New PUL Finding Aids website offers enhanced user experience

Princeton University Library (PUL) debuted its new Finding Aids website on March 15, signaling the completion of a multi-year project that will improve access to the Library’s archival collections for the University community and beyond.

Students studying in Special Collections

Photo by Shelley Szwast, Princeton University Library (2017)

 PUL staff implemented numerous enhancements to the user interface so that time spent on the site leads to better search results and easier access to the Library’s one-of-a-kind materials.

“One major improvement is better discoverability and access to content, including digitized content and born-digital records,” said Lead Processing Archivist for Manuscripts Division Collections Faith Charlton. Additionally, keyword searches are bolstered by an autofill function that facilitates users more quickly finding the results they want. 

Special Collections Assistant Christa Cleeton added that the site has a renewed focus on being mobile friendly. “This is key, seeing how many users utilize mobile and or tablet devices,” Cleeton explained. “Additionally, requesting materials for use in the reading room has been changed to a shopping cart style. This makes it clearer for the researcher to see what they have added to the cart before submitting their requests.”

From an accessibility standpoint, the new Finding Aids site was developed with Princeton University Digital Accessibility and World Wide Web Consortium guidelines in mind. “Some of the major areas of focus for accessibility improvements have included ensuring that navigation elements and web forms are better operable with keyboards and assistive devices,” said Software Development Manager Kate Lynch.

The website’s designers were also quick to note that this resource will benefit Princeton, as well as the larger research community. Special Collections materials are available to the public, and outside researchers will be able to take advantage of the same features as Princeton-affiliated users.

That includes providing feedback and corrections, allowing all users to notify Library staff of errors in the description of materials or to ask questions. In support of PUL's DEI initiatives and Statement on Archival Language, users are encouraged to use the form to provide feedback regarding description language that may be offensive or harmful.

Accessing the new site is as simple as visiting

This project was a collaboration between Special Collections and Library IT.  In addition to the efforts of Charlton, Cleeton, and Public Services Archivist Amanda Ferrara, the new Finding Aids site was a collaborative effort that involved the Special Collections’ Archival Description and Processing Team (ADAPT) and its Public Services Team. On the IT side, Lynch and the Digital Repository Discovery Services (DRDS) team worked together with Enterprise and User Services (EUS) and Operations.  Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections Technical Services Alexis Antracoli and Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections Public Services Sara Logue oversaw the project.

Special thanks to Trey Pendragon, James Griffin, Eliot Jordan, Christina Chortaria, Anna Headley, Bess Sadler, Regine Heberlein, Shaun Ellis, Francis Kayiwa, Esmé Cowles, and Kevin Reiss.

Published on March 16, 2021; updated January 19, 2022

Written by: Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications