HCI International 2014

We have mentioned before how the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) manages its technological projects from an Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) perspective and, with this in mind, it has attended the International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction for some years now.

This conference sees scholars, researchers, companies and institutions present their projects and studies in the field of HCI.

The latest edition of the conference took place between 22 and 27 June in Crete, Greece. There were 2,000 participants, 238 posters and 244 parallel sessions.

Poster Customization, transparency and promimity

Poster presented

The UOC’s involvement included the presentation of the poster on “Customization, Transparency and Proximity: A User-Centered Content Strategy Applied to the Design of a Virtual Library Website” by Mireia Leg, Mireia Pérez and Pablo Rebaque, which detailed the content management strategy for the Library’s new website, which has been redesigned using a User-Centred Design (UCD) methodology.

The aim of the redesign was to provide users with more intuitive, usable and understandable content (textual content, resources and services) by implementing criteria of customization, transparency and proximity. The study also presents a selection of best practices for applying these criteria to the design of other library websites.

The University also presented three papers. Roger Griset presented “Course Sprints: Combining Teacher Training, Design Thinking and Hackathons” and Enosha Hettiarachchi presented “Designing learning tools: the case of a competence assessment tool” and “Teaching and Learning HCI Online”, the latter on the experience from the UOC’s postgraduate course on HCI.


Cross-posted with iCommunity blog.


The issue of mobile in libraries

If we engage in a bit of a benchmarking exercise, we can observe that most libraries have mobile sites, some have mobile applications, and very few have responsive websites.

According to The State of Mobile in Libraries 201244% of academic libraries and 34% of public libraries said they offered “some type of mobile services to their customers”. Since that survey was carried out, these numbers have risen and services offered via mobile devices have become more diverse, encompassing augmented reality tours and place-based collections, point-of-need information and self-service features via QR codes, e-book and device circulation, among others.

Considerable progress has also been made in terms of access to collections as an increasing number of library vendors offer interfaces for mobile devices.

For a more up-to-date overview of the state of mobile in libraries, we can consult the M-Libraries webpage of Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. The wiki provides a list of libraries and a list of vendors and publishers that offer mobile interfaces or applications, as well as suggested reading links for the topic.

Of course, it is also important to consider the perspective of users and know what services they use or would like to see.Though not quite up-to-date, the following data is provided by the Lybrary Journal’s Patron profiles report:


APPS: What do patrons want? Source: Library Journal. Patron profiles. 2012

APPS: What do patrons want?
Source: Library Journal. Patron profiles. 2012

Over recent months, we have carried out a new user test to improve the information architecture for certain parts of the website. Among other sections, we assessed the access offered to the digital collection from the Library’s website. The large number of resources and the wide range of tools represent an important obstacle for users when they search for information.

These are some of the stand-out observations that you may find interesting.

  • To find the state of the art in a given subject, faculty choose to use Google Scholar first, and the Library’s resources and search engine second. Students tend to use the website’s search engine first.
  • The majority of users liked the fact that access depended on the type of content, as this lets them discover new resources, although they were not always familiar with the different types.
  • Users do not fully understand the separation of articles and databases. The concept of databases in not well known, especially among students.
  • When searching for a specific article, the majority of users would go straight to the website’s search engine to get the full text if available.
  • Faculty would mention certain databases or journals in their specialist areas, but the majority of students could not give any examples.
  • All the users were satisfied with the single search box for accessing all of the Library’s contents.
  • Among the resources, users expected to find open resources such as websites, blogs, etc.


One search box and resources menu

One search box and resources menu

The main finding is that there is the need to make it as easy as possible to access the contents.

This means offering different channels for access to meet all the possible needs and respond to all levels of information skills.

Users also value any way to find new resources very highly.

Related posts:
Is a single search box the solution to our problems?
Search engine at the library website: curiosities


Drupal, our choice

A couple of weeks ago we had the chance to present the new Virtual Library website project at a conference organized by the University (UOC). The conference was designed to showcase projects with an important technological component being developed at the University.

One of the aspects looked at in the presentation was the selection and configuration of the software chosen – Drupal – and how it allowed us to respond to the needs arising.

What were our technical requirements?

  • Scalable.
  • Customizable. To be able to adapt the tool to our current needs and those that may arise in the future.
  • Trilingual. All content has to be in three languages.
  • Ability to generate a workflow for decentralized publishing by multiple editors.
  • Ability to integrate the University’s internal (UOC identification system, query service) and external tools (Summon, SFX, Millennium, MetaLib).

Why did we choose Drupal?

  • Open-source.
  • Accessible and user-friendly SEO.
  • Robust.
    • Consolidated.
    • Large support community.
  • Flexible and offering control.
    • Modular, scalable and customizable.
    • Views. To be able to show content depending on the criteria set.
    • Control of roles and permissions, both for end users and content editors.
    • Multilingual.

We had to produce some custom developments in Drupal:

  • Content type (set templates for the creation of different types of content: news, services, resources, alerts, etc.).
  • Module to adapt Drupal’s functions.
  • LTI module to connect to the UOC’s Virtual Campus.
  • Theme to adapt the user interface.
  • Use of Block Theme and blocks. Blocks allow us to show or hide information or show different information depending on the user profile.

Services presentation

Content types and blocks

Other aspects that we took into account:

  • The design method for the solution used in all phases of the project (user-centred design).
  • What the new website represented for users.
  • Conclusions: problems and challenges for the project and the future.

You can find the complete presentation (in Catalan) on the University’s institutional repository.



Editor’s note: The poster of Mireia Leg, Mireia Perez and Pablo Rebaque ‘How to redesign a virtual library website: a case of study’ won the best poster prize on the LIBER 43rd Annual Conference on ‘Research Libraries in the 2020 Information Landscape’ in Riga, Latvia, 2-5 July 2014. Congrats!


Towards 2.0 user training


At this time of constant connection to the internet, mass use of social networks, instant messaging, mobile devices and apps, and instant access to information at any time and from anywhere, and right when we need it, we need to reassess the services offered by libraries to adapt them to a new technological context and new user needs.

“we need to reassess the services offered by libraries to adapt them to a new technological context and new user needs”

For some time now here at the UOC Library we have provided a response to the new user needs arising from these technological changes and trends.

In the specific case of the training offered by the Library over recent years, and specifically since 2009 when we produced the Training Plan (a plan which is currently being updated), we have made a concerted effort to focus on e-learning via the University’s Virtual Campus and new multimedia formats that include audio, video and text.

The roll-out of the UOC Library’s new website has let us take another step, further enhancing our commitment to self-learning and audiovisual formats for Library users, both for training in the use of the Library’s services and resources and in basic information skills so they can work independently to find, manage and use information.

We believe that multimedia, which in most cases means short videos that we call knowledge pills, is the format that best meets the training needs of our users in the current context.

“multimedia, which in most cases means short videos that we call knowledge pills, is the format that best meets the training needs of our users”

Thus, the training offered by the UOC Library is based, fundamentally, on a series of self‑learning videos to accompany the Library’s services and resources and a series of videos to help users work independently to find, manage and use information.

The catalogue of videos undergoes an annual review and update. The Library also offers the possibility for users to request specific materials on any subject from the Bespoke Training Service.

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