Ken Varnum
Publications and Presentations

Last updated 12 April 2013

Please note that all these papers are protected by copyright.
No reproduction or redistribution without the express permission of the copyright owner is allowed.

Patterns of Undergraduates' Use of Scholarly Databases in a Large Research University
Loyd Gitari Mbabu, Albert Bertram, Ken Varnum. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 39, Issue 2, March 2013, Pages 189-193, ISSN 0099-1333, 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.10.004. A pre-print is available in the University of Michigan's institutional repository.
Drupal in Libraries. ALA TechSource, June 2012.
Volume 14 in the Tech Set series, Drupal in Libraries is a how-to manual for the non-technical librarian who wants to build a Drupal web site. Through step-by-step instructions, the book walks the site adminstrator through the Drupal interface and illustrates how to build a functional interactive web site without need for programming skills.
See the companion website.
Library Favorites and Resource Modeling
Presented at the LITA National Forum, Columbus, Ohio, October 5, 2012.
Web site visitors to the University of Michigan library can save some kinds of resources (catalog items, databases, online journals, and article citations) to their user account for future use. Users can optionally organize these resources into categories (the system recommends courses they are taking and categories they have previously used, but individuals can create any categories they like).
In this session, attendees will learn about our design process (including user studies, design elements, and Drupal coding) and the usage of the tool. The pool of saved items becomes a rich data source for providing anonymized, aggregated data to library staff and site visitors. We will conclude by exploring some of the possible uses of this data, including building supplemental reading lists for specific courses.
"Don’t Go There! Providing Discovery Services Locally, Not at a Vendor’s Site"
Presented at the Michigan Library Association's Academic Libraries 2012 conference, 10 May 2012.
"Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives and Museums"
This webinar was presented (with 5 others) at the conclusions of the RLG Social Metadata Working Group on 9 March 2012.
"Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives and Museums. Part 2: Survey Analysis
Co-authored by Karen Smith-Yoshimura, Carol Jean Godby, Helice Koffler, and Elizabeth Yakel. 2011. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research. Available through http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/2011/2011-03.pdf.
Serials Solutions' Summon: Familiarity Breeds Success (Library Journal Reference Supplement, November 15, 2011, p. 18)
Describing the University of Michigan's implementation of Summon as its article discovery tool.
Keeping Discovery in the Library (SlideShare)
Presented at the 2011 Charleston Conference on 2 November 2011 as part of a panel discussion with Roger Schonfeld (Ithaka S+R), Ross Housewright (Ithaka S+R), Sebastian Hammer (Index Data), Cody Hanson (University of Minnesota), and David Walker (California State University).
Abstract: Libraries are increasingly faced with the challenge of developing an appropriate strategy for supporting their users’ information discovery needs. This preconference, facilitated by Ithaka S+R, will explore the growing range of approaches users may take to information discovery in a digital environment and help attendees consider the strategic implications of potential roles that their library could play in supporting their users' discovery needs.
Making the Case for CMS! (SlideShare)
Presented at Internet Librarian 2011 on 19 October 2011 with Nina McHale.
Abstract: Making a convincing case to change from non- or lightly-managed web sites to a content management system (CMS) can seem daunting. However, you can build a strong case that will help convince administration of the benefits of CMSs. In this talk, two librarians who manage large public and internal websites at the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado Denver give you all of the ammo you need! Gain insight on why having a CMS is better than not having one and why an open source CMS tool (such as Drupal and MediaWiki) are viable, functional, and efficient solutions. Audience participation in the form of group therapy will be encouraged!
Drupal & Summon: Keeping Article Discovery in the Library (SlideShare)
Presented at LITA National Forum 2011 on 30 September 2011.
Abstract: How building a Drupal module to bring Summon's article discovery system into our web site increased article searching, decreased direct database use, and maintained context for the library's patrons.
"Keeping Your Feet on the Ground when Putting your (Lib)Guides in the Cloud" with Karen Reiman-Sendi and Albert A. Bertram.
A chapter in Getting Started with Cloud Computing: A LITA Guide. Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. Edited by Heather Moulaison and Edward Corrado. 2011.
Usability for Tough Times (SlideShare)
Presented at LITA National Forum 2010 on 2 October 2010 with Suzanne Chapman.
Abstract: Like many libraries, the University of Michigan Library for a long time employed no one for the purpose of website usability. To address the gap, a Usability Group was formed. The structure and methodologies of the group have evolved over the last four years, producing an efficient organization with innovative and highly effective techniques. Twenty-eight staff members have contributed to this group. Six different systems have been evaluated, resulting in over 30 reports and hundreds of recommendations. Although resources are evaluated using a wide range of traditional techniques (formal testing, focus groups, surveys, heuristic evaluations, prototype testing, etc.), the group strongly believes that usability doesn't have to be complicated and time-consuming, favoring more straightforward, "budget" techniques as means to the most interesting and useful results. The group also often employs an iterative approach to testing by repeating and refining tests to evaluate effectiveness of changes and to fine-tune techniques. This presentation will describe the Usability Group's techniques and findings from our most recent projects to evaluate the library's recently launched website. Specifically, we will describe methodologies, present testing materials and results from "guerilla" testing, group card sorting, and participatory design sessions with undergraduates, graduates and faculty, and staff. Participants will be able to apply these methods in their own libraries.
