A Brief History of Retrospective conversion at the University of Iowa

All errors are due to my faulty memory

Note: The Shelf list = LC and Dewey classified titles, and also items with an accession number. The shelf list did not include SuDocs, Swank or other classifications used in Government Documents. The shelf list included classified serials (LC, Dewey or accession number) but did not include unclassified titles. All serials were in the Serials Catalog. Some content was severely underdescribed; the problems of these hidden collections were described in a 2006 internal report.

The University of Iowa Libraries started cataloging on RLIN in 1980 (and RLIN remained the preferred source for copy until the 2006 merger of RLG and OCLC). All materials cataloged from that time forward had a MARC record. Titles that needed recataloging (especially serials) from 1980 on were converted at the time of recataloging.

In the 1980s, temporary librarians were hired to do retrospective conversion of the non-serial shelf list, inputting information from cards into RLIN. They may also have searched for copy; the details are fuzzy as it was before my time.  After the grant money ran out the project ended (despite having well trained staff that could have completed the project in another couple of years.) This project ended shortly before our June 1988 launch of NOTIS (locally branded OASIS). (And for a real blast from the past, take a look at this 1991 video introducing the catalog http://ir.uiowa.edu/lib_ar/17/)

Just before and after the launch of OASIS, serials recon on the currently received titles was done by deriving records in RLIN and later by students marking up enlarged copies of cards to indicate correct fields and inputting them to OASIS. Note that latest entry unclassified titles were not changed to successive titles. See also  Ruth Christ & Selina Lin (1992) Serials Retrospective Conversion, Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 14:3-4, 51-73, DOI: 10.1300/J104v14n03_05

Serials retrospective conversion continued as time allowed by serials catalogers searching for copy in RLIN (and later OCLC) or creating an original record from the card. In this phase, pieces were used as needed. During the years following the first project, many of the records were input from cards were overlaid with more complete records from RLIN and later OCLC.

Monographs in analyzed serials (i.e. analytics) were also done in house. The serial title was in the shelf list, but the individual titles were not. These titles were listed on contents cards in the serials catalog. This retro was completed as part of our dual linkage project (adding a field to the monographic record to link to the item record and circulation information on the serials record, making those items records linked to two different bibliographic records for display)

In 1999, connected to the barcoding project and migration to Aleph (locally branded InfoHawk), all remaining non-serials in the shelf-list were outsourced to OCLC for retrospective conversion over three years. There were about 2.2 million records in this project (see http://ir.uiowa.edu/lib_ar/10/ for a little bit about the project status in 2001) . Shelf list cards were sent to OCLC for conversion. The project parameters allowed for something like a 95 or 97% correct record match rate, with most of the errors being the edition/printing problems. (A 3% error rare would be more than 66,000 titles). However, the old OCLC title search 3,2,2,1 was used and if only one record was found, that record would be considered a match, even if the titles were completely different. This was not expected to be a high percentage of problems, but even 1% of the problems would yield 6,600 completely incorrect titles.

I don’t think “smart” barcoding instructions specifically looked for these title problems, but problems definitely were noticed. (Smart barcodes is the term when the barcode numbers were assigned to records and the author/title/call number printed on the barcode, and students applied the “smart” barcode to the books). Some of these problem titles were noticed by patrons or library staff and corrected. (Particularly memorable to me was our first encounter with the problem when a colleague excitedly saw a record for an obscure Elizabethan embroidery book and on the way to the shelf realized the call number was odd for the subject and we were all puzzled by the book she returned with.) Correcting these became routine for database maintenance staff (and was regularly done while on the phone with a concerned librarian).

We know some of these completely incorrect matches are still out there. We have gotten corrections from Google because our bibliographic data did not match the book they scanned. Presumably the check of the book and record before materials go to our offsite storage facility will find more of these problems.

Other articles of given a bit of the history of our serials department

  • Ruth Christ , Mary Monson & Marjorie Wilhite (1990) Serials in Transition:, The Serials Librarian, 19:1-2, 57-67, DOI: 1300/J123v19n01_06
  • Mary H. Monson (1992) The NOTIS Opac and Serials, The Serials Librarian, 22:1-2, 137-163, DOI: 1300/J123v22n01_10
  • Mary Monson MA (1987) The Use of RLIN for Serials Cataloging, The Serials Librarian, 12:1-2, 157-168, DOI: 1300/J123v12n01_15

Equity at Iowa 2017 Reboot

I haven’t posted here in a long time. I am going to try to make short posts about various projects I am working on for my own records (so the expected audience is simply future me). If anyone else finds anything of interest, that will be a bonus.

