CONTENTdm Design Presentation and Sticky Notes

Categories Presentations

Ever get nervous before a presentation? I started feeling the butterflies today right before a presentation as I watched the attendee numbers rise steadily… 15… 36… 67… 89… Too much! Since this was a webinar it just seemed wrong to picture them in their underwear to calm the nerves. But then I realized a beautiful fact… I didn’t HAVE to know how many people were going to listen to me speak!

Used sticky notes to the rescue! Yes, I really stuck notes to cover up the attendee numbers onto my screen. Yes, it worked wonderfully 🙂

No attendee numbers

For those of you who wanted a copy of my slides from the CONTENTdm presentation today, you can find them on SlideShare!

[slideshare id=14990637&w=427&h=356]

And finally, because what good are slides without some kind of transcript, what I said (or wrote down to say in some cases – I paraphrased) –

Hi everyone, I’m Megan West and I work for the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana, PALNI for short. Today, I’m going to be talking about something near and dear to my heart, design and branding. While our collections are more academic focused, the design and structural decisions we made can be applied to Public and Special Library collections as well.

How we’re set up

  • We are a Consortia with 15 out of 23 libraries participating in our CDM instance
  • The decision to use CONTENTdm stemmed from a collaborative project between 3 Indiana colleges: Earlham (Quaker), Goshen (Mennonite), and Manchester (Brethren)—representing the three “historic peace church” traditions. The project aimed to improve the peace studies resources and expertise for undergraduate peace studies education at the institutions. They also wanted to make these available locally and nationally to benefit the public. In order to do this, they needed a platform to showcase their collections which met their needs including:
    • Needs: Supported file formats including multimedia, searching across multiple, shared collections, and flexibility for different types of archives and collections.
    • While the search for a digital repository started out with a small, collaborative project between 3 institutions, it was later that PALNI realized the potential of CONTENTdm for it’s consortium-wide digital needs.
    • Since then, we now have 2 collaborative collections between institutions and 35 individual collections. You’ll see that our collection types vary greatly. Some are special collections, theses, historical campus images, or student publications. We’ve been very pleased with how CONTENTdm gives us a platform that supports so many different types of collections.
  • Because of our large size, we have 5-person Digital Admin Team that serves as support, like a helpdesk- They are representatives from 4 of the most active institutions and myself, who all have cataloging and/or systems experience
    • Part of good design, is having a usable site. Having an admin team helps to maintain consistency throughout the site as well as help others to create well-designed collections
    • Our main responsibilities include building any new collections requested of an institution, making server and web configurations changes, assisting the librarians when they need help with project client, and keeping up with the latest trends, bugs, and fixes.
    • We’ve worked to establish metadata guidelines and recommend using the Dublin Core standards for optimized cross-collection searching.
    • Let me give you an example of how we maintain a usable site by showing how we operate; we’ll say that the “West College” would like to create a new collection.
      • First, they’ll send in the details of this new collection by filling out a Google form which the Admin team receives updates to from their list-serv.
      • Admin team member, Jacob,  volunteers to work with West College and lets the other team members know.
      • Jacob builds the collection and points West College to all the resources available to them on the internal wiki and the User Support Center. He also may travel to West College and help them in person download the Project Client and walk them through adding items to their new collection.
      • West College works on building their collection using the recommended guidelines. They stumbled on a question they can’t find the answer to they email the Admin team list-serv where the Admin Team puts their heads together to provide them the best answer possible. Sometimes this requires contacting OCLC for help.
      • This operational procedure has proven to maintain some level of consistency between collections which is important to the design and usability of the site while giving a system of support to all users.

Check out what is happening behind the scenes:

  • Reviewed the Google Analytics stats:
    • We were most interested in:
      • how people were finding us – Google search mainly and then directly from institution’s website links
      • Where they were coming in- Homepage mainly unless directly linking to individual collections
      • What they looked at and for how long- where were the drop-offs?
    • This information gave us a clue at how people were using the site and where there were potential problems.


  • We’ll start with the COLLABORATIVE HOMEPAGE: Most of our users, according to Google Analytics were coming in through the homepage. It was crucial for us to illustrate that they were on a consortia’s page versus an individual collection’s page.
    • At the top of the homepage, you’ll find the Default PALNI header for the collections. The goal of the header design was to illustrate the collaboration of the PALNI libraries for their digital collections. We wanted it to be clear that the user was searching all of the collections on that homepage and not just a single institutions’ collections.
    • We wanted to provide access to each institution’s collection so we used the listing of all the collections in this section. We try to make sure all collections have some kind of indicator of which institution they are from- this helps the user navigate and the admin team when making changes. We also decided to only allow a thumbnail pic beside the collection name as the carousels took too long to load with so many collections.
    • The final structural decision was to create Custom Pages for each institution and link them from the homepage where the About Section is located.
  • CUSTOM PAGES: One of the problems we had with our structure was that there was no good way to group an institution’s collections together on a page. You could alter the nav bar, list the others on the collections landing page, but there lacked a “top layer” for each institution. When the ability to create custom pages came about a year ago, we saw a great solution to a growing problem.
    • Each institution was given a institution-specific page where they can add any text they want and a listing of all their collections.
    • The search on the custom page searches ONLY their collections but when they get to the results page, they can expand their search PALNI-wide.
    • The custom pages allowed the institutions to directly link from their Library Website to a page where all their collections are listed and can be searched from.
    • We’re looking into some plugins like the Carousel and Recent Additions to be used on the Custom Pages so they are more attractive and usable.

In the beginning:

  • When the collections first developed, we stuck with the PALNI-wide default header for most of the collections unless the individual library designed something specific.
  • This made it harder to figure out where you were in the site and what collection you were searching with the only real indicator being the title on the landing pages


  • So we set out to make custom headers for each collection; and it made it easier to navigate the site
  • You’ll find that many of the institutions have many but very different types of collections. The design challenge was to create custom headers that showed off the uniqueness of each collection while still consistent with the other institution’s header designs
    • Marian University is a great example of consistent design with individual flair in the corner using images from their collections
  • On that same note, you’ll notice the use of many of our collections’ images in the headers. This gives the user a taste of what they will find in the collection as well as aesthetic appeal to the header
    • One of my favorite examples of this is Oakland City University’s Header for their campus building collection. While you can’t see the buildings as clearly as you would in normal thumbnails, it showcases the point of the collection in a pleasing way.

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