Opening What's Closed: Using Open Source Tools to Tear Down [Vendor] Silos (SlideShare)
Presented at WiLSWorld 2010  on 21 July 2010.
Abstract: The University of Michigan Library's web site is a consistent, integrated front end on what was a collection of 19 distinctly different library sites and multiple library silos. The library's site now combines a variety of tools (including Drupal, VuFind, Springshare's LibGuides, Ex Libris's Metalib, DSpace, and Solr) within a single interface. In this talk, you will learn about the design process that informed the system architecture and the way we are using data from both open source and proprietary software to break down information silos.
Project Lefty More Bang For The Search Buck (SlideShare)
Presented at Computers in Libraries 2010 on 12 April 2010. This presentation discusses my winning entry in Deep Web Technology's federated search contest. The presentation discusses the idealized future as well as a working prototype at the University of Michigan Library. A version of the winning entry was published in the April 2010 issue of Computers in Libraries: Project Lefty: More Bang for the Search Query.
Information, Not Location: The New MLibrary
Presented with Liene Karels and Karen Reiman-Sendi as part of the Wisconsin Library Services' Library Open Solutions Webinars on 8 April 2010.
NERCOMP New Discovery Tools Symposium on 1 February 2010.
Abstract: At the University of Michigan Library, we recently launched a new library web site [www.lib.umich.edu] that strives to put the library's resources in the foreground while leaving the particular tools that manage and provide access to them in the background. The site, built on Drupal, VuFind, LibGuides, and Ex Libris's Metalib, integrates a range of library services without forcing the user to look in specialized interfaces for them. For example, a site search dynamically returns results from the catalog (including materials available through the HathiTrust), our ejournals and databases lists, our web site, research guides, and librarian subject specialists. Our more static browse pages highlight the best resources in each of these categories for our patrons.
Information, Not Location: Putting the What in Front of the Where So Patrons can Find When, Why and How (SlideShare)
Presented at the NERCOMP New Discovery Tools Symposium on 1 February 2010. Abstract: At the University of Michigan Library, we recently launched a new library web site [www.lib.umich.edu] that strives to put the library's resources in the foreground while leaving the particular tools that manage and provide access to them in the background. The site, built on Drupal, VuFind, LibGuides, and Ex Libris's Metalib, integrates a range of library services without forcing the user to look in specialized interfaces for them. For example, a site search dynamically returns results from the catalog (including materials available through the HathiTrust), our ejournals and databases lists, our web site, research guides, and librarian subject specialists. Our more static browse pages highlight the best resources in each of these categories for our patrons.
Integrating Social Bookmarking into Library Content (SlideShare)
Presented at the Michigan Library Association 2009 Conference on 5 November 2009. Abstract: The University of Michigan library launched MTagger, a social bookmarking tool, during winter 2008. MTagger allows users to add tags to library web pages, catalog records, digital images in the digital library, or to any other web page. The tool is deeply integrated into the alternative library catalog interface (based on VuFind), providing the mechanism for users to select and sort their "favorites." It is also part of the library's new Drupal powered web site. In addition to providing ways for library users to save and organize library resources, MTagger overlays saved items with the concept of "collections." These collections represent the kind of resource (for example, images, catalog items, web pages, journal articles). This allows others to explore the universe of tagged items by kind. MTagger was intended to enhance findability across collections and to expose groups of resources that might otherwise remain "hidden" to particular users.
Designing For Content Rich Sites (SlideShare)
Presented at Internet Librarian 2009 on 27 October 2009. Abstract: Webpages, research guides from Springshare?s LibGuides, licensed content, full-text journals, subject experts, digital collections ... and books online and offline. How is a library patron to figure out what?s what in this complex environment? Using independently developed tools from various systems to build a seamless whole, the UM library rebuilt its website, bringing the information patrons want into the forefront and the byzantine path to get it in the background. Speakers share results of extensive user studies, how they iteratively designed the site, and discuss the opensource technologies (Solr, Lucene, Drupal, XML, VuFind) that make it work.
Video is available from UStream.
User Responses to Social Bookmarking at MLibrary (PowerPoint, 1.6 MB)
Presented at Computers in Libraries 2009 on 30 March 2009. Abstract: MTagger, a social bookmarking tool, launched in the winter of 2008. MTagger allows users to tag a webpage on the library site or anywhere, and catalog records, or digital images. The tool was intended to enhance findability across collections and to expose ?hidden? collections. After launch, the service did not meet our expectations for use, so we embarked on usability testing. This talk covers the questions we asked, why we asked them, and how we're responding.