Yesterday I had time to get back to working with salary information (from https://www.legis.iowa.gov/publications/fiscal/salaryBook) for Equity at Iowa. Previously I had added the job categories and classifications (with vlookups) using the information on the University’s human resources site (https://hr.uiowa.edu/pay/merit-plan and https://hr.uiowa.edu/professional-pay for salary ranges and https://hr.uiowa.edu/pay/merit and https://hr.uiowa.edu/professional-pay/classifications-by-pay-level for the pay level for each job classification). I pulled this information last year as well.

I would like gather this information from previous years as well to better trace how pay ranges have (or haven’t) increased over time. The HR website changed so it took longer to track down on the Internet Archive than I first expected/ Merit information was here http://www.uiowa.edu/hr/classcomp/pay/index.html. Prior to this, the URL was http://www.uiowa.edu/~hrpersvc/classpay.html. Unfortunately, IA did not capture the PDFs for 2005 & 2006 and the site was not archived from 2002-2004. If I want the missing information, I will need to request it from HR. I am particularly interested in how library assistant salary ranges and librarian salary ranges have changed across time.

Last year I used directory information match faculty members with departments and colleges. This year I used information from the general catalog. This data includes all the departments when people are in more than one. It also includes the year a faculty member started and the year of their current appointment, as well as degree dates and conferring institutions. We will parse this data in the coming year to see what else we can learn. This data needs to be split into appropriate columns to make use of it. The names also need to be formulated in such a way as to match the salary information. I need to extract this information from the PDFs for previous years in our repository so that we can better see changes across time.

Browser & Mobile Use Over Time

With the announcement yesterday that Microsoft will not be supporting IE 8-10 in the very near future, I thought I would check our repository and digital collection to see what browsers are being used. I had meant to do this for some time after seeing another place had higher mobile use than Firefox use.

I decided to compare the month of December over several years to see changes

First up, our institutional repository (Digital Commons software)

Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Dec-14 Dec-15
IE 53% 42% 33% 25% 17% 15% 11%
Chrome 4% 11% 20% 30% 40% 46% 50%
Firefox 32% 31% 31% 25% 22% 19% 16%
Safari 9% 12% 12% 16% 15% 15% 16%
Other 2% 3% 3% 4% 7% 4% 6%
desktop 100% 98% 97% 94% 90% 87% 84%
mobile 2% 2% 3% 6% 9% 12%
tablet 1% 3% 4% 4% 4%

A few comments:

  • I use Firefox for my IR work and I am in it every day.
  • The repository is primarily PDFs. Given how lousy PDFs are on a small mobile device, I am actually surprised at how large the mobile number is.
  • Use going directly to a PDF from Google (or other source) is not counted (so the totals would be low), but the percentages are hopefully about right.

The specific use of IE products is:

Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Dec-14 Dec-15
     IE 11.0 9% 52% 72%
     IE 10.0 1% 27% 14% 9%
     IE 9.0 1% 28% 53% 27% 15% 6%
     IE 8.0 32% 70% 54% 34% 30% 13% 6%
     IE 7.0 51% 22% 14% 10% 6% 5% 7%
     IE 6.0 17% 8% 4% 1% 1%
  • Note that IE % of use increased in 2015! (The actual number of sessions increased from 107 to 146, so it isn’t just a percentage thing.) I am sure this relates to the overall Libraries website use (see below) by various browsers.

Our digital collections are in CONTENTdm software.

Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Dec-14 Dec-15
IE 60% 46% 43% 33% 24% 22% 16%
Chrome 3% 9% 15% 20% 29% 37% 45%
Firefox 26% 32% 23% 20% 20% 16% 13%
Safari 9% 12% 16% 20% 19% 20% 22%
Other 3% 1% 4% 7% 9% 5% 4%
desktop 99% 98% 94% 86% 85% 76% 73%
mobile 1% 2% 4% 8% 8% 16% 18%
tablet 2% 6% 7% 8% 9%
  • Again, I typically use Firefox, as does my colleague who manages our digital collections.
  • I find the site quite horrible on a mobile device and am actually surprised by the high usage
  • We are currently have issues with some of our videos playing in anything but Chrome, so were pleased to see it was used the most.

