Web services best practices

Sharing best practices is at the core of our profession’s work and a number of specialized technology in libraries/higher education conferences exist for this very purpose — including Computers in Libraries,Code4Lib, and WebCon. I present and volunteer at these conference when at all possible to learn the latest best practices. Here are two topics I’ve recently presented on…

Static site generators

Library websites have long been run by database-driven contentmanagement systems (CMSs) such as Drupal and WordPress. Unfortunately, the digital vulnerabilities of suchsystems are significant and require frequent maintenance to maintain security. Static-site generators (SSGs),such as Jekyll and Gatsby, take a different approach by entirely removing slow and risky databases from thelive site. The results are sites that are fast and more secure and that can be easier to host and easier toarchive for the future. At my presentations, the first where I invited my colleagues to join me, I covered howthe SSG development model differs from the current CMS model, how SSGs can work the library community, how tomake these geeky tools user-friendly, and how we use SSGs here at Miami.

Proactive chat

I worked with a team of librarians to improve our chat reference service by having it proactively ask students if they needed help on our library website. Our service now automatically invites students to chat if they spend more than 45 seconds on the same page.

After the change, chat traffic climbed 181% in Spring 2019 compared to Spring 2018.

I led the group through discussions of web analytics and usability research and programmed this service into the templates of our website and LibGuides. I also included an option for librarians to turn off proactive chat on their individual research guides if they believed the service would be a detriment to the use of the guide.

Instruction Technologies Librarian Andy Revelle and I presented on the project at the 2019 ALAO Conference. I shared how we evaluated both prior usability testing and our own students use of our site when choosing the timing of our pop-out invitation. Andy evaluated the transcripts of the chats and found the types of questions students were asking did not change as a result of the change — only increased the number of questions.

Related Scholarly Output

  • Yarnetsky, J (2022, March). Developing With a Static Site Generator [presentation] Computers in Libraries 2022. Arlington, Virginia. Information Today, Inc.
  • Yarnetsky, J., Irwin, K., & Qu, M. (2021, April). Free Yourself From the Database: Developing With a Static Site Generator. [presentation] WebCon 2021: An online conference for web professionals within higher education and beyond. University of Illinois Webmasters.
  • Revelle, A. A., & Yarnetsky, J. (2019, October). Do You Need Help? The Implementation of Proactive Chat and its Effect on the Quantity and Quality of Reference InteractionsALAO 2019 Conference. Nationwide Hotel and Conference Center, Columbus, Ohio: Academic Libraries Association of Ohio.