Articles and Chapters

This page lists recent and/or larger works; for an exhaustive list, please see my Google Scholar profile. Books have their own page.

Connecting Libraries and Learning Analytics for Student Success

Open access version of this publication

Read open access version.

Abstract: The CLLASS project brought together a diverse group of library and higher education leaders and experts to:

    • develop models for library inclusion in institutional learning analytics,
    • explore strategies for bringing the models to fruition,
    • design technologies to support library-enabled learning analytics, and
    • anticipate ways in which this work will increase library impact on student learning and success.

To support dialogue both among librarians and between librarians and their educational partners, this document includes a series of discussion questions throughout the text and closes with suggested reading lists, including relevant privacy resources. It is hoped that this report will stimulate discussions about the role of libraries in institutional learning analytics, enable the technical capabilities necessary for libraries to contribute to institutional understanding of student learning, and ultimately enable libraries to employ a new approach to supporting student learning and success.

Citation: Oakleaf, Megan, Ken Varnum, Jan Fransen, Shane Nackerud, Cary Brown, Bracken Mosbacker, and Steve McCann. “Connecting Libraries and Learning Analytics for Student Success.” November 30, 2020.

Predicting the Future: Library Technologies to Keep in Mind

Abstract: It can be difficult to keep up with library technology, let alone with technology in general. This essay describes several technology trends (virtual reality, augmented reality, the Internet of Things, and adoption of a “buy the data, build the interface” approach to service provision) that librarians should be aware of as they are likely to prove foundational to the services libraries will offer, as well as the services library users will expect.

Citation: Varnum, Kenneth J. “Predicting the Future: Library Technologies to Keep in Mind.” In International Information & Library Review, 49, no. 3 (September 2017): 201-206. doi: 10.1080/10572317.2017.1353381

A Brief History of the Open Discovery Initiative

Open access version of this publicationRead Open Access Version

Abstract: A history of the NISO Open Discovery Initiative based on interviews with the co-chairs of the ODI’s original Working Group, Marshall Breeding and Jenny Walker, and the co-chairs of the current Standing Committee, Laura Morse and Rachel Kessler.

Citation: Varnum, Kenneth J. “A Brief History of the Open Discovery Initiative.” In Learned Publishing, 30, no. 1 (January 2017): 45-48. doi:10.1002/leap.1078

Enhancing LibGuides Usability and Discoverability Within a Complex Library Presence

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: At the University of Michigan Library, we use Springshare’s LibGuides to manage subject, course, and specialized information guides comprising thousands of individual web pages. While LibGuides can be used to build a robust library website, complete with features for managing electronic reserves and databases, we maintain it as a supplementary tool focused around instruction and guidance. LibGuides is one of several open-source and proprietary components making up our library’s complex web presence. In such a complex online environment, it can be challenging to make LibGuides content discoverable and to present it as a functional, integral part of the whole. Doing so, however, is critical if we are to efficiently connect users to relevant information resources. In the following chapter, we will share examples of how we have integrated LibGuides into our library website and learning management systems (LMS) in order to facilitate access to content through search and discovery.

Citation: Campbell, Lisa, Kenneth J. Varnum, and Albert Bertram. “Enhancing LibGuides Usability and Discoverability Within a Complex Library Presence.” In Innovative LibGuides Applications: Real-World Examples, edited by Ryan L. Sittler and Aaron W. Dobbs, 29-38. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Measuring Journal Linking Success from a Discovery Service

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: Online linking to full text via third-­‐party link-­‐resolution services, such as Serials Solutions 360 Link or Ex Libris’ SFX, has become a popular method of access to users in academic libraries. This article describes several attempts made over the course of the past three years at the University of Michigan to gather data on linkage failure: the method used, the limiting factors, the changes made in methods, an analysis of the data collected, and a report of steps taken locally because of the studies. It is hoped that the experiences at one institution may be applicable more broadly and, perhaps, produce a stronger data-­‐driven effort at improving linking services.

Citation: Stuart, Kenyon, Ken Varnum, and Judith Ahronheim. “Measuring Journal Linking Success from a Discovery Service.” Information Technology and Libraries 34, no. 1 (March 2015). doi:10.6017/ital.v34i1.5607.

Library Discovery: From Ponds to Streams

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: Resource discovery in libraries has undergone a remarkable evolution over the past five years, tracking (but lagging behind) what has happened on the public Internet. As a handful of companies (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, Baidu, etc.) have emerged to provide near-universal access to public information on the Internet, there has been a rising desire within the library world for similar access to licensed content. Libraries, and libraries’ perceptions of the patrons’ needs, have led to the creation and acquisition of “web-scale” discovery services. These new services seek to amalgamate all the content a library might provide access to—the catalog, online journals, abstracting and indexing databases, institutional repositories, open access sites, and more—into a single index. Much like the big companies on the public Internet, these new services build their indexes of content and provide access.

Citation: Varnum, K.J. (2014). “Library Discovery From Ponds to Streams.” In K. J. Varnum (Ed.), The Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know: A LITA Guide (pp. 57-65). Chicago, IL: ALA TechSource.

Manually Classifying User Search Queries on an Academic Library Web Site

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: The University of Michigan Library wanted to learn more about the kinds of searches its users were conducting through the “one search” search box on the Library Web site. Library staff conducted two investigations. A preliminary investigation in 2011 involved the manual review of the 100 most frequently occurring queries conducted through the site search box over the course of a month. Those 100 search terms accounted for 16 percent of total queries and were largely one-word searches for databases. In the follow-up investigation, the Library embarked on a more ambitious exploration of the 454,443 searches conducted during the winter 2011 semester, devising a method for selecting, categorizing, and summarizing user search queries.

