A new look for our website

We’re changing our website.

After many years and good times with our old site, we’re saying goodbye to our blue and yellow look, our many links, and our “looks great on a big screen!” site in favor of a smaller, more nimble, Vassar-themed, and responsive (read: you can use it on your phone and your big screen!) site.  

View a preview of the site here: https://libguides.vassar.edu/newsite/

We developed our new site after many conversations, an environmental scan of similarly sized institutions, and an exploration of the variety of search techniques and interfaces that were on the horizon for libraries. We asked ourselves what you needed right away (spoiler alert: it wasn’t a big list of services) and why some areas were underutilized. While we had some idea of where our site was going right and going wrong, we needed your feedback.

(And have you ever noticed that our current site doesn’t have a feedback button? We’ve remedied that in the new one.)

Over the course of eight months, we conducted focus groups with current students. We explored how students found the materials and people they needed at the libraries, where frustrations and pain points were, and where success stories might be found. We asked basic questions of the site like, “How would I find the contact information for someone who works here?” and “Can I talk to a research librarian in my subject area?” We also asked participants to draw their ideal library website.

For even more patron input, we conducted a card sort. A card sort takes navigation elements from across a website and asks users to sort them into categories — a “what goes with what?” activity that helps eliminate jargon and internally focused labels. After users sort the cards into piles, we ask them to name each pile with a heading that categorizes the items.

A section of the card sort analysis showing the color-coding of items into broad categories.

A section of the card sort analysis showing the color-coding of items into broad categories.

The results were extraordinary in their consistency and call to action. Some highlights:

  • From the card sort, it became clear almost immediately that students felt that the most important thing that a library site should do is to help them FIND — resources, people, services, etc. Our current site did this, but separated out people and resources. It also moved specialized “finding” needs (like items on reserve or interlibrary loan) into a “services” category. This fractured the relationship between research needs and the people who could help facilitate inquiry at the libraries.
  • From the focus groups, we learned that students rely on website FAQs for a variety of different types of information. Why didn’t we have one? we were asked. Well, the short answer is that we do — but it’s quite hidden. We found that students were overwhelmingly in favor of an FAQ model for many of their information needs.
  • Students, faculty, and the Vassar community have told us that our collections stand out in their minds, and we added a special “Collections” section to the site to provide highlights.
  • We added an Events Calendar to showcase the many things happening here!
  • Perhaps most importantly, our Discover service tested very positively. Students were thrilled with the variety of resources available in one place, the ability to search books and articles at the same time, and the options to limit (“facets”). After such a positive response, we decided to default to this search on our home page.
  • Finally, we confirmed perhaps what we already knew: most of us use Google to start their research. How could we ameliorate this? All of our pages are as search-engine-friendly as possible so that finding resources at Vassar should be easier, no matter where you start your search.

And we’ve added a Feedback form to our site! We’re excited to learn more about what you need and what you think of our work thus far. Please go to https://libguides.vassar.edu/feedback/ to tell us more.

The new site will be replace our old site at the start of the Fall 2018 semester. Until then, both sites will be available for you to use.

Thank you to the many students, faculty, committees, and more that made this site possible.

Open Access Week 2017

Open access symbol of open padlock. Open Access Week runs from Oct. 23-29, 2017.

Open access at Vassar College is in full swing! Following the Vassar College Open Access Policy passed by the faculty in May 2017, the Libraries have been preparing to store and make available the scholarship produced at Vassar through our institutional repository, Digital Window. Just in time for this year’s Open Access Week, we are thrilled to capture the faculty research produced at Vassar through our open access resolution, knowing that this research is open in order to increase the readership for Vassar scholarship and contribute to a more equitable scholarly information ecosystem.

Submit your OA workIf you are a faculty member and would like to submit the final author’s version of your peer-reviewed article (sometimes called a “pre-print”) simply go to our submission instructions and follow the steps on the screen. Note: before you submit your work, be sure you are logged into your Vassar OneLogin account. (If you’re logged in already, you can use the “submit your work” button on this page to go directly to the submission form.)

Other open access initiatives at Vassar College

Although our OA policy is new at Vassar, our dedication to open access is not. We heard from many faculty members that have already contributed to open access journals, subject repositories (like arXiv.org for physics), and publications, and have even released books as OA scholarship! The Libraries have also released many projects in an OA way. Our digital library materials, for example, are available to the public, allowing scholars of all levels from around the world to utilize these important objects in their own work. It also allows us to contribute to larger initiatives such as the Digital Public Library of America (see many of Vassar’s materials in DPLA) and our NEH-funded grant, College Women.

