On-line directory desiderata

The College is going to stop printing the directory, beginning this Fall. We are doing so for obvious reasons: to save money, to save considerable staff time (a form of money), and to lower our carbon footprint. In conversations leading up to this decision, many people had many very fond things to say about the printed directory, and will mourn this loss. As we head into the design phase of the web makeover project, this seems like a great opportunity to try to understand exactly what is it about the printed directory that is superior to the on-line directory, since we will be modifying the on-line directory as part of the overall makeover.

Here’s what we’ve heard so far about what the print directory does better than the on-line directory

  1. It allows you to quickly scan through the staff of a department to figure out who is responsible for what, and provides general contact information for a department.
  2. It allows you to easily find someone’s home phone number, unlike the online directory where home phone numbers are only viewable if the person wants to show them and has taken the extra step to set their configuration on the Change Information form.
  3. It allows you to look up the hometown for a student.
  4. It allows you to look up the on-campus address for a student.
  5. It identifies the chair and academic coordinator for each academic department.
  6. It allows you to limit your search to just students, or just faculty/staff.
  7. It can be used when you aren’t near a computer.

This is just a preliminary list of issues that a new design would need to address; we are posting this as a means of encouraging those of you who worry about the loss of the printed directory to let us know what we can do to make the on-line directory as good, or even better!, than the printed directory. Please use the comments on this post to record your thoughts. (And include examples of other great directories if you happen to know of them.)

41 Responses to “On-line directory desiderata”

  1. Things I like about the printed directory:

    The breakdown of college offices, student orgs, dean of the college, academic depts, administrative depts, LS. It directs you to who does what in each area, which is something that’s not easily found in the current on-line directory
    Fax number listings
    RAs and 1st/year counselors
    Academic interest houses
    academic depts, shows coordinators and dept heads
    Things I don’t like about the current on-line directory
    Too much white space between names. Maybe the results could show a listing of names and you could click on it for more detailed information
    when you do a search, I hate that the search entry block stays on the screen and you have to scroll down below for the results. It fills the screen and if I didn’t know any better, I probably wouldn’t bother to scroll down.
    Just some thoughts…..

  2. I added my thoughts here http://sites.middlebury.edu/imcbride/2009/06/03/can-we-get-rid-of-the-paper-directory/ before I heard confirmation we were eliminating the paper Directory.

    Thanks for the suggestion too, Doreen. I will make it so the Directory drops you straight to the results after you do a search on Monday.

  3. One thing I’d love to see a snazzy online directory do is suggest related people. Clearly this would be most relevant for fac/staff who have colleagues in a department, but it would potentially allow click-through browsing by dept, building, name, etc. Additionally, visualizing org charts for units would be nice.

  4. I would love it if the college directory included pictures of all faculty, staff and students. This is particularly important for staff, who I often know only through email, but don’t recognize when I pass them on campus. I know there are legal and privacy issues with this, but they can be worked with for staff just as we have with students and faculty.

  5. I absolutely agree with Doreen’s comments, particularly about all the extra space in the search results! It’s probably THE main reason I rarely use the online directory. I’d love to see a simple list (name, title, extn, location), as she suggested, with an option to see more details (including those optional pictures). That would be very useful.

    What I have found frustrating with the paper directory, under Administrative Departments, is that job titles do not appear – only name, location, and extn. I’ve never found that section particularly useful, so I won’t miss it.

  6. I agree with Doreen. I think the portability of the directory is important too. I’ve often taken it with me when traveling without a computer.
    Also, the paper directory is a useful historical document., like the print catalog and commencement programs. I’ve often used it to find information about people who are no longer on campus.
    Undoubtedly many more copies of the directory have been printed each year than were necessary, but eliminating it will be a loss.

  7. The obvious problem with a paper directory is that it is out-of-date before it is printed. But it is even more annoying when an online directory has outdated or wrong information due to neglect. I think it is important that directory information not tied into Banner, such as College offices, department alignment, and student organization contacts, be reviewed on a regular basis. The paper directory historically was put together by staff from campus activities, dean of faculty, Commons administration, academic support, residential housing, LIS – programmers and telephone services, human resources and the communications office. Some of these staff should be involved in such a review.