Citation: Chapman, Suzanne, Shevon Desai, Kat Hagedorn, Ken Varnum, Sonali Mishra, and Julie Piacentine. “Manually Classifying User Search Queries on an Academic Library Web Site.” Journal of Web Librarianship 7, no. 4 (November 2013). doi:10.1080/19322909.2013.842096.

Patterns of Undergraduates’ Use of Scholarly Databases in a Large Research University

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: Authentication data was utilized to explore undergraduate usage of subscription electronic databases. These usage patterns were linked to the information literacy curriculum of the library. The data showed that out of the 26,208 enrolled undergraduate students, 42% of them accessed a scholarly database at least once in the course of the entire semester. Despite their higher levels of learning and expected sophistication in informa- tion seeking skills, juniors and seniors used databases proportionately less than freshmen and sophomores. The University Library conducts a variety of introductory seminars that introduce freshmen to databases in the Fall semester. There was no evidence that this momentum is sustained in the subsequent years when higher-level more sophisticated skills are needed.

Citation: Mbabu, Loyd Gitari, Albert Bertram, and Ken Varnum. “Patterns of Undergraduates’ Use of Scholarly Databases in a Large Research University.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 2 (March 2013): 189–93. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2012.10.004.

Developing a User-Centered Discovery Environment

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: This chapter discusses the user-focused research conducted at the University of Michigan Library to help make decisions about selecting and implementing a Web-scale article discovery service. A combination of methods—persona analysis, comparative evaluations, surveys, and guerrilla usability tests—were applied to bring a user-centered approach to the article discovery service decision-making process. After the selection of the Serials Solutions®1 SummonTM2 service and developing a custom interface to this resource using the SummonTM API, a follow-up user survey was conducted and search log data were analyzed to gauge the impact of the Library’s decisions on users’ research habits and their perceptions of the library. Users reported a high rate of satisfaction with the new article discovery service and, as a result, reported being more likely to use library online resources again.

Citation: Chapman, Suzanne, Scott Dennis, Kathleen Folger, and Ken Varnum. “Developing a User-Centered Discovery Environment.” In Planning and Implementing Resource Discovery Tools in Academic Libraries, edited by Mary Pagliero Popp and Diane Dallis, 194–224. Hershey, Pennsylvania: Information Science Reference, 2012.

Keeping Your Feet on the Ground When Putting Your (Lib)Guides in the Cloud

Abstract: The University of Michigan Library moved its guides (subject, course, and technology) into Springshare’s LibGuides product in the summer of 2009. At the same time we moved this important piece of content into the cloud, we maintained firm grounding of the data through our library web site, thanks to Springshare’s XML output of our guides content. Now, even though the guides are hosted remotely, we have access to the content (through keyword searches, tags, and subject associations) in other parts of our web site. In this chapter, we will discuss our decision to move the cloud, what we gained and lost, and how we used existing tools to maintain a high degree of findability for the cloud content in our site.

Citation: Reiman-Sendi, Karen, Albert A. Bertram, and Kenneth J. Varnum. “Keeping Your Feet on the Ground When Putting Your (Lib)Guides in the Cloud.” In Getting Started with Cloud Computing: A LITA Guide, edited by Edward M. Corrado and Heather Lea Moulaison, 1:153. New York: Neal Schuman, 2011.

Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Part 2: Survey Analysis

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: We analyzed the results from a survey of site managers conducted in October–November 2009. We received 42 responses to our survey; 40% of the respondents were from outside the U.S., including 10% from the United Kingdom and 24% from Australia and New Zealand. The sites that responded originate from academic libraries and archives, national libraries or archives, non-profit organizations not affiliated with any institution, museums, historical societies, consortia, other cultural institutions, public libraries, plus one botanical garden and one special library. The survey focused on the motivations for creating a site, moderation policies, staffing and site management, technologies used, and criteria for assessing success.

Citation: Smith-Yoshimura, Karen, Carol Jean Godby, Helice Koffler, Ken Varnum, and Elizabeth Yakel. Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Part 2: Survey Analysis. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research, 2011.

Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Part 2: Survey Analysis

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: 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.

Citation Varnum, Ken. “Information @ Your Fingertips: Porting Library Services to the PDA.” Online 24, no. 5 (2000): 14.

Barriers to Information Access

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: A summary of issues surrounding the expansion of Internet access to developing countries.

Citation Varnum, Ken. “Barriers to Information Access.” Transition 2, no. 22 (1996).

The Librarian as Interface between Users and Electronic Information

Open access version of this publicationOpen Access Version

Abstract: This paper explores some of the issues involved in creating digital collections, based on the author’s experiences at the Open Media Research Institute, where he has been creating an electronic periodicals department for use by a diverse group of individuals and organizations. The creation of this electronic archive is presenting many opportunities for improved access to information, but also presents a number of challenges in terms of organizing, storing and providing access to it.

Citation “The Librarian as Interface between Users and Electronic Information.” In Libraries in Europe’s Post-Communist Countries, their International Context: International Conference of Slavic Librarians and Information Specialists, edited by Maria Kocójowa and Wojciech Zalewski, pp. 173-178. Krakow, Poland: Polish Bibliographical Society, 1996.