Our open access work also applies to materials in our archives that have been incorporated into larger projects. The Ruth Fulton Benedict Papers is an example of an OA project that involved a commercial publisher (Alexander Street Press) and our Archives & Special Collections Library to foster a process that helped challenge the ways in which these materials could be made available. We worked with Alexander Street Press to digitize and make freely available more than 8,000 pages of diaries, field notes, articles, teaching materials, and correspondence (much of which is transcribed), as well as photographs. True to Benedict’s own principles, the materials are available to all to lay the foundation for future work: as she stated during her acceptance speech for the Annual Achievement Award of American Association of University Women in 1946, “I have faith of a scientist that behavior, no matter how unfamiliar to us, is understandable if the problem is stated so that it can be answered by investigation and if then studied by technically suitable methods. And I have the faith of a humanist in the adventures of mutual understanding of men.”

Finally, the Libraries have been a contributing member of the Lever Press, an “open access, digitally native, peer-reviewed scholarly monographs” publisher established by a group of liberal arts colleges. Lever Press has been on the forefront of new ways of producing and releasing monographs, and the Libraries are thrilled to be sponsors of this important initiative. Lever Press will host an OA Week webinar, “Open Access Monographs: Current Initiatives, Sustainable Models,” on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 at 4:00 p.m. EST for anyone interested in this work. (The webinar is free but registration is required.)

For more information about open access at Vassar, contact Rachelle Ramer, Scholarly Communications Librarian and Research Librarian for the Sciences, at raramer – at – vassar.edu, or email openaccess – at – vassar.edu.

Wishing you a happy Open Access Week!

Welcome (back) to the Libraries!

The following is a guest post from Andrew Ashton, Director of the Libraries.

For those of you new at Vassar, welcome! And for those of you returning, welcome back.  Many changes have happened over the summer and in the past year. We look forward to sharing another great year of information discovery with you!

DVD collection


Believe it or not, there is a whole world of film and video out there that does not stream. Come browse!

We are pleased to announce that DVDs are now available as part of the circulating collection.  Housed outside the Class of ’51 Reading Room on the second floor of the Thompson (Main) Library, these materials are now available for browsing and checkout without needing to be paged.  The collection contains more than 12,000 items and showcases popular movies, documentaries, and hard-to-find items, encompassing many languages and cinematic styles. External disk drives can be borrowed at the Circulation Desk.

Please note that the Archives & Special Collections Library and the Music Library collections are not affected by this change.

New chairs

Old chair to new chair: "Why so quiet?"

Old chair to new chair: “Why so quiet?”

You asked and we answered!  Over the summer, we began the process of replacing the (beautiful but squeaky) caned chairs throughout the Thompson (Main) Library.  We’ll continue the process throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.  Look for the new chairs at the tables in the reading rooms on the first floor.

Digital Library Collections


Letter from Susan B. Anthony to President Grover Cleveland, 27 March 1888.

The digital library team was busy this summer loading in new collections that we hope will be very useful for research and teaching.  New collections include noted suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s papers, a nice complement to the Susan B. Anthony collection we uploaded earlier this year.  We also made available such collections as the Jasper Parrish papers (1757-1836), focusing on the relationship between the Six Nations and the early United States; put the finishing touches on our Matthew Vassar Papers, featuring materials related to the history of the founding of the College; and our Glass Plate Negatives collection, depicting students, events, and buildings from 1904-1935.  More Glass Plate Negatives photos, as well as scrapbooks, letters, and photo albums, will be uploaded this year, thanks to the generosity of private donors and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). View more collections at https://digitallibrary.vassar.edu.

Group Study Rooms

Did you know that we have group study rooms available on the ground floor?  You can check out a key to one of the rooms at the Circulation Desk (just bring your Vassar ID), and head downstairs with your group.  Action Einstein will show you how to get there.

Exhibitions and Events

We’ll be sending out more information about our upcoming Shakespeare exhibition and events, as well as events and exhibitions in the Art Library.  Look for information on our blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed!

Hours for the semester

Fall semester hours began on Monday, August 29.  Check the Hours page on the library’s website for any changes to this schedule.

  • Monday – Thursday: Circulation & Reserves Desk: 8:30am – 12:00 midnight
  • Friday: Circulation & Reserves Desk: 8:30am – 10:00pm
  • Saturday: Circulation & Reserves Desk: 9:00am – 10:00pm
  • Sunday: Circulation & Reserves Desk: 10:00am – 12:00 midnight

The after-hours study space (north side of the building, closest to Chicago Hall) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Stay in touch!

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