AALL Spectrum Blog


The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/1/2012 5:27:40 PM

A3: Guerrilla Usability Testing

Usability testing is the process that allows those redesigning part or all of a website to see what users see.  By asking a user to perform a few set tasks using the website, one can observe their interaction with a website to reveal how the website confuses users and suggest improvements.  For all of its usefulness, usability testing has a reputation for being an expensive and time-consuming process.  The presenters, Jason Eiseman of Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Library and Roger Skalbeck of Georgetown Law Library broke the process down and showed how it can be easy and relatively inexpensive while still getting the same useful information. 

Eiseman and Skalbeck are both veterans of a website redesign process involving extensive usability testing.  They did a great job of giving examples from their own experience, and were also careful to cite the advice of experts, including Steve Krug and Jakob Nielsen.  I found this very helpful.  Too often, Annual Meeting programs focus too much on what worked at an individual institution. 

Eiseman and Skalbeck started their presentation with a usability test demonstration using a volunteer from the audience.  They were careful to run their demonstration test exactly the way they run a real usability test, which gave them an excellent example for the rest of the program.  They recorded this demonstration using Silverback, the same software Yale used in their actual usability testing.  This also allowed those in attendance to see the recommended software in action.  Later, Eiseman and Skalbeck replayed most of the recording to summarize their presentation.  Those listening at home can probably skip this part.

After the demonstration, the presenters gave simple instructions and tips for how to perform usability testing.  These tips were insightful and non-obvious.  For example, they caution against trying to prove a personal theory about how users interact with the website.  The presenters were careful to say that usability testing is better kept open-ended and used to discover how people use the site.  This was an interesting and not necessarily intuitive conclusion.  Usability testing seems to fit with the idea of testing a particular hypothesis.  This advice would help librarians design their usability testing questions to discover the best information about how their users interact with the site.

The presenters’ other most surprising point was the idea of testing “early and often.”  Rather than testing the website once when it is finished or nearly finished, Eiseman and Skalbeck recommended conducting many small tests during the redesign process.  Eiseman conducted usability testing on a simple wireframe illustration of how the website might look and just asked users where they would click if they could.  This allowed him to test how people would use the site before any of the links and other functionality was ready. 

Testing multiple times throughout the redesign process seems intimidating, but that is where the “guerrilla” part came in.  Eiseman and Skalbeck discussed how to simplify the process and make it less expensive.  They simplified the process, in part, by only testing with a handful of users.  To show how usability testing could be less expensive, the presenters discussed tools ranging from the expensive ($1500!) Morae software to the less-expensive mac-based Silverback to a simple paper and pen. 

I am glad I attended the presentation, and I would recommend downloading both the program and the handout.  The handout is a bibliography of sources on usability and usability testing including the Steve Krug book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy, which was referenced several times during the presentation, one website, and the software discussed and/or used in the program.  More helpful than just a list of resources, Eiseman and Skalbeck provide their valuable and frank opinions on each resource.  On the other hand, the handout does not include Eiseman and Skalbeck’s advice or instructions on how to conduct the testing.  Thus, downloading the handout alone will not give all of the useful information from this session.

Although I recommend downloading and listening to this program, I must note that visual aspects of this presentation were very helpful and important.  One of the best illustrations was a series of clips of several Georgetown users getting confused and making the same mistake when trying to use the website.  This illustrated why it is not necessary to see dozens of users to know that something needs to be redesigned.  It was an excellent point, but one that was nearly entirely visual.  This is not to say that the audio-only download will not be worthwhile, but those listening to the audio may be somewhat frustrated.

I would definitely recommend this program for librarians at any institution currently contemplating or undertaking a website redesign.  It provides great advice from librarians who have been there, serves as an introduction to the top books and software tools, and shows how to think creatively about a process that can seem intimidating.

Posted By Clare Willis at 8/1/2012 5:27:40 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: aall 2012
8/1/2012 4:30:37 PM

Session J5: Class KIA-KIX: A Revolutionary New Classification Schedule for the 21st Century

At AALL’s Annual Meeting 2012, Dr. Jolande E. Goldberg of LC and George Prager of NYU presented on the recent changes to the law classification schedules dealing with the Law of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas (KIA-KIX).  Dr. Goldberg developed the schedule with two goals in mind.  First, she wanted to organize indigenous legal materials at LC in a more coherent manner.  Second, she wanted to give access to a critical mass of primary and secondary resources available on the web.

To achieve the first goal, 1200 tribal law materials were gathered from several areas of LC to test the new schedule.  These included tribal codes, reporters, session laws, corporate charters, constitutions, by-laws, and much more.  Some were previously located in KF (United States) or KE (Canada), some were never reclassified from Thomas Jefferson’s original classification scheme, and some were never classified at all.  During the test they were reclassified into the new KIA-KIX range.  The new schedule allows for better granularity, as each tribe has its own series of call numbers.  Previously all 560+ tribes shared one call number, KF8228. 

The second goal expands the use of the LC Classification Schedule to include links to sources of tribal law.  A bibliography of legal materials with those links will be ordered in the same hierarchical structure as the KIA-KIX schedule.  Dr. Goldberg explained that there are limited sources of tribal legal materials available.  She and her colleagues researched many of those materials for the project and wanted to share those findings in one central bibliography.  While the final location is unknown, the current draft of the bibliography along with a new guide explaining the project can be found at http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/kia_intro.html.  