IE details:

Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Dec-14 Dec-15
     IE 11.0 14% 64% 81%
     IE 10.0 1% 34% 10% 8%
     IE 9.0 1% 33% 57% 27% 16% 6%
     IE 8.0 38% 75% 51% 35% 23% 8% 3%
     IE 7.0 49% 20% 14% 6% 3% 3% 2%
     IE 6.0 13% 4% 1% 1%

This is the pattern I expected to see in all three cases.

Finally, I checked the Libraries website as a comparison. I am not sure how many computers have the libraries website up by default; we have a few walk-in user stations that are restricted to the libraries website and the one I checked uses IE.

Libs Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Dec-14 Dec-15
IE 58% 49% 44% 39% 37% 33% 27%
Chrome 2% 7% 11% 15% 25% 32% 38%
Firefox 23% 24% 18% 17% 17% 15% 13%
Safari 16% 20% 24% 25% 17% 18% 19%
Other 1% 1% 3% 3% 5% 1% 2%
desktop 100% 99% 95% 93% 91% 90% 89%
mobile 1% 4% 5% 6% 7% 9%
tablet 1% 2% 3% 3% 3%

Note that the mobile usage for the libraries website as a whole is lower than for our repository or digital collections! I think this must have something to do with staff and with the walk up terminals.

The IE versions used on the Libraries website is where it get weird

Dec-09 Dec-10 Dec-11 Dec-12 Dec-13 Dec-14 Dec-15
     IE 11.0 3% 29% 43%
     IE 10.0 1% 26% 9% 2%
     IE 9.0 27% 39% 11% 6% 3%
     IE 8.0 43% 76% 60% 51% 52% 41% 1%
     IE 7.0 52% 21% 11% 9% 8% 15% 51%
     IE 6.0 5% 3% 1%

Look at that use for IE 7.0! What is up with that? The actual number of sessions INCREASED from 4,945 to 11,358 from December 2014 to December 2015. I checked, and almost all of our IE 7.0 use comes from on campus.


It looks like one of the major sources of IE 7.0 use above are the walk in user/express stations which are set to find/infohawk.  About 60% of the landing pages for IE 7.0 are to the find/infohawk page (and virtually all of the usage of that page comes from IE 7.0), and Hardin (our medical library) gets another 23% of the use.  Last January, the find/infohawk page was not used by IE 7.0 (I don’t know if it is a new page that didn’t exist a year ago). The find/infohawk page starts appearing in the IE 7.0 session landing pages in April, with the numbers comparable to now in May.

What does a Digital Scholarship Librarian do?

This post is somewhat like the presentation I gave this week to the Digital Environments class. There are quite a few quotes/slightly modified excerpts from job ads at a variety of institutions. I didn’t note where these came from so they are not footnoted. I have listed all the sites I used when pulling this information together at the end of the post

Guest Lecture – Digital Environments — 30 March 2015

Job titles are a bit arbitrary and often mean quite different things across institutions. Even when the job title is relatively well understood, the specific list of job duties can vary quite a bit. Newer job titles like “Digital Scholarship Librarian” can be quite hard to pin down.

I am going to begin with a slight digression regarding the specific words. The word “Electronic” in job titles frequently refers to positions that deal with licensed, external electronic resources. The word “Digital” tends to refer to locally digitized or born digital content. In both cases, we question to what degree the modifier is still needed. For example, when you take a picture with your phone, is it a picture or a digital picture? In your mind, did the article that you read for class come from a journal or an e-journal? How about the book chapter, from a book or an e-book? In January 2012, when we renamed my department from Digital Library Service to Digital Research & Publishing, we hoped we could omit what we saw as an increasingly unneeded word and tried to leave out “Digital”. However, we were unable to come up with a better way to define our scope, and thus the word remained.

One of our major services is Iowa Research Online, our institutional repository. We very intentionally both did not name it for the current software, because software comes and goes. We also tried to avoid language that would be dated (like the e-prefix). The word research, while different than scholarship, also has a way of potentially limiting scope. I was speaking with people at the Iowa Review and they were surprised creative works could go into Iowa Research Online, since the word “Research” is in the name. I explained that anything that was appropriate for their CV we believe is appropriate for Iowa Research Online, assuming we have the rights to post the item. So if creative works are on a faculty member or researcher’s CV, these items can definitely go into our repository. “Scholarship” is different “research” but I realized we may be unintentionally narrowing our focus with our job titles.

