American West (AmWest) is a three-year William and Flora Hewlett Foundation grant to assemble a virtual collection drawing from the resources of major research institutions. Learn more at http://www.cdlib.org/inside/projects/amwest/. Note: under “Project Findings,” there are many interesting reports regarding assessment and metadata activities.

Prototype
A prototype site was created as a proof of concept of the harvesting, metadata enrichment and classification work that brought together collections from partner institutions. In addition, the project provided the opportunity for the participants to learn more about user needs related to hierarchical, faceted browse. In summer 2006, the decision was made to not go live with AmWest; therefore, it will remain a prototype.

Assessment
As planned, Year 3 of the AmWest grant is focused on Assessment. Two assessment activities were conducted using the prototype site, focusing on the user experience: 1) comparative analysis of the site and published best practices, and 2) heuristic evaluation. The findings define the user interface enhancement that would need to be made if this prototype were to go live. These findings will help others in the digital library community creating faceted browse interfaces for rich information sources such as AmWest.  The findings will be included in the AmWest final report (due fall 2007).

In addition, assessment activities focused on the Calisphere Themed Collections are now underway. The Themed Collections are a special K-12 component of the Calisphere site and were the direct result of the focus groups and interviews conducted during Year 1 of AmWest and subsequent work with the UC Berkeley Interactive University in Year 2. It will be very helpful to go back and gather end user feedback now that Calisphere is live.