    What I like about an online directory is that modifications like the search drop change Doreen requested is made within a day. Thanks, Ian!

    The Wellesley College online directory is an example of what our paper directory might look like transferred to the Web. One thing Wellesley has that we don’t is a voice recognition system. This would at least partially address the concerns of those who are not near a computer but are likely near a phone. This brings to mind that our campus operators may see an increase in information requests possibly stressing an already stretched resource.

  8. Neither the helpdesk when once asked about it nor I could find the list of notary publics which is always printed in the paper directory online. Can you put this list somewhere online (maybe under HR website) or include it as a search item on the directory?

  9. I use the on-line directory much more frequently than the printed one, mostly because the on-line directory is more accurate and up-to-date. The only time I use the printed one is when looking for information contained in the front sections. Being able to search the on-line directory by department, title, location, etc is what I rely on.

    The necessity of regular reviews of directory information is a must , as has already been suggested. Information changes quickly and frequently throughout the year for students, faculty, and staff. HR uses the extension and location for the coordinator or supervisor when they are unsure or uniformed of new employee information. The regular review we’ve done each year helped to address these changes, but the work involved was intense and stressful because it was only once a year.

    I’d like to see a link to allow individuals to request updates throughout the year, when they notice their information is incorrect, followed by an annual request for confirmation of information. This would allow HR to change Banner records throughout the year instead of during July, which would in turn keep other systems updated as well.

    I like the proposed idea of presenting minimal information with an option to see more. It would make searching for a person much easier.

    The proposed idea of searching by category (student, faculty, and/or staff) would minimize information sifting.

    As for the information found in the front sections of the printed directory (such as “college offices”), this information would also need to be updated on a regular basis if it were to be placed in the on-line directory. The past years have proven that this information changes frequently, too.

    It is frustrating not to see work information in the on-line directory for some. If you work at the college shouldn’t people be able to know how to find you by phone, email, or campus location/address. Personal information should continue to be hidden when desired.

    Without knowing how difficult this would be, it would be nice to have a “public” directory and a “college’ directory presented on-line. This would allow people off campus not to see details of those who work at the college. (Cold sales calls, anyone?)

    I’d like the screen to be “released” from the search fields upon hitting “enter” (thankfully we can hit enter rather than being forced to click on “search”) so we may use “page up” and “page down” or arrow keys immediately. I’m a keystroke person and tend to use the mouse minimally, so having to use the mouse to click in the results area and then being able to use keys I find frustrating. (Would this help those with disabbilities, too?)

    I’d also like to have a “return to search” option with the names that appears rather than having to scroll back to the top to execute another search.

  10. The on-line directory must be available for people off campus and needs to contain the main phone numbers for offices and departments.

    The directory should have log-on permissions/protections so that some information can be hidden from the world but available after log-in. We should not list the office location if an employee has requested to have this information hidden, but all employee names and phone numbers should be displayed after the log-in.

    There are a number of employees who do not have computer access. These departments should have ready access to a printed list of the main departments and College office phone numbers. This should be a list that’s available in the on-line directory and printed for the department use. The current web directory lacks this type of main deparmtent number as Ian explained in his post.

    A printed list would also be helpful in the event of a power outage or the lack of computer connectivity.

    The College administration will need to clearly state that the elimination the paper directory will require employees to use the on-line directory or to use a printed list of main offices and department phone numbers. The elimination of the printed directory is likely to create an increase of calls to the switchboard. Since the switchboard is located in Public Safety, these calls will likely interfere with urgent and emergency services.

  11. It will be a challenge to replicate the functionality of the front of the printed directory on the college web site, but we owe it to our internal audiences to try.

    1. The major component that needs to be developed is an A to Z listing of all departments, offices, centers, and services for Middlebury College, the LS, BLSE, BLWC and SA. Each listing should include the entity’s location and phone number, a link to the entity’s web site (if any), and (where appropriate) a contact person’s name, title, and e-mail address.

    This listing should work as well for easy searches like “Biology Department,” “Atwater Commons,” and “Career Services,” as it does for “Slide Library,” “Equipment Room,” and “Orientation.”

    Certain multi-function buildings would have their own listings, much as they do in the printed directory. For example: McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Peterson Family Athletic Center, McCullough Hall, and Mahaney Center for the Arts. Searches for these listings should work whether a user enters the proper name or a keyword like “science,” “athletics,” “student activities,” or “arts.”

    There should also be redirects for the common names of certain operations. When someone enters “Catering,” the listing takes them to “Dining Events,” or when one looks up “News,” the listing takes them to “Public Affairs.” Likewise, when one looks up “Science Library,” the redirect is to “Armstrong Library.”

    There also needs to be cross-referencing. For example, the Grille would appear under both “Grille, The” and “Dining Services,” or “Museum” would appear under both “Museum of Art” and “Mahaney Center for the Arts.”

    2. Privacy issues do have to be balanced against employees’ need for access to information in order to be productive in their jobs. Accordingly, there should be two levels of information: internal audiences (i.e., those with usernames and passwords) and the rest of the world. This way, students’ home addresses would be available to the internal users that need them.

  12. I agree with those who find the front of the printed directory particularly helpful. couple more points:
    1) I used to often appreciate – even though it was frequently outdated – the listing of officers for student organizations. Even if the name was a semester or more off, the list gave me a contact and a starting place for figuring out who the leaders were in various organizations. This past year’s directory had the list of student orgs but was otherwise blank. Maybe there is a place on the web where the most up to date list can be found.
    2) I think that photos should be opt out instead of opt in. We stress that we are a community and that we have faculty and staff who know one another and know the student body. But the fact is that we are not nearly the small school we once were and it is difficult for new-comers as well as the rest of us to learn who is who. When was the last time that “Faculty Faces” was published? I think it was 2000. And those who have a copy from then know that half the photos in there were already a decade (at least!) old. Staff should be included too. Let’s build on our strength: create an easier to navigate directory and facilitate people getting to know one another by having photos available.

  13. One new comment:
    * We do give printed directories to some of our well-established community partners so I’m not sure how we would help them if everything was on line. Might impact our strategic plan goal of improving/building upon our campus-community partnerships. I guess they could/would have access to the basic public info in an on-line system but maybe not the additional info if we take the on-line version a bit further within the password-protected internal community.

    And to underscore some others:
    * What happens during an emergency and power is down?
    * Can there be a way to only search among, students, staff, or faculty–instead of automatically getting names from all 3 groups?
    * Will definitely want to access and update a parallel to the front section (was just asked a question about notaries and wondered how I’d address it w the new system).
    * Might be able to link to student org leaders thru CCAL’s web site–Doug or JJ want to comment? Might need to have the internal/external protection depending upon how much info giving.
    * Like the call-in option, somehow, especially for those traveling, those without computers at home, or those still w dial up.
    * Really like Laurie’s suggestion of photos being “opt out” instead of “opt in” for students, faculty and staff–even alumni if we could do it—again for an internal password protected audience. Think it would help build community in a much more concrete way.

    Thanks for asking for input. Appreciate the process. TNS

  14. 1) I Agree that there should be some indication that the search has occurred. It is not intuitive to scroll down to see the results.

    2) I often keep the directory open in a browser tab and I have noticed that after a period of inactivity I’ll put in a new name in to search and I get an ugly error message and then need to refresh the browser.

    3) When searching for a department without any other information it would be helpful to have the coordinator, the chair, or the main point of contact be the first search result.

  15. I agree with Doreen Bernier’s likes about the front of the directory “The breakdown of college offices, student orgs, dean of the college, academic depts, administrative depts, LS. It directs you to who does what in each area, which is something that’s not easily found in the current on-line directory”. If this could somehow be incorporated into the on-line directory with ease to finding this section that would be a benefit. Also makes changes much easier to keep up with. Way to go Ian!

    As with Ginnie, I use the on-line directory more often then the paper directory for its correctness. Being on-line should mean that the information is kept up-to-date with any changes made within the college made to the on-line directory immediately.

