New State Papers Online Experience Available to Preview

|By Megan Sullivan, Senior Product Manager, Gale Primary Sources|

I am delighted to share that after several years of research and technical preparation, an updated experience for State Papers Online (SPO) will be ready to preview on Monday, August 1, 2022. This will be a “soft launch”, meaning that on this date, users can access the beta version of the new State Papers Online from a link that will be available from the current SPO homepage. We encourage users to try the new experience and send us their feedback. We are also recruiting for paid user interviews and usability testing. We plan to retire the current version of State Papers Online in December 2022 and from that date forward, SPO will be exclusively available in the updated experience.

This beta version was informed by extensive user research, and the goal of this next research phase is to ensure that users have ample time to get acclimated with the new experience and share their feedback – we want the final product to not only meet expectations but exceed them! So far, we’ve made several impactful changes and enhancements that will be available to test in the beta version upon launch in August, or shortly after. This includes:

Fully digitised, text searchable calendars — We have digitised all available calendars, and the facsimiles will be fully searchable and browsable in the new experience as hi-res images. You will continue to be able to search the re-keyed calendar text, in addition to the OCR of the new calendar facsimiles.

State Papers Online screenshot of a newly digitised calendar facsimile
This is an image of one of the newly digitised calendar facsimiles, with OCR technology highlighting (in green) results for the search term “catholic church.” It shows the calendar page image (centre), alongside a list of corresponding manuscript item links in the right-hand panel.

Improved navigability of manuscripts and calendars — Users can view the manuscript item and calendar entry side-by-side, jump seamlessly between the manuscript item and the corresponding calendar facsimile, and vice versa; users can also view a full list of items in a manuscript volume from the document view; toggle between item and volume view; and more.

Enhanced browsing experience — Users will be able to browse available manuscripts and calendars by source library collection in an engaging new interface and read a detailed overview and quick facts about each collection.

(Please note: “Browse” will not be ready for the initial August launch, but will be available shortly, later in September.)

Mock up of  State Papers Online enhanced browse landing page
This is a mocked-up image of what the enhanced Browse landing page will look like.
Please note: This is only a prototype. The version users will see in the online archive may be displayed differently.
Mock up of  State Papers Online enhanced browse landing page at collection level
This is a mocked-up image of the enhanced Browse feature, at the collection level – this is a prototype of what the user will see when they select the State Papers Online thumbnail from the landing page image seen in the prior screenshot above.
Please note: This is only a prototype. The version users will see in the online archive may be displayed differently.

Smarter search results — Users will get more filtering options in search results; subject expansion, which will look for pseudonyms and synonyms of their keyword; and access to our Topic Finder and Term Frequency textual analysis tools, which analyse the calendar text.

A streamlined user interface — Consistent with other Gale products, this new experience will deliver an engaging experience that allows quick access to search tools; relevant content; and collaborative features like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Improved accessibility — The new experience will meet web accessibility standards to ensure access by users of all abilities.

Instructional support — A Learning Center will be available in December, which will feature reference content, sample topics, essays by experts, search tips, and more. (Please note: The Learning Center will not be ready at the initial August launch.)

I look forward to sharing the beta experience with you on Monday, August 1! If you are interested in participating in a paid user interview about your experience with the beta version, please contact me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!

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About the Author

Megan Sullivan is a product manager and works on the Gale Primary Sources line of products. She holds a Master of Science in Information with a concentration in Archives and Records Management and has worked and volunteered at several academic libraries. Before moving to her role in product management, Megan was a cataloger in Gale’s Metadata Standards and Services department. In her spare time, she likes to read historical fiction, travel to new places, and spend time with family and friends.