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Problem Definition

What is the problem we are aiming to solve with our library-Sakai 3 integrated product?

So far, we have interviewed four faculty at the University of Michigan as well as eight stakeholders from eight different institutions. The faculty interviews focused on user goals, frustrations and workflow around finding, using and sharing scholarly resources for teaching, learning and research (view summary). The stakeholder interviews focused on the ideas, needs and constraints at various institutions for a library-Sakai 3 integrated product (view summary).

Some common difficulties emerging from faculty interviews:

  • It is difficult to quickly assess the value of learning tools. When faculty are faced with a number of different Sakai tools, it is difficult to know which tools will improve their teaching or in-class experience.
  • It is difficult to quickly find "good" new course materials. Although there is a perception that faculty have their own ideas about teaching, learning and research, they often look to their peers or their students for guidance to quickly determine the best available resources. Neither the library nor Sakai support access to this "collective wisdom."
  • It is difficult to reuse scholarly resources (citations) from previous courses. Faculty often base their courses off of previous courses and need quick and easy ways to reuse previous content to limit their time on administrative tasks and focus on teaching and research.
  • It is difficult to find multimedia resources (images, video). To create more engaging course materials, faculty are becoming more interested in leveraging the burgeoning amount of multimedia now available online.
  • It is difficult to know which online course materials are highly used or effective for students. To become better instructors, faculty need to know if the materials they are currently preparing are effective.
  • It is difficult to distinguish certain library services and resources. Faculty have well-established research methods and resources and expect the library to support them without too much regard to how the library supports them (i.e. different library systems for different types of content; library licensing or copyright policies).

Some common difficulties emerging from stakeholder interviews:

  • It is difficult to get library resources and services to all the different places they are relevant. Library users are visiting the library's website, the library's web systems (catalog, metasearch, research guides), working in Sakai, Google Applications or other course management systems and using a variety of research tools all over the web.
  • It is difficult for library users to use the research tools they are comfortable with while taking advantage of the library's access to licensed content. Library users are using non-library systems (i.e. Google Scholar, Amazon) to find licensed content and cannot easily determine whether or not the library has access to that content.
  • It is difficult for the library to have an integrated presence within courses. Courses are the place where students do their work and could largely benefit from having access to relevant library resources and services.

Based on these common difficulties, following are some users and activities we could focus on in our user interviews to distill a tractable problem we can solve:

  • Instructors preparing for courses. Before the start of the semester, many instructors use Sakai to set up their course and rely on scholarly resources for readings, assignments and other course materials.
    • Research question: Why and how do instructors use scholarly resources while preparing their courses in Sakai?
  • Instructors collecting research and using it within Sakai. Many instructors are constantly researching, finding new articles to read and use in research and teaching.
    • Research question: Why, when and how do instructors collect citations and use them within Sakai?
  • Instructors seeking out library support during a course. At different points throughout the semester, instructors may reach out to librarians to provide their course with library resources or services.
    • Research question: Why, when and how do instructors reach out to librarians for course support?
  • Students writing research papers. Many students are assigned to write papers that rely on research of scholarly materials.
    • Research question: Why, when and how do students use scholarly resources to write research papers within Sakai or similar systems (i.e. Google Docs)?
  • others?

Vision Definition

Note: Before we move into defining the vision for this project, it is important to define the problem. It was decided that we needed to focus the problem and obtain more user data to ensure our work addresses real user needs. The below portion of this page is earlier work that will likely change and remains for reference.

Stakeholder interviews were held with eight representatives from eight different institutions to understand more about the ideas, needs and constraints of various institutions for a library-Sakai 3 integrated product (view a summary of the stakeholder interviews).

This section focuses on the three major library-Sakai 3 integrated product visions that emerged from stakeholder interviews: embeddable library widgets, a library bookmarklet and course-specific library pages. These three visions are not necessarily separate. For example, course-specific library pages could be created through the use of a library widget that uses citations aggregated from anywhere on the web through use of a library bookmarklet.

The focus of our 20 August 2009 Web Meeting is to discuss these visions and move towards defining one vision that we can use as the basis for our project. To help fuel the discussion, please feel free to comment on this page with ideas you have on the following visions, visions that may be missing, additional information that would be valuable to help make project vision decisions or any other topic.

Embeddable Library Widgets

Embeddable Library Widgets are small web tools that allow access to some library resource or service from a variety of contexts. For example, a search box configured by a faculty member to search three major databases and then placed into a Sakai assignment for students to provide them a starting point for research.


  • Allow for flexible inclusion of library services/resources in a multitude of contexts.
  • Can be designed to integrate into multiple contexts: Sakai, other CMS systems, library website, faculty websites, etc.
  • Fits well with Sakai 3's anticipated widget-based dashboard and content authoring.


  • Where to start? What widget is going to be best to design first?
  • Library systems integration - which library services can effectively be packaged and used as a web service within multiple contexts?
  • Embeddable systems integration - standards would need to be developed/followed to embed library widgets in multiple contexts.
Library Bookmarklet

A Library Bookmarklet would be a JavaScript-enabled bookmark for a variety of web browsers allowing users to collect citation information from anywhere out on the web. Many library users start their research on the web through services such as Google, Google Scholar, Amazon or native scholarly database interfaces (i.e. ProQuest, EBSCOhost). A Library Bookmarklet would allow users to grab citations from any of these sources and then manage and use them within Sakai 3 under the oversight of library systems ensuring users are getting access to properly managed, library-owned content.



  • Keeping up-to-date with changing website structures to properly capture correct metadata.
  • Standardizing/sanitizing disparate data formats so that users can get back to what they found.
  • Authentication "out on the web" for institutions that do not have a single sign-on authentication system for multiple University services.
  • Integration with existing citation management software.
Course-Specific Library Pages

Course-Specific Library Pages would allow faculty easier access to librarians and a process through which librarians could build Library Pages for their courses. These Library Pages may be similar to or based on subject research guides, but more flexible to meet the needs of specific courses.


  • Allows courses to have a "one-stop-shop" for relevant library services and resources.
  • Gives librarians and the library a greater, more visible presence within Sakai 3.


  • Integration with existing subject research guide or course library pages systems.
  • Managing a large number of faculty requests to create library pages - will libraries of different sizes be able to handle the load?
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