March 13, 2007

Code4Lib thoughts (secondhand)

One of my favorite programmers (ProgrammerGuy) went to the Code4Lib conference & gave us an update on some of the interesting things he saw / heard / thought about while there.

Here are three of the things that most interested me from his talk.

1. LibraryFind Open source front end to all the various data "silos" which exist in library. Searches the library catalog, some (all?) library databases using Z39.50, and their image collection housed in ContentDM.

I searched for "cats" and found "items" in Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, the Oregonian (newspaper), and the Oregon State University Catalog. I could click on the "images" tab to see photos from their archive (tho oddly, there were NO RESULTS FOUND for my "cats" search). It may not be ready for prime time, but conceptually, it's very interesting.

2. Villanova's Search MyResearch Portal provides opportunities to search multiple data types from one screen -- a tab to search their catalog, another tab to search their MetaLib (federated search), and a third tab to search their Digital Library.

What's cool about this is the lightning-quick speed at which it searches the catalog. ProgrammerGuy said, I think ..., that they are using cached data to search the opac and/or some nifty new search algorithm-thingie called Solr to search text. I wasn't clear on the technology -- but I am SOLD on the speed at which it searched the opac (for a popular term like cats) and faceted results. The display is pretty nifty, too. Again, not ready for prime time, but the implications are fascinating.

3. ILS Vendor Talis. This is a bit harder to describe, but basically Talis is transforming how libraries share information within a union catalog. ProgrammerGuy said that "libraries share item level data." On the Talis Panlibus blog is a link to the presentation by Richard Wallis: "My presentation "'Library APIs Abound!' can be found here [wmv]. With a copy of the slides, in which the live demo has been replaced by screen captures is also available [pps]."

The gist of it is that Talis is using RSS to iteratively search your union catalog and pull out relevant metadata and plop it into YOUR catalog record. Look at the Harry Potter book jacket example in the pps -- a cataloger person searches the catalog, and the behind-the-scenes technology uses RSS to search & retrieve the book jacket, and then the image gets plopped into your catalog.

The neat thing is that you can use the RSS data for all kinds of things, not just to populate your catalog. Towards the end of the pps are examples of how you can plop their RSS for your Harry Potter holdings into any WordPress template you like.

NB: Since I'm not a programmer, or even really a techie, I may have mangled some of the tech aspects, but the front-end, user implications remain valid.

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