When preparing my remarks, I asked Lindsay if she want me to talk more narrowly about the work we do here or more generally about the position and what people in similar positions do. She wanted the more general approach, which made me really think about how varied this work is. For several years, my department head and I had tried to come up with a better job title for me. When we saw Digital Scholarship Librarian we thought, PERFECT! That will cover my work with locally published journals and with open access versions of other peer reviewed content for our institutional repository. The two other librarians in the department changed to the same job title shortly thereafter, broadening the scope considerable from my original, narrow perspective of scholarship. My colleague, Mark, manages the Iowa Digital Library, which primarily includes images, handwritten materials and multimedia, and which has the bulk of the content coming from our Special Collections Department. However, most of his work now is with content coming from outside the Library, which is often part of a researcher’s scholarship. My former colleague Jen spent her time connecting our content and scholars so that scholarship could be built on our digital collections. In our three uses of the same job title, it is quite clear how broadly this can work and should be viewed.

I also could have looked at the types of things I do in my job and generalize from there to others in similar positions, regardless of the job title. I will in essence be doing this, but by what seems like narrowly focusing on the job title, I will actually give a broader view of what a Digital Scholarship Librarian does. I should also note that this work can often encompass some digital humanities work. I will be covering this only lightly because we are fortunate to have a Digital Humanities Librarian in my department and she is scheduled to speak to your class in a few weeks.

Digital Scholarship Librarians focus on openly accessible content. They often do work like the following, or are in departments that do this work. I selected these phrases from various job and department descriptions.

  • promote the discovery, use and interoperability of digital content and digital resources in support of new knowledge creation
  • support faculty and student digital scholarship; build partnerships for the creation of digital collections
  • support innovative scholarship around a variety of digital content, including traditional library content, born-digital material, research data and other digital products of scholarship, and other digital materials utilized by faculty in their research
  • develop services in support of research, teaching and learning
  • provide consultations, support, and project management, technology-rich scholarly project, identifying and facilitating the deployment of appropriate tools and technologies to meet research and/or publication needs
  • focus on relationships, extending the ways in which librarians and academic computing professionals relate to and work with faculty (and often students) and their scholarly practices.
  • are open to experimentation, expanding the research library’s role, and exploring new faculty collaborations outside the library to further digital scholarship, new forms of publishing, and scholarly engagement.

Three specific activities that I think all Digital Scholarship Librarians do are: communicate with people from a variety of departments; project management; and provide some sort of consultation services.

Our work goes across unit and departmental borders. We work closely with virtually all other library departments, including subject specialists, special collections, preservation, metadata experts, web services and IT department, instruction librarians, data management and marketing. We also work with groups outside the library, including the researchers (whether faculty, other staff, graduate students or undergraduate students), the graduate college, the honors program, central IT, instructional design. Because of the open access component of our work, we also try to make sure the projects communicate broadly to the world at large and can be used by the general public, which in part involves encouraging jargon free language to explain scholarship. In meetings, we sometimes are in a role of translator, between the faculty and technology or metadata experts.

We are in generally in a more experimental area of the library. We are expected to try approaches and new software. It is understood that some of these initiative may fail which gives us real flexibility to try different things and sometimes come up with grand successes. The DIYHistory project is an example of a grand success at Iowa. Our experimentation means we need to remain aware of a lot of new tools and can often connect a researcher with an appropriate tool or software, even if we don’t know much about using it. Because we are so connected to so many departments, we often know who does similar work and can connect people with individuals with similar interests needed skills. Some of the consultations are for our subject specialists so that they can gather the information they need for their researchers. Other times we work directly with researchers. We also essentially consult for some of the internal departments in the library, such as Library IT and cataloging-metadata in order to share the needs of the researchers with them.

It seems like most things we do are project based. Sometimes we are project lead, sometimes a member of a team. We may be a project manager for a faculty member’s project, to make sure tasks stay on target and that the project does not derail or suffer from scope creep. We all need to be able to juggle multiple projects to make sure steps or entire projects don’t get lost.

My colleague Mark used to have the title Digital Initiative Librarian. Our department previously did the digitization and metadata work for our digital collections, work that has been mainstreamed into other departments. Mark still manages our digital asset management system, CONTENTdm (which we call Iowa Digital Library). Mark focuses on collections that come from outside the library, the scholarship of faculty, researchers and students. For example, he is working with two collections of coral images, one from a faculty member who has collected them over her career, and another from a student who will be graduating in spring, whose images will supplement his dissertation. He doesn’t do the major systems work or web work, but does keep up with software developments and what is happening in other digital collections. Along with our Preservation and Metadata departments, he keeps track of standards in the area to make sure we follow them, to make sure our collections can mesh well with collections elsewhere. One of his responsibilities is to work towards getting our collections in Digital Public Library of America. He tries to make our collections interoperate with public outreach initiatives as well as in scholarship.