    The paper directory is outdated as soon as it is printed, especially within Dining Services. By the time the directory comes out a lot of our part-time non-benefited people have left the college or gone to another dining unit to work. We have such a high turnover for part-time non benefited employees that for years I had asked that these people not be put in the directory. If on-line it would not be a problem.

    If necessary a certain amount of paper directories could be printed and placed strategically around campus for those that do not have computer access.

    I believe this is an excellent way to cut down on cost by at least cutting down on the amount of paper directories!

  16. I agree with the messages already posted about the value of the front of the print directory. I use pages 4-31 of the current directory almost as often as the rest of the book. Fax listings are important as we get faxes meant for other venues because of someone mistaking a zero for a six, for example. If the on-line directory is to include photos, please, please, please, be sure they are not distorted. Some of the photos already on the directory look really long and skinny, some short and wide.

  17. I agree with Lisa Boudah that there needs to be a plan for people to access directory information in the event of a power outage or loss of computer connectivity.

    Also, it is helpful to be able to look up a student’s hometown. This is something you can do in the printed directory but not online.

  18. The online directory is so deficient in information. If I want to find out, for instance, who the chair of a Department is, the directory gives me no information. Often, one is not looking for the phone number of a particular person, but wants to figure out whom to call on a particular issue. The online firectory is of little help in such a situation.

  19. I am very dependent on the printed directory – leave it on the corner of my desk, use it multiple times a day. I’ll adjust. I like not having to use the keyboard for some things. I’ll miss the hard-copy catalog more. I like to work with students away from the computer, at a table. (I know, get a hand-held device of some kind . . . but I have such stubby fingers.) Brave new world. Old dog, kl

  20. My suggestions include (and build on what others have said):

    – Reverse directory look-up (by number) & similar number look-up: important for re-directing miss-dialed calls.

    – Brief listings – photo thumbnail & basic info (name, number, job title, & location) — that can be expanded into a full listing with photo portrait & all the available information. This would make the search results page much more succinct.

    – Print options for those who do need paper directories. Such options could allow users to choose the fields they need to include, e.g. faculty only, language schools students only, by location, with just the phone #, or phone and fax, etc.

  21. Reference to #7 (print directory is available without computer). In sum, we use the online at the office and the print version at home. For the latter, we could probably rely on the College operator. Expect more calls!

  22. The only thing I use the printed directory for is taking the previous year’s home for a handy phone book away from the office. At work, I strongly prefer the online directory.

    Please do not change the way that the email field is searched: it only finds exact matches. I use this feature all the time.

    A lot of the things that have been mentioned are available on the web site, just not via the directory. For instance, it is just a matter of a few mouse clicks to find out the faculty chair and department coordinator of any department. Click on Academics; Undergraduate Majors and Programs; Departments and Programs. From there you can choose to click on any academic department and easily find the chair and coordinator, along with a list of faculty.

    *IF* the website information is up to date, I’m not sure the whole site has to be replicated within the online directory.

  23. I’m surprised and confused by the number of people that say they like the front part of the printed directory because it lists all the people and tell you what they do. That’s exactly what it does not do. You can find people by department, but then you have to flip to the faculty/staff section to look them up alphabetically to find out what they do, then flip back to the front, then to the back…. I’ve always found that very unhelpful. The online directory works much better that way, just click on the department and all the people are listed.

    It’s also outdated the minute it’s printed which can lead to confusion.

    I echo the suggestion of a shorter listing of name, phone and e-mail with the option to click further for more information. That would shorten the amount of scrolling needed.

  24. Thanks for requesting this feedback.

    On behalf of myself, and several other emeriti faculty, I would like to request that when a user searches by department in the new on-line directory, the emeriti faculty be included along with the active faculty. Currently only those emeriti who teach one course a year are included in the departmental listings in the Web directory. (Is this because the directory is linked to Banner and only those emeriti who are still employed by the College are associated with a department?) Many of us retired faculty still maintain active professional lives even if we are not teaching. It would be much easier for colleagues at other colleges and universities, former students, etc. to find us if the emeriti directory information could be included as part of the departmental groupings rather than requiring multiple name-by-name searches.

