I did a thing yesterday

I spoke at the VIVA User Group meeting on some of the workflow and tools I use to gather information about our faculty’s scholarly output for an annual reception co-hosted by the Libraries and the Provost’s office. If you were there and want the slides/details of what I said, they’re now up on Slideshare with speaker’s notes. If you weren’t there and are curious, I hope you find it interesting/useful.

checking access to your library eresources

DSC01328
photo by daniel

If you don’t already read (or browse the table of contents) The Code4Lib Journal, I suggest you start now. Occasionally, there is content that is very relevant to eresources/serials/acquisitions.

The most recent issue contains an article written by¬†Kristina M. Spurgin, the E-Resources Cataloger at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She created a Ruby script to check all the links and look for key words in the HTML or text that indicated if there was a problem with access. Of course, each platform has different ways of indicating whether or not a user from a particular IP range has access to an article/chapter, so each one has it’s own configuration, built into the script. She plans to eventually move them into their own files that can be selectively used by others as appropriate to their collections.

This is still a work in progress, and she notes that it’s not a perfect solution for several reasons, including random errors caused by one of the scripting libraries. That being said, I’m excited to see a potential open source solution to a problem we all have. Automated access checking requires the program to be a smart as an experienced eresource librarian, so it makes sense that a smart, experienced eresource librarian would be writing it.

print holdings & javascript

Topeka Public Library Periodicals area, ca. 1953

What does print holdings mean to you? If you said “the books/journals in paper on a shelf in the library,” then you’re probably a librarian. Our students don’t know what it means — most of them think it has something to do with printing something from a computer. And yet, that’s what we have had our print holdings labeled as in our “journal locator” (aka A-Z list and link resolver) for years. Until two weeks ago, when I changed it.

It never occurred to me that “print holdings” would be confusing to someone, since it’s pretty clear to me what it means. But I don’t think like an undergraduate student anymore, much less an undergraduate student in 2011. It wasn’t until I had spent so much time looking at our print journal holdings that it dawned on me that this language may not be very clear to our modern students.

My main project this summer involved taking information from an inventory of our print journal collection and adding the coverage dates to the entries in our A-Z/linking list. In addition, I added notes about the location (we have journals in four main locations, with a few in the book stacks and the archives) and any anomalies. Now when someone looks up a title, it will say “University of Richmond Libraries” followed by the location (i.e. “Boatwright Periodicals – Second Floor”).

I’d love to change the name “periodicals” to something else, but I’m not sure what. Also, it’s the location name in our catalog, and I’m trying to be consistent. At least it’s not “print holdings” anymore.

The next phase in my efforts to make our A-Z/linking list more useful to the novice was to add icons for peer-reviewed titles (example). I’m using the code that Karen Coombs developed a couple of years ago. Took me until now to realize that it’s not that complicated to implement, particularly once I realized that we’re using JQuery on our website already, so getting it set up and maintained is not my responsibility.

Next, I’m hoping to add links to RSS feeds where available, but I can only find references to the code for that. I’ll keep digging, but it’s dropping lower on the priority list.

nifty enhancement for the A-Z journal tool

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but my library uses SerialsSolutions for our A-Z journal list, OpenURL linking, and ERMS. I’ve been putting a great deal of effort into the ERMS over the past few years, getting license, cost, and use data in so that we can use this tool for both discovery and assessment. Aside from making the page look pretty much like our library website, we haven’t done much to enhance the display.

Recently (as in, yesterday) my colleague Dani Roach over at the University of St. Thomas shared with me an enhancement they implemented using the “public notes” for a journal title. They have icons that indicate whether there is an RSS feed for the contents and whether the journal is peer reviewed (according to Ulrichs). The icon for the RSS feed is also a link to the feed itself. This is what you¬† see when you search for the Journal of Biological Chemistry, for example.

Much like the work I’m doing to pull together helpful information on the back-end about the resources from a variety of sources, this pulls in information that would be tremendously useful for students and faculty researchers, I think.

However, I have a feeling this would take quite a bit of time to gather up the information and add it to the records. Normally I would leap in with both feet and just do it, but in the effort to be more responsible, I’m going to talk with the reference librarians first. But, I wanted to share this with you all because I think it’s a wonderful libhack that anyone should consider doing, regardless of which ERMS they have.

it could be worse

Have you noticed the changes Google has been making to the way they display search results? Google Instant has been the latest, but before that, there was the introduction of the “Everything” sidebar. And that one in particular seems to have upset numerous Google search fans. If you do a search in Google for “everything sidebar,” the first few results are about removing or hiding it.

Not only that, but the latest offering from the Funny Music Project is a song all about hating the Google “Everything” sidebar. The creator, Jesse Smith, expresses a frustration that many of us can identify with, “It’s hard to find a product that does what it does really well. In a world of mediocrity, it’s the exception that excels. Then some jerk has to justify his job by tinkering and jiggering and messing up the whole thing.”

Tech folks like to tinker. We like making things work better, or faster, or be more intuitive. I’ll bet that there are a lot of Google users who didn’t know about the different kinds of content-specific searches that Google offered, or had never used the advanced search tools. And they’re probably happy with the introduction of the “Everything” sidebar.

But there’s another group of folks who are evidently very unhappy with it. Some say it takes up too much room on the screen, that it adds complexity, and that they just don’t like the way it looks.

Cue ironic chuckling from me.

Let’s compare the Google search results screen with search results from a few of the major players in libraryland:

Google

ProQuest EBSCOhost

CSA Illumina ISI Web of Knowledge

So, who’s going to write a song about how much they hate <insert library database platform of choice>?