His work with includes

  • establishing consistent policies and best practices
  • providing leadership in creating, organizing, promoting, and curating digital materials
  • fostering collaboration on the creation and curation of digital objects for research
  • assessing and integrating existing tools for digital scholarship
  • evaluating the Library’s digital resources

I do much the same as Mark but for our institutional repository, which uses Digital Commons Software, and called Iowa Research Online locally. People in similar positions to mine are often called IR managers or scholarly communications librarians. I provide oversight and leadership of institutional repository and lead our journal publishing. I typically deal more with text based materials, versus the image and multimedia works that go to Mark. Because text is what is traditionally thought of as scholarship, the job title meshes perhaps more easily with my job. However, scholarship is much broader than text and I am happy that we take such a broad view of scholarship. As mentioned previously, I also work with creative works in our repository, for which the word scholarship may apply less clearly. As with Mark, I do not work only with one piece of software, but instead try to work with the content and use alternative publishing mechanisms if appropriate. We have not done much of this yet, but would like to do more.

Much of our outreach for our repositories is done by our subject librarians, who have the close connections with faculty in a discipline. In some institutions, the Digital Scholarship Librarian takes the lead on this. We do not have a Scholarly Communications Librarian and those job duties fall to many staff members, including me. This work includes:

  • provide guidance on scholarly communication issues and concerns
  • increase library initiatives in support of scholarly communication
  • support the local Open Access resolution/mandate
  • lead education and outreach activities related to scholarly communication
  • manage the OA Fund – funding requests /criteria /eligibility
  • increase campus awareness of author rights, Open Access, and new and existing funding mandates

Since we are involved with putting content online, whether born digital or digitized, we need to understand the basics of copyright. For us, this largely involves making sure we can put content online and making rights clear once they are online. It also includes explaining rights an author holds to an authors as well as explaining creative commons licensing. Some institutions expect a digital scholarship librarian to advise and provide guidance on issues related to intellectual property, open access publishing, and fair use.

Making work public is the most basic form of publication. We are also involved in more formal types of publishing. Digital Scholarship Librarians often manage the open-access publishing program, which may use open source tools or subscriptions or vendor tools. If open source tools are used, this work can involve some code modification. Publishing may also involve less traditional forms of scholarship, which also may involve more code modification or development, or partnering with others who have these skills. Library publishers may host journals or books with little additional assistance, or may format the content for publication and perhaps even provide some editorial assistance. Some publishing may also be restricted to subscribers, especially with a moving wall, or have an optional print version available for an added fee. This moves much of the work into far more traditional publishing.

Several Digital Scholarship Librarians focus on digital humanities. This type of work includes:

  • promote hybrid scholarship that integrates digital tools and methods with traditional scholarly inquiry and research
  • develop library initiatives in support of new and emerging modes of digital scholarship
  • provide consultation on text analysis, network analysis, image analysis, visualization, digital preservation, data curation, grant application process
  • build and/or enhance collections amenable to computational analysis
  • enable new modes of discovery and access to collections
  • work on projects involving the use of data sets, spatial analytical tools and interactive maps, text mining and qualitative analysis, 3D visualization and modeling, and designing online exhibits
  • consult with faculty regarding humanities data sets and research collections
  • partner with scholars on the development, implementation, assessment, enhancement and maintenance of sustainable digital projects

Promoting our collections is another part of our work. This can involve social media, to try to engage with new audiences. This can also mean a lot of networking on campus to promote use of our collections in the classroom and for research. Networking is also a means to identify new projects around campus that could be part of our collections or that would benefit from the knowledge and perspective of a librarian. We try to identify opportunities to support faculty and student digital scholarship creation, access and preservation.

One of the most important forms of outreach we have is to connect our faculty and students with our materials. In the ideal world, our locally digitized content would be used for research and teaching, and the resulting products would come back to our collections when appropriate. This enhances the scholarship about our local resources and directly connects to the research and teaching goals of the University. Our crowd sourced transcription tool, DIYHistory, is being used in rhetoric classes. We will be archiving this student scholarship in our repository.

Digital Scholarship Librarians sometime provide training, as well as consultation in the whole range of activities that we do. Training might be one-on-one at point of need or may be more formal group instruction or workshops. Training and workshop are also a means of promoting digital scholarship to the broader campus community.