The new schedule is in the final stages of completion, with official release expected within the next year.  Future updates may be listed under the “News” section of the Cataloging and Acquisitions Homepage at http://www.loc.gov/aba/.

Posted By Cate Kellett at 8/1/2012 4:30:37 PM  0 Comments
8/1/2012 4:24:23 PM

Why Weed?

"I was gonna clean my [hotel] room until I got high.  I gonna get up and find the [AALL member services’] broom but then I got high. My room is still messed up and I know why (Yeah, hey!)/ Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high." Well, not exactly. Afroman may have sung about getting high, but Jaye Anne Barlous and Kelly Reynolds are the research experts on the subject.

So why weed?  These two librarians stumbled into a hot topic that the students really loved to research. Kelly Reynolds started the session yesterday with a bit of context for using this subject in teaching.  Basically, she found that the subject grabbed student attention, and also fit very well into the research world.  Those opportunities are few and far between for research instructors. For these librarians researching medical marijuana provided a plethora of research “ah-ha” moments. For example, for Kelly it is a “Boolean Dream,” because you have to use wild card characters for a comprehensive search (marijuana v. marihuana = mari*uana).  Also, researching medical marijuana is very Google-adverse, because almost every high school student has written a paper on the subject then posted it online.  Thus,  you, as the teacher, have the opportunity to discuss how to evaluate sources for credibility.  And of course, if you’re open to the public, this will be an inevitable reference question.

Planting the seed. Kelly moved from the legal research classroom to the garden to give us a bit of background on the plant.  I learned that the marijuana plant is an annual that grows 13 to 18 feet tall and blooms late summer to early fall.  Typically, the plant grows 1 to 11 leaflets.  It is a dioecious plant, which means that it’s reproductive organs are on different plants. Hemp comes from the stem (ropes and clothing) of the male marijuana plant.  The issue is with the flowering female (pollinated).  From this plant you can create hashish and by drying its leaves you can form the marijuana that is smoked. Cool.

Reaping the fields.  So then Kelly explained “we have receptors in our brain and our brain that cannabis stimulates.” These receptors impact various parts of our body including dopamine, dopamine receptors, reproduction, memory, and even temperature.  Medical cannabis has been used to relieve the symptoms of many illnesses, such as AIDS wasting and anorexia (generating an appetite), chemotherapy-induced nausea, glaucoma (pain relief), and Multiple Sclerosis Spasticity. However, the use of marijuana is not symptom free, and there are side effects specific to using medical marijuana.  Those include, cognitive impairment, hallucinations, anxiety, early onset psychosis, dependence, and death (yes, there is a lethal limit to marijuana which equates to 30,000 joints = THC limit).

Selling your crops.  I have found that the perfect storm for research questions are those that hit every field of law – international, federal, state and administrative – Kelly confirmed that inclination yesterday.  Medicinal use of marijuana is one of those complex legal questions that require research in each sector.  For example, there is a treaty directly on point with this topic titled the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs created to regulate research-grade marijuana that is produced and sold internationally between research institutions.  But, research-grade marijuana is also regulated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which requires domestic marijuana obtained within the country to comply with the U.S. Code and the regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), available at http:grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not99-091.htm. What an awesome intersection between international law and domestic law! These speakers did an amazing job detailing the history of marijuana in the legal in the legal field, both through legislative history and common law development. 

The purpose of the plant. The second part of the session was on the use of marijuana in media to promote racial basis leading to unethical decision-making by our government.  Jaye Barlous brought an interesting dynamic to the controversy of marijuana over the years by following the historical trail of newspaper and popular culture references.  She took us through a look at marijuana in movies and films that displayed the use of marijuana with many violent crimes! One piece of the propaganda even included a shot of a lady being injected with the marijuana drug. 

If you want to generate a conversation on ethical decision-making at the legislative level, look to the use of racism in the development of the laws and media surrounding marijuana.  For example, by 1937, every state had adopted some form of marijuana regulating law.  In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted.  That being said, imagine creating a legislative history assignment that looks at the testimony before the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Re. 75th Congress on HI 6385 in April 1937 where the speaker refers solely to newspaper articles.  Continue that thought in that these articles were never substantiated.  Strikingly though, his testimony was entered into the legislative history record as part of the purpose for enacting the law, which will then construct the legislative intent for courts to reference.  This behavior is clearly shocking and appalling unethical behavior in our legislative process. To the contrary though, Dr. William C. Woodward, who acknowledged the addictive nature of marijuana, provided an opposing view that looked at the evaluation of the commentary previously provided.  He noted that this testimony was based on news articles and the speaker provided no component primary evidence.  Jaye found that this aspect of medical marijuana compounded into a discussion that challenged traditional notions that government should have best interest of the people.  Conversely, in dealing with medical marijuana over the years, by conducting legislative history research, you find that there are many distinct unethical actions that have been found on racially-based motives to regulating this plant and industry.

Posted By Liz Johnson at 8/1/2012 4:24:23 PM  0 Comments