shift

Tech News + Protips

15 Tips + Tricks To Get More Out Of Google Drive | hongkiat.com

10 Tips for Conference Presentations That Rock | iLibrarian

New research sheds light on 13 ways to gain followers on Twitter | Big Think

5 Best Websites To Send Fax For Free | hongkiat.com

Download Project Gutenberg ebooks to your Dropbox | digital inspiration

Responsive Design Framework Foundation Goes Mobile-First, Switches From jQuery To Zepto | TechCrunch

Cool Job Postings

Director, Scholarly Communications and Copyright
VCU Libraries, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA

Copyright and Digital Access Librarian
Washington University
St. Louis, MO

Instruction Librarian (classroom + web-based)
Western Oregon University
Monmouth, OR

Web Front End Developer, Archives
New York Public Library
New York, NY

Director/System Administrator
Montgomery County Library + Information Network Consortium
Conshohocken, PA 19428

Supervisory Librarian
Executive Office Of The President
Washington, DC


Online Education and Jazz | Marginal Revolution

Other Interesting Stuff

Why We May Never Beat Stigma | the fix
Using the word ‘addiction’ to apply to any bad behavior gives jerks a free pass, and hurts real addicts.

Dove sneaks revert-to-original Photoshop plugin into art directors’ toolkits | BoingBoing
Dove tricks photoshoppers into facing the effect of manipulating the female image of beauty.

Screw The Postal Service. I Hope Your Cute Indie Clothes Chafe You All Summer Long | Reverb
Watch the fake Postal Service audition video first. Then read Duff McKagan’s reply. Hysterical.

French Designer Pixel Glasses | Sprite Stitch


I’m into Vine now. Vine is cool.

Posted in articles, career, feeds, jobs, links, professional development, psychology, resources, TheUbiquitousLibrary | Comments Off on MOAR LINKZ

Crappy image maps messing with my mind

Please, for the life of Brian, give adequate thought to creating image maps (images that contain multiple links, mapped to different areas of the image.) While they can be useful, and even creative, they can also be confusing. (The one in the linked Wikipedia entry is a good example of a creatively-designed image map, that has some functional issues.)

In web design, you rely on certain conventions to indicate to the user what can be clicked on (ie-a link.) If you use an image as a link, users can see the image is click-able by mousing over it, and seeing if the pointer changes from an arrow to a hand. However, if you make an image into an image map, but divide the entire image into click-able sections, it can be hard to tell the different areas of the image link to different places. You can help alleviate this problem by restricting the click-able areas to distinct areas, separated by some non-click-able space, and also by using tool-tips or title tags to describe the link hidden in that part of the image.

My motivation for this post? My own damn library’s website. Check out the header on this page: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu. It took me a moment to realize that the entire header didn’t link back to our website, but also contained a link to the school’s website. After much clicking and confusion, I realized that the bottom part of that image not only contains a link to the *school’s* website, but also the school *system.* Now, maybe you got that at first glance, but I honestly didn’t, and I highly doubt I’m the only one to make that mistake. Part of the problem is that the site was created years ago, and as I mentioned in the Harvard Library website post, alt tags are no longer rendered as tool tips by all browsers (I’m using Chrome, and they don’t show up when you hover over the links in it.)

I opened the page in Dreamweaver to be able to visualize where the links were mapped to (see below,) and I can honestly say that they tried to keep the links tight to the text, but I think that the bottom two links are just too close together for it to be quickly apparent to the user that they link to two separate places.

How would I have done it? I would have probably made the “CSI” part link to the school, and the rest would link to the library. I’d probably add the “City University of New York” as a regular text link, underneath the header image, or possibly just in the footer.

Just remember when creating image maps: unless the user hovers over various areas of the image to find the links/tool tips, there is no external indicator as to what part of the image links to what (ie-you can’t tell just by looking at it.) You have to rely on visual cues and web design standards to cue the user in to the fact that the image contains a.) a link and/or b.) multiple links. They may not take the time to wave their cursor across the whole image to discover just how many links there are, and what they link to.*

*Some cues that there are multiple links are:

  • Scrolling over the image and noticing that the entire image is not click-able. Many developers will not bother creating an image map to insert a single link in an image, unless they have a good reason to; they’ll just make the entire image the link.
  • Patterns… If it’s a picture of the solar system, and the first two planets are links, the user will guess that the rest of the planets are too. Same thing with maps where more than one location is linked, or groups of people where more than one person is linked. (etc, etc…)
  • Added visual cues such as numbers, letters, or symbols that indicate where the user might find a link. (Example: http://www.frankmanno.com/ideas/css-imagemap/#ex)

Posted in image maps, interfaces, library websites, rant, TheUbiquitousLibrary, vexation, web design, web development, websites | Comments Off on Crappy image maps messing with my mind


The list of library tech peeps was starting to get a bit unwieldy, so I forked it! Sheet 1 of the list is website and user experience types, while sheet 2 is digital projects/eResources/systems/repository types. I know there’s some overlap, so when in doubt, I tried to think if I would classify that particular person as “front-end” or “back-end.” And yes, I do giggle whenever I think of someone as a “back-end” person. I AM TEH MAHTYUR.

If you think I’ve mis-classified you, or if I have your link(s) wrong, just let me know, and I’ll fix it ASAP, because I now have a Gdrive app on my phone so I can be fly on the fly. Waitwhat? Shuddup it’s Monday and I’ve had 3 cups of coffee already.

Posted in career, library technology, library websites, TheUbiquitousLibrary, web design, web development, websites | Comments Off on FORKED!

Catching Up On the World of Library WebTech

So, I thought myself fairly knowledgeable in the area of library technology. Turns out, every aspect of library technology has its own communities, its own published body of knowledge, its own go-to gals and guys. Yes, you say, well, duh. I thought much of my experience in social media and online marketing would carry over into my new web services position, but I’m finding out that this is a wonderful new pond, with wonderful new fish.

As I learn of this stuff, so shall you, because I’m pedantic like that. I mean generous. Whatevs. Either way, I am starting a list for myself of web services-type librarians. I’m mostly concerned with blogs I should be reading, people I should be following on Twitter, and library websites I should look to for best practices. You should help me with this endeavor, because you’re a nice person, and you totally just thought of someone or something I left off the list.

Who is missing from this list? Let me know in the comments!

PS – If you’re having trouble viewing the silly embedded spreadsheet, you can view the full spreadsheet here.

PPS – Yes, I should have linked those twitter usernames. I will. Tomorrow. [DONE]

PPPS – I split the list into 2 lists.

Posted in career, library technology, library websites, TheUbiquitousLibrary, web design, web development, websites | 4 Comments