  • planning digital projects
  • understanding relevant standards
  • developing metadata
  • using specialized software and tools (data visualization, text mining and encoding, mapping, and data analysis)
  • digitizing analog materials
  • preservation
  • methodologies and tools of the digital humanities and social sciences

Open educational resources are another thing that can be part of a digital scholarship librarians duties. We are just beginning to see what support for open-access textbook initiatives would be here, so I cannot say much on this topic.

Quite a few other things crop up in digital scholarship librarian duties, depending on how things are defined at a specific institution.

  • data management services and institutional research data
  • assists in developing and implementing strategies for digital curation, working with relevant stakeholders to ensure that digital projects unique to the Libraries are discoverable, usable, and preserved
  • Planning for long-term preservation
  • developing new workflows to accommodate emerging data discovery and exchange standards, such as the Resource Description Framework and Linked Open Data
  • consulting on the development and testing of standards and platforms and providing metadata expertise to support and advance new models of scholarship and collections
  • complex and innovative systems administration and involvement in open-source code
  • lead efforts to obtain and manage grants and outside funding in support of digital initiatives. (small institution)


Collection Use, Tumblr & Google Analytics Puzzles

We have a great crowdsourced transcriptions site1 that has received a lot of publicity lately which corresponds to some significant usage peaks. This image from our Google Analytics shows use from 14 September 2014–13 November 2014.

2 months of diyhistory usage

The first peak (3,654) on 2 October corresponds to a BuzzFeed post on 1 October. I am uncertain about the 26 October small peak of 507. It appears to be from Facebook. The 5 November peak of 911 is due to  beatonna’s “Hark! A Vagrant” Tumblr post and the 11 November peak of 1,923 is thanks to John Green’s Tumblr post. (The 16 October 2014 NBC news article did not bump our usage.) However, looking at Google Analytics to see the source for our traffic during this same period shows surprisingly low numbers from both beatonna.tumblr.com and fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com (the two blogs which we know caused the spikes). In addition, the number of direct users also seems high.

diyhistory source statistics

In fact, if we were to just look at our social usage (8,185 sessions of 23,313, or 35% of all our usage), we would not think Tumblr was that important in directing people to our content. And yet we know those spikes correspond to our site appearing on two extremely popular Tumblr blogs.


We thought perhaps using a Tumblr app on a mobile device would result in what appears to be a direct link. The mobile use of the site is fairly substantial.


However, looking specifically at November 5–12 (the time period of the two peaks presumably from Tumblr), there is actually a higher percentage (82.55%) of desktop usage than for the month as a whole.

I need to explain the dashboard for those of you that don’t use Tumblr. You can link to a Tumblr post directly, which works well for cross-posting to Twitter or Facebook (and is the way people who are not active on Tumblr typically see posts). These URLs can be seen in our source data above. However, if you have a Tumblr account and follow various blogs, you will typically see content in the Tumblr dashboard (http://www.tumblr.com/dashboard). This domain does not appear as a source in our Google Analytics data.


Thursday evening I conducted tests going from Tumblr to our digital collections. I am using our Iowa City Past Tumblr and our CONTENTdm collections for testing because I could more easily isolate use. These are the items I went to in our collection and where I started the use.

I expected the use from the Tumblr apps to be counted as direct in Google Analytics. Given our lack of Tumblr data for our other site, I thought the Tumblr dashboard might also be counted as direct. What I found simply puzzled me.

The following shows the Google Analytics data for 13 November 2014 of the specific landing pages I tested. The first item (which shows use from Tumblr) was not part of my specific testing. The other four lines were all tests coming from Tumblr.

Landing Page Source / Medium Sessions Pages / Session Hour
/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/978 iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral 1 2.00 16
/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/978 l.facebook.com / referral 1 7.00 17
/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/15296 iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral 1 5.00 18
/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/18031 pinterest.com / referral 1 5.00 18
/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/9634 (direct) / (none) 1 5.00 18

My Android tablet test using the Tumblr app is the only one that correctly shows I came from Tumblr. So, not only is our Tumblr use under reported, in this case the Facebook and Pinterest use is over counted!

This is the social data for the ictcs collection on 13 November 2014.


