Library day, er, week, in the life.

I wanted to participate in Library Day in the Life this year even though I am not, technically, a librarian. So, um, I am.

This week was a weird one- I had very few meetings and could concentrate mostly on one project. Of course, I could do that because I’ve spent the last two weeks squaring other things away so that I could concentrate on one thing this week. It has taken me a while to realize it, but I get so much more done when I can work on the same thing from hour to hour and from day to day. Interruptions happen, but I have begun to minimize them as best I can.

Monday I spent a bit of time working on email and doing hours. Since I have to report my time for various grants I am written into and I’m often not all that clear on which projects I’ll end up having to report my time on, I just go ahead and try to keep track of my time for everything. This has the advantage of being able to generate neat graphs about where I spent my time. The disadvantage is, it takes a lot of time. I met with the director of the Center, who updated me on what was discussed at the on site meeting in Cody, Wyoming she and a few co-workers went to the previous week. We set another meeting for the next day to talk about it in more detail.

Then I got started on my main task for the week: designing the search for the Cody Archive (the aforementioned BIG PROJECT). Designing the search consists of: deciding what will be searched (this has been determined over several weeks of back and forth with the rest of the team) making sure the TEI encoding can support the search they want (which is why I like being in on the TEI early in the development of the project), actually designing the form people will use, designing the results people will see, and doing a bunch of XSL work to get the indexing in SOLR correct. Also some other things. It’s a big time commitment, but a beautiful search is a joy to behold.

I was pretty sure I understood what they wanted to be able to search, so I hustled and redesigned my existing try into one that would: have a basic and advanced search, include more categories, and be more thoughtfully laid out. Most of the work I did Monday was scribbling ideas on pieces of paper and doing research in the form of looking at other digital libraries/archives and using their advanced search. I do this pretty much every time I do a search, because things change, and different features look good in different contexts.

Tuesday, I first wrote the new HTML for the form, as well as a bit of javascript so the basic and advanced forms would be accessible via tabs and we can have nifty auto completing forms for the people and places (thanks to the magic of jQuery UI, this was a snap). Then, I did the CSS. When I get to spend a day or two doing pure HTML/CSS/Javascript work, I am a happy camper. (Note: I have not begun cross browser testing yet.)

I got the form mostly designed by our meeting at two, where I clarified a few details with other team members and asked their advice on a couple of things. After the meeting I consulted with our Metadata Encoding Specialist about the TEI, and met with the programmer. I’ll be handing off the search implementation off to the programmer, so I wanted to make sure it was all understandable. I may have also bugged the project manager a few times for his opinion.

I finished up the CSS for the search form Tuesday afternoon. I still might have a kink or two to work out, but I think it is pretty elegant and usable.

Wednesday, I worked on designing the search results page. First, I mocked up the page in HTML using dummy data. I knew they wanted to include thumbnails of images associated with items (covers of books, scans of newspaper articles, pics of letters), but some items won’t have any images associated with them. I worked on a few versions that showed the images when they were there and nothing when they weren’t, and didn’t like it because the results, to me at least, were hard to scan. So, I created some placeholder icons to be used when the item doesn’t have an image. I only created 5 as a sample, but it took a little bit (2 ish hours) because I was hunting down images and then making the icons so they didn’t just look like another item image. If that even makes sense. Oh, I also created the thumbnails themselves. Anyway, I’m pretty happy with the finished result, but will wait until I hear what the rest of the group thinks before I become too attached.

After writing the HTML I got to – wheeeee – write more CSS! There’s some back and forth in this process… write some base CSS to hold things in place, adjust the HTML as needed, write some more CSS, adjust the HTML as needed, etc. This is why I like doing mockups in CSS/HTML rather than either asking the programmer to do the HTML first and then I style it, or mocking something up in photoshop, which is just… ick to me anymore. When I do the HTML and CSS upfront, it’s a pretty quick job. This way, I know exactly the form the HTML should take, and therefore the programmer will know too. Hopefully.

This process takes most of the day Wed, but I also have a meeting about another project of ours where we try to figure out the quickest way to get around a problem we have been having, and answer a bunch of email.

Thursday I finish up the search form and the results page (just small details) and then get them all working, commit my changes to the SVN repo, update the working site to reflect the changes, send an email for people to take a look. I make printouts of the search and results pages, and my original idea is to hand the programmer notes as to which part of the TEI or Dublin Core should power each of the search fields and the bits and pieces of the results, then I realize it will take much less time if I just write the XSL that will write the XML for the SOLR indexer myself. So I do. This is quite enjoyable as well – it’s the easy part of XSLT, where I can just kind of examine documents and pluck bits and pieces to be indexed. Examples of things we’re pulling out – people, places, keywords, topics, author, type, category, date, figure ID (to show the thumbnail) and a bunch of other stuff I am forgetting. I consult with the metadata person again a few times to make sure I’ll be pulling the correct parts of the TEI. The images are encoded in Dublin Core XML, exported for the most part from content DM, so I write the part to grab that metadata too.

I commit my new XSL, and write up an email explaining what I did to the programmer, and I hope it made sense.

Whew. That was a lot of acronyms.

Friday (today) I planned to work on typography for the site (it needs some polish) but then I was hit with death pains of doom Thursday night and stayed home Friday, mostly curled on the couch. Called my Dr., who said to go to urgent care if it continued. Around three I felt a little better, so decided to write this thing up. Since I still feel crappy, won’t be going out, so I might just work on typography tonight. Wild Friday Night!

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