Tag! You're It: Social Bookmarking at MLibrary: (PowerPoint, 4.5 MB)
Presented at Access 2008 on 2 October 2008. Abstract: The University of Michigan libraries launched MTagger, a home-grown social bookmark tool, in spring 2008. It allows users to tag individual library web pages, catalog records, digital library images, or any other web page. Through the "collections" feature -- metadata assigning each tagged item to one of the library's physical or online collections -- users can broaden or narrow their search for tags. We built the tool to enhance findability across our collections and to expose "hidden" collections to users who might not know they even existed. In this talk, learn about why we built this tool, how it works, how it's being used, and where we're going with it. (Listen to the talk [MP3, 30.2 MB].)
Findability: Information, Not Location (PowerPoint, 3.3 MB)
Presented at Computers in Libraries 2008 with my colleague Mike Creech. Abstract: Learn how to foster user-friendly digital information flows by eliminating silos, highlighting context and improving findability to create a unified web presence. Hear how the University of Michigan Libraries' (MLibrary) are reinventing the libraries' web sites to emphasize information over the path users previously took to access it. By elevating information over its location, users are not forced to know which library is the "right" starting place. The talk includes tips for your library web redesign process and user-centric design process.
RSS Basics and Beyond: Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most out of Syndicated Content
A talk at The Ohio State University's Library 2.0 Seminar on June 13, 2007. Talk abstract: An introduction to RSS, feed aggregators, and easy ways libraries can take advantage of RSS to improve communication with their patrons, communities, and staffs. (Download the PowerPoint [4.5 MB] or watch now [streaming video].)
Using RSS to Promote Scholarly Publications (PowerPoint, 1 MB)
I gave this talk at the Dartmouth Biomedical Libraries' Cool Tools and New Technologies conference on October 27, 2006. The talk abstract: The Ginn Library has created several databases to track and promote scholarly research by our faculty and students. A faculty publications database provides RSS feeds by author- and user-supplied keywords along with a current awareness feed that includes everything published. A second database highlights student master’s theses. Feeds are used internally to populate web pages and externally to promote the school. Learn how we created these two databases.
Intelligent Agents (PowerPoint, 256KB)
Slides from a talk I gave on Intelligent Agents at the Intranets 2003 conference in Santa Clara, California, on October 14, 2003. Discusses a project to create individualized informaiton agents to fine-tune e-mail alert services. (Updated 10/18/2003)
Information Architecture at Ford Motor Company (PowerPoint, 264 KB)
This presentation to University of Michigan School of Information course, Information Architecture, October 30, 2001, provides an overview of information architecture practices and processes within the Ford research library.
Information at Your Fingertips: Porting Library Services to the PDA (Online, September/October 2000).
All about how to convert your Web-based content into a PDA-accessible, go-anywhere information service. Discusses some of the issues, problems, and successes in porting web sites onto Palm Pilots and other products using AvantGo, MobileLink, and good old-fashioned CGI programming.
Publicizing Electronic Publishing Opportunities in Your Corporation (Marketing Library Services, March 2000, pp. 4-5).
How to get people to write for your electronic journal.
Function over Form (Adobe Acrobat, 464KB)
Presentation at Intranets 2000, San Jose, CA, February 28, 2000.
A Corporate Library Making the Transition from Traditional to Web Publishing
by Tracy Primich and Ken Varnum, in Computers in Libraries, November/December 1999, pp. 58-61.
Metadata in Theory and Practice (Adobe Acrobat, 216kb)
Presentation at Intranets '99, San Francisco, CA, April 28, 1999.
Case Study: Intranet Redesign at Ford Motor Company (Adobe Acrobat, 168kb)
Presentation at Intranets '99, San Francisco, CA, April 27, 1999.
Interview in Information World Review (February 1999)
An interview about designing Intranet Web sites by Information World Review, a British information management publication.
Lessons Learned: Designing a Second-Generation Intranet (January 1999)
An article about the redesign process for the Ford Motor Company's largest library's Intranet site. (Online Magazine, January 1999).
OMRINet
A regular column appearing in Transition magazine highlighting Internet resources related to topics discussed in each issue.
Barriers to Information Access
This article originally appeared as a sidebar to an article by Esther Dyson in the 8 November 1996 edition of Transition (Vol. 2, No. 22).
Digital Archives
This was written for ILS 605: The Making of Digital Libraries,a course at the School of Information and Library Studies at the University of Michigan. It is also available in PDF format.
Multi-lingual Digital Archives
I presented this paper on the issues involved in creating a multi-language collection of digital materials at the International Librarians Conference on the theme of "Libraries in Europe's Post-Communist Countries: Their International Context" in Krakow-Przegorzaly, Poland, in August 1995. It is also available in PDF format.
Masters Thesis
I wrote this thesis as part of my Masters in Russian and East European Studies. The title is "The Development of Political Parties in the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet, 1988-1989. Note: This file is approximately 80K. It is also available in PDF format.


Send comments to ken@varnum.org.