Specifically, the Tumblr use is:

Shared URL Hour Sessions Pageviews Source / Medium
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/13545 14 1(14.29%) 6(15.00%) tweitzelposts.tumblr.com / referral
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/search/collection/ictcs/searchterm/Photocollages%20(Photographic%20compositions)/field/typa/mode/exact/conn/and/display/200/order/title/ad/asc 15 1(14.29%) 1(2.50%) iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/978 16 1(14.29%) 2(5.00%) iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/search/collection/wwiid 17 1(14.29%) 2(5.00%) iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/ictcs/id/15296 18 1(14.29%) 5(12.50%) iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/ictcs/ 18 1(14.29%) 22(55.00%) iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral
digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/search/collection/ictcs/searchterm/Military/field/all/mode/all/conn/and/order/title 19 1(14.29%) 2(5.00%) iowacitypast.tumblr.com / referral

We have Google Analytics code in our Tumblr blog, but we do not receive data from people viewing our content through the Tumblr dashboard. We only show 11 sessions for our Tumblr blog on 13 November, two of which came from Twitter, three from Google, six direct and none using mobile devices. Only one of the pages I used for a test appears as a landing page (which means the use is attributable to someone else). Essentially, this data is useful to see how people who are not regular Tumblr users see your content, but it misses the active Tumblr community.

Edited to add:

It occurred to me that the situation is akin to Google Analytics only showing Facebook as the source when people link from a public Facebook page and not when they link to content they find in their news feed.

1 I should have originally made it more clear that the “we” in the first word of the post refers to my fantastic colleagues and that I have not been part of the project, other than to cheer them on.

Use of Our Collections in Pinterest

My previous posted concerned use of Pinterest by Libraries. My department works with digital collections, so even if we don’t make boards, our content in Iowa Digital Library may be getting pinned. Even if we choose not to make boards of our own, it is important that we pay attention to Pinterest to see how well our digital collections work with it, learn what is getting pinned and see how our collections are being used. We can choose to engage with people on Pinterest as well.

Pinterest Source Search

It is very easy to see what has been pinned from a domain. Simply add the domain after http://www.pinter est.com/source/. I don’t know how far back (in time or numbers) this will go. I scrolled to the bottom of http://www.pinterest.com/source/digital.lib.uiowa.edu/ and one of the bottom pins was from a year ago. This means it is not a complete listing of everything in our collection that has been pinned. I think it must be a maximum number because items that were pinned more than a year ago appear at the bottom of other searches.

I found it interesting to check these domains as well:

You can see the types of things that are pinned and also to which boards items are pinned. For example, a blog post for Mother’s Day was posted to a fashion board. A few of our domains (LibGuides and our repository) have very few pins, as I would have expected.

For the most part, I am not sure what this tells us other than a general overview of how people engage with our content on Pinterest. Browsing through the pins might be a way to find boards we would want to follow. It also may point out additional issues, such as some of the older pins to our website go to places that no longer exist due to a website redesign. If there was a way to analyze this information it might be interesting, but as it is these searches are of minor interest.

Items in our bookbinding models digital collection are frequently pinned, but in this case use originates in our digital collection, not from a Pinterest board we (or Special Collections) have made.

When we began dabbling with Pinterest, we started a board of items pinned by users, but we did not keep up with this, probably because we saw little value in the collection.

Pinning from Our Digital Collections

Another issue is how easily can our digital collections be pinned? Is the image quality good? Does it come with appropriate metadata? When testing this, we should try to use our system like someone who frequently uses Pinterest, which means taking some time to use it yourself.

I believe there are four basic ways to interact with Pinterest.

Click a standard Pin it icon on a site

This works really easily and I think this is how most people add items to boards. Not having an obvious Pin it button probably reduces the amount that people will pin our content.

While digital collections lack as obvious a pin it (or tweet or post to Facebook) icon as on commercial sites, we do have a share button in CONTENTdm (CDM). You need to hover over “share” and then initially click either “share” or “more” to find the Pinterest option (clearly it is more important to interact with Myspace than with Pinterest). After you use it, Pinterest is moved to the top of the list. Note that it is currently not working for me in Chrome but does work in Firefox.



When you click it there are multiple image options. The preferred image is small and of may be of poor quality, but it is complete. There often are other images that are portions of the image. I have had the small, preferred image be of too low a resolution to be pinned. In my test just now, it did work and the image was complete.


The larger resolution image is actually incomplete, being just the same as if you right clicked and saved the image. The other option was a peculiar strip of the image.


These images did not include the banding added on the fly by the system. They all included acceptable metadata. It would be nice if a URL was included but it is not. Clicking on the image takes you to our digital collections. Compound objects work just as well as a single object. Other than the cropped image, this works acceptably.

