Archive for July, 2007

vuFind for UVM?

July 26, 2007

Last Thursday, Andrew Nagy introduced vuFind on the code4lib listserv. The more I look at vuFind the more I find to like; the display is attractive, easy to use, and fairly intuitive. There are great extras such as a “book bag” like feature; also, on item records you are given the option to cite the resource (and provided with the citation in two formats, MLA and APA), you can link to related items in a an easy and intuitive manner, and I find the tabbed layout for displaying item description, holdings, comments, review, and staff view, really attractive. Although still in beta, vuFind provides much of what I discussed in my talk on innovative interfaces (and since the announcement came out on Thursday I was able to talk briefly about it during my presentation). The really exciting part, to me, is that this is a tool I could see my library adopting. I think so many of the technical barriers are down that the logistics of getting it working with our existing system could be fairly simple. (I haven’t tried installing it myself, but I was impressed by Antonio’s experience. ) So all that really remains is swaying library opinion. ;-)

I’ve already started talking about vuFind here, and I will be revisiting my innovative interfaces presentation at a UVM library form, where I will get a chance to talk about it some more. What is interesting to me is some of the responses I have already gotten, particularly the interest in having vuFind as an additional (not replacement) option. I understand people, particularly those who have to deal with irate patrons who want to know why an interface has changed, would hesitate to adopt something new. But having an additional interface option for patrons already confused by the current set of options doesn’t really make any sense. Also, I firmly believe that if you pay enough attention to the design and functionality of your new interface, these complaints will be at a minimum. The whole point of the new interface is to provide users with something that is intuitive to use. We won’t have to “train” them on a new system, the interface will do most of that work for us. I think vuFind does this admirably well, Roy Tennant is right vuFind “rocks the house.”

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Innovative Interfaces: making the most of the data we have

July 23, 2007

On Friday I presented at VLA‘s (Vermont Library Association) College and Special Libraries meeting. I had contacted Meredith before putting together the final version of my presentation, and I think we managed to complement each other rather than repeat each other. I ended up speaking quite a bit about library OPACs and the need for change in both the interface and the back-end technology. I did not talk much about what I see as a need for a change in cataloging practices, because I feel like I’m on shaky ground with that topic, although I did talk about LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) and how they could be made more useful by being able to use them as both pre and post-coordinated topics, which could allow users to “walk” back up the path of a pre-coordinated heading to steadily broaden their results. I also discussed at the end of the presentation, how libraries need to embrace a culture of change in order to stay relevant in today’s information society.

All-in-all I think the presentation was well received, and sparked some interesting discussions. I’ve posted my slides here. If you want to learn more, here are a few places you could get started:

Trouble with deletes

July 13, 2007

I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to our metadata editing interface lately, it has been kind of a relief to let it go, and work on some of the other issues on my list, like getting my development server put together, learning how to use mod_rewrite, trying to get a handle on a more sophisticated use of Subversion, ect. But it was brought to my attention by a fellow XForms user that the delete within a repeat was no longer working, at least for either us. Looks like this may be the bug:  https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=387738

There is already a fix, although I haven’t installed it. It will be included in version 0.8.0.3 which may come out as early as next week, 0.8.0.3 will also include the 1.1 current() function.

Guess I have to stop ignoring the forms and push my Orbeon implemntation forward a little faster.

Useful little xsl tidbit

July 10, 2007

While avoiding my presentation, I discovered this useful xsl trick for copying an entire xml document and its attributes and changing only selected elements.

<xsl:template match="@*|node()">
   <xsl:copy>
      <xsl:apply-templates select="@*|node()"/>
   </xsl:copy>
</xsl:template>

We are working on migrating our finding aids out of Dyna Web and into eXist, this is including a transformation from SGML to XML and quite a bit of clean up. Chris (the Curator of Manuscripts) has been doing most of the work, but every once in a while we need to tweak the stylesheet, or create a new one, to deal with some special UVM eccentricity. In this case we had a c02 that contained a scopecontent element with a series of nested lists that we wanted to turn into <c03 level=”item”> elements.
The above code copies all the attributes and elements as is unless I have a special template for that element, then it follows the template’s rules. So then I added a convoluted template that creates the new c03 elements from the list items. The transformation is fairly quick even on large EAD files.

Presentation woes

July 9, 2007

I have a presentation to put together for July 20th. Originally I was asked to present something about the changing face of the catalog (kind of like this post, where I pointed to some efforts to un-suck the OPAC by creating new interfaces, mash-ups and more). I demurred, because I don’t actually know a whole lot about the OPAC, my everyday activities rarely necessitate any interactions with the OPAC, and I think I have more of an end users view of the library website than a librarian’s.  I purposed the following presentation as an alternative, “Innovative Interfaces: making the most of the data we have.”

The presentation should be about 30 to 45 minutes long (gulp), and I will be following ALA mover and shaker Meredith Farkas, who is presenting “Social Software in Libraries.” I was just going to whip through a bunch of examples on libraries that are making the most of their data, such as NCSU, Penn Tags, Ann Arbor Public Library, Villanova’s myResearch Portal, BibbApps, LibraryThing, maybe Evergreen, etc. However, I went though some of Meredith’s slides from former presentations on social software in and I hate to say it but it looks like she covers quite a bit of what I was going to talk about, and much more.

I was actually asked to speak because the other presenter, who was going to talk about LibraryThing, was unable to make it and I work with the woman who is organizing the event. I wonder if I can manipulate my presentation to be about XForms instead? Or Solr, or anything else I actually deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, I was told I should probably keep my presentation non-technical, so I have my doubts that any of those topics would be a good match.

I suppose I could talk about the importance of interface design and information architecture. Although information architecture sounds almost anti library 2.0, I think a well designed interface, both graphic design and information architecture, is key to a successful interface. Here is an example I worked on recently:

This is the same information, but with a new layout that separates the information into task based groups and uses basic graphic design elements such as color, icons and lots of white space to make important information stand out. This information is very non library 2.0, but the same principles apply to most interfaces design issues, even for interfaces that can be manipulated by the users. This doesn’t exactly qualify as an “innovative interface” though.

So, I’m stuck for a topic. In the meantime, my to-do list is steadily growing.

Project management with Basecamp

July 5, 2007

We have started using Basecamp for project management. Currently there are only two of us using it and we are mostly using it for the to-do lists. So far I like it. It is a helpful way to keep an eye on the CDI as a whole project, sometimes I get caught up in the backend stuff and don’t give the metadata, or collection development the attention it needs. Basecamp also allows us to assign tasks to each other. If for example, Chris runs across a broken feature, or I find some bad metadata, we can just create a new task and assign it to the appropriate person, Basecamp will then send them an e-mail notification that the task has been added to their to-do list.

Project management has been a bit of an issue for us lately. There has been a lack of clarity in who is doing what and how it is being overseen.  I can see how Basecamp can help with some of these issues, particularly in the “who is doing what” arena.  It may also become very useful as we get more people working on the project. For example, it might be helpful in assigning metadata on a collection basis to our cataloger(s)  and also as a way of tracking collections as they move from collection development, though selection and scanning to the metadata entry phase. We could use it to keep track of what projects we have scheduled and who is working on each phase of the project.

If nothing else the to-do lists have been motivational. There is something about seeing all those items with little check boxes next to them that makes me want to get things done.