    Also, the new directory Web page should include a feature in the current on-line directory: an easy way for a user to enter a cell phone as a contact number. This is especially important for those emeriti who work from home and use a cell phone rather than a landline for professional calls.

  25. So many good ideas! — may I add a plea for REAL alphabetization? — in other words, not to list a department under “Office of . . . “, but under the functional part of the title?! Photos are also much appreciated when they’re included; I agree that opt-out should be the rule rather than opt-in. . . . and I also like the idea of a short on-line listing that would be linked to a fuller profile, w/photo. And a printed brief version, by department — which would give more phone work to the main contact, I’m afraid. But if only a few pages long, double-sided, that could be taken home instead of extra directory copies.

  26. Knowing a student’s home town/country of origin is very valuable in trying to research student stories that will represent geographic diversity.


  27. Thanks for asking for feedback. I’m surprised that some people think that the online directory makes it easy to find general contact information. Have I missed something? Try, for example, finding a general contact number for LIS (or Reprographics, of the Snow Bowl, etc.). If you use the drop-down menu, you get a list of ALL staff in that department, with no indication of who is the best person to call first.

    Would it be possible to have an entry for “General Info” for each departmental listing? And to force that entry to appear at the top of the list for that department? For LIS, for example, that number would be the Information Desk. Thanks!

  28. I agree with many of the comments already posted. I’ll second (third?) the stated concern re: what happens during power outages/downed internet/etc.

    In addition, I’ll say that in the office, I use the online directory almost exclusively; while at home, I use the print directory almost exclusively. When I’m out of the office, I intentionally unplug as much as possible. Karl – I have no interest in the Brave New World! 🙂

    Is the decision firm not to print any copies? Or perhaps a middle ground of having people opt in/out, which would likely significantly reduce the number of copies printed without eliminating it entirely.

  29. Too bad there will no longer be a printed directory. Besides all the very valid points made in 1 through 7, I’d like to add that every kitchen on campus has at least one available near the kitchen phone. Computers are not generally within our reach during our work hours in the kitchen, but often someone on campus needs to be called. It makes it so convenient to have the directory right there to look up people and office’s numbers very quickly. I’m sure there are several other places on campus with similar situations.

  30. Be sure there is a complete alphabetical listing for browsing when one isn’t sure of the spelling of names.

  31. (1) Like several of the previous posters, beginning with Doreen, I will miss the printed directory. I use it FAR more than the on-line one, because:
    — I am very often wanting to make a phone call to someone on campus when I am not at a computer, or not logged in.
    — And even if I am sitting at my desk with the screen in front of me, I find it a lot quicker to open the campus directory than to mouse around to and within the on-line directory.

    (2) Like Judy Olinick and Laurie Jordan, I find the archival value of past directories useful, and have often consulted old ones.

    (3) Like Lisa Boudah and others, I suspect that the decision to eliminate the paper directory will prove to be cost-shifting, rather than cost-saving. The telephone switchboard operators will definitely feel the burden, everyone who finds it takes more time to look up a number or other information will feel a little frustration and will be losing time that could be spent doing something more valuable. And if we don’t have the staff to handle incoming calls efficiently, then we will raise the blood pressure of folks outside and in. If I were king, I’d have a human being answer the phone when any outside call comes into the main college number. Perhaps those days went out with the dodo bird, but a few companies and other institutions manage it, and I always find it remarkably refreshing.

    (4) As for desiderata, my principal request is that if there is no printed directory, that there be compactly formatted pdf files for the various sections (front pages, students, faculty/staff) so we can print our own copies. The format could be a lot more compact than the present printed directory; e.g., for students, their name, extension, box no., home address, email address (withOUT the “middlebury.edu”) and commons could be given in two lines.

    (5) I’d be happy to pay a reasonable ($5 – $10 per copy) cost to have a few copies of the printed directory for my personal use. I wonder how many others feel the same.