Use a browser plugin

This works much like the Pin it button except you have an option of the various pictures on a page to Pin. This is a good option for sites that don’t have a Pin it icon. Using the Chrome plugin, my results from Amazon are as good with this as with the Pin it icon. In CDM, I am offered a quirky set of images. The results will vary depending on how much of the image displays. If will also may “helpfully” cut up an image.

Image in digital collectionpinterest-browser-1

Suggestions of what to pin


Because the share option is not as obvious as a Pin It button on another site, people who are regular users of Pinterest may use such a plugin and may be a bit frustrated when they cannot get the complete image.

Add pin from the web (URL)

Using the URL in the browser address bar, this brought in a small (but complete image, lacking all metadata, but it does link to our collection. The reference URL did not pull anything in. Using the URL in the browser for a compound object only offers the option of the cover. The reference URL again did not work. This is a poor option for CDM.

Upload an item (Add a pin, your computer)

Uploading is quite possible to do with our digital collections by downloading an item (click download option and choose the size that you want). This will not include a link to our collection, although you can add a source link to our collection (but it is not included in the source search discussed above). It will not pull in metadata. Probably most regular pinners will not do this because it takes more time. It is the sort of thing two librarians unused to Pinterest are apt to do when making a board for homecoming. One good feature in CONTENTdm is that the banding is applied to the downloaded image (but not to an image that you right click and save). It looks like this may be the most reliable way to pin a complete image with good resolution, especially from a compound object.

Given the varied results of pinning items from our digital collections, I am glad to see that people are pinning items. I believe we would have more pins if it worked in a more standard fashion.

Use of Digital Collections Coming from Pinterest

Now the question is how many people move from Pinterest to our digital collections, perhaps to explore the collections further or look at an image in higher resolution. My assumption is that pictures that can be seen adequately in Pinterest will probably not generate traffic to our site, unless the individual believes there will be items of sufficient interest to warrant looking around another site. While adorable, this kitten can be seen perfectly well in Pinterest and doesn’t require going to our collection for an improved view.

Fortunately, Google Analytics provides information on people coming to our collections from Pinterest. Go to Acquisition – Social – Network referrals. You will probably want to change the time period to be quite long to look at overall trends (I think Pinterest first appears in our data in September 2011).

On 7-8 May we had a spike in usage of our transcription site 14,618 sessions, with 9,056 sessions from the social category (57% of the total use from reddit). Due to this spike, I looked at the numbers on either side of this date.

From 1 September 2011–6 May 2013 our digital collections had 396,641 sessions, with 9,581 sessions (2.4%) via social referral. Within the social media category, Pinterest was the 5th most used with 624 sessions, 6.5% of social sessions, but 7.4% of page views. People spent slightly longer than average with slightly more page views in our digital collection when coming from Pinterest than from other social media.


Social media referrals were greater from 9 May 2013-2 November 2014. There were 270,741 total sessions, with 13,606 sessions (5.0%) via social referral. Within the social media category, Pinterest was the 4th most used with 1,412 sessions, 10.38% of social sessions. In this time period, Pinterest’s proportion of page views dropped below the number of sessions because Tumblr became a very strong social referral for us, engaging people in looking further around our collections.


There are 409 different items in IDL that were pinned (the same item may have been pinned multiple times) and resulted in people going to our digital collections. There were a total of 2079 sessions originating in Pinterest, with 6811 page views (average of 3.28 pages/session). Pins from our book binding model far and away sent the most use to Pinterest (791 sessions), followed distantly by our Mildred Wirt Benson collection (184 sessions). The bookbinding model collection also had the highest number of total page views in sessions originating in Pinterest. However, the average number of page views is far below some of out other collections. In the case of the Historic Iowa Children’s Diaries, with 17 page views per session, this makes sense because people may want to read or at least look at multiple pages of the whole diary. Our Szathmary Recipe Pamphlets and Iowa City Town and Campus Scenes collections also have slightly higher than typical pageviews when compared with other sessions originating in Pinterest.


Collection Sum of Sessions Sum of Pageviews Pageviews/ session
Total/Average 2079 6811 3.28
binding 791 1846 2.33
mwb 184 497 2.70
szathmary 89 354 3.98
tc 88 147 1.67
cartalog 85 111 1.31
ictcs 84 426 5.07
uima 78 231 2.96
gpc 73 87 1.19
cwd 71 548 7.72

We really like it when the items link back to our digital collections. Unfortunately, there are some broken links due I think to changes in CONTENTdm. For example,

no longer links to our collection.

Overall, our collection usage originating in Pinterest is small compared to the use overall. However, it is interesting to see which collections are of most interest on this social media platform.