  32. Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the directory. I use the printed directory all the time, and will miss it very much. The applied music faculty often teach in a different studio each day at the CFA; there are no computers available in these studios, yet we must often be in touch with students.

    I find the hometown listing very helpful, as I include this information when typing up recital programs. I also find the “spouse/partner” name listed in the faculty/staff section of the directory very useful, as well as the listing of heads of student organizations in the front.

    Like some others who have commented, I also keep past copies of the printed directory for archival purposes, and have consulted them on occasion.

  33. I use the online directory almost exclusively. I find it much faster and easier to use than the print version (which I often find frustrating because as a relative newcomer, I don’t yet have a comprehensive campus “map” in my head of who does what & sits where). Even when a search pulls up a huge screenful of information, I can locate what I need using my browser’s Search function. The main shortcoming I encounter is one that others have mentioned: job titles are not that useful in determining what someone actually *does,* so for example if someone tells me to contact “the head of student financial assistance,” a function not reflected verbatim in a title, I have to guess. But the printed version doesn’t give me that information, either. For general numbers, I just search the overall Middlebury site; the first or second hit usually has the phone number in it someplace. As for the off-campus, no-electricity scenarios, is there a way to download directory information directly onto an iPod? That’s one device I don’t mind carrying!

  34. I use the online directory almost exclusively. The feature I have most wanted is a “new search” link at the bottom of the result listing so I could easily try again.

    I notice that the the search results have already been modified so that results are now visible in the window. Way to go, web team!

  35. This may be echoing the comments of others, but a major limitation of the online directory is that it does not currently allow one to look up the telephone number for a specific office (e.g., Office of Off Campus Study). If you don’t know the name of an appropriate person who works in that office, your efforts to get a phone number are stymied. I would hope this would be resolved if we eliminate the printed directory.

  36. Is there any synchronization between the Outlook “company directory” and our in-house staff directory? I suspect over time more of us will be using cellphones for more of these kinds of things. When I’m not at my desk computer, I often use my cell phone if I need a phone number or e-mail address because it is synchronized to the campus Outlook server and has that information.

    A print directory can help you find information when you’re not sure exactly what to look up. I.e. scanning student names that begin with M until your memory is jogged.

    I hope a new online directory can incorporate the range of search needs indicated in so many people’s comments, yet without becoming unwieldy or difficult to use. The key is that you can get to it as quickly as you can reach next to your desk to grab the print version.

  37. @Peter: Without promising anything, one of the features we’re looking at in the website redesign is better accessibility on mobile platforms (your cellphone or smartphone) so that you can more easily look up people but also other important info when you’re away from your computer.

  38. @Peter: To answer directly, the online directory and Outlook use the same database for information, so there is complete synchronization between them. You may see more information in the Outlook interface because there’s no setting for hiding your information from Outlook as there is for the online directory. Outlook, naturally, requires you to authenticate to see that information, whereas this is optional for the online directory.

  39. My wish list for the online directory
    Search by first name
    Up to date contact info
    List primary dept. contact info for each dept (name of coordinator, dept head, phone, fax, email, etc) at top when searching by department
    Print Option – ability to customize and print a page of frequently used and emergency contact info
    Redirects and “did you mean…?” function
    Photos viewable campus community
    Easy access on mobile
    Directory access for staff without computers
    A-Z index – person and dept
    Option to limit/expand search – people info displays across page – less scrolling when browsing for info

  40. Things I’ll miss about a printed directory:
    *front section that helps narrow down a search when I don’t know exactly who to call
    *having a copy in my car
    *finding people’s home info
    *power/network outage concerns

    Things I’d like to see in a new online directory
    *a “who-to-call-when-you-don’t-know-who-to-call” function
    *related people function
    *higher number of listings with photos

  41. More thoughts on the connection between Outlook and the directory.

    I am now more and more using Outlook contacts. There is a very handy “Company Directory” feature that is accessible both on my office computer (or at home) and on my cell phone. I notice that some information from the college directory (i.e. home phone numbers and home addresses) is not included in the Outlook Company directory.

    I think it would be great if the Outlook “Company Directory” could also include info from the college’s directory.

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