Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Building Cohesive Web-based Library Services

Karen A. Coombs & Amanda Hollister spoke on how to integrate look, feel, and functionality across all your Web-based systems and your Web site.

Disparate systems (ILLiad, Docutek, SFX, OPAC, etc.)
Differnet vendors
Distributed servers, hosted at differnet places by different vendors
Diverse content
Differnet ways for users to authenticate

Wanted a seamless solution so that they weren't bouncing their patrons off to other worlds with every click.

Potential tech solutions
Federated Search
OLDB/ODBC connections: A lot of databases can be web-enabled. Pull the data into the world you want
APIs (Application Programming Interface--particularly XML Servers)

Creating an aesthetically consistent look
Consistent navigation elements (color scheme, fonts, logo, header when they can get away with it)
Server Side Includes
Include both print and Web documents (Woo hoo!)

Integrating content from disparate systems
Periodical Holdings
Export local holdings to include in list
Connect to OPAC API to link to the holdings page
(This is how the ILS target in their OpenURL resolver should work)
Creating a unived "my account" page
Goal: Items checked out from the ILS and ILL items from ILLiad together on one page
Incoporating the OPAC
Added a catalog search box to the library home page that directly searches the catalog
Added search boxes customized to specific collections on
Pull in direct information from the OPAC, like the new books page with links back into the catalog--but right now, it's a static thing they have to manually do rather than a dynamic option, which is the goal.

Lessons learned
Before you buy new systems, look to see if it's closed or the level at which it's closed (API, etc...) Will the vendor let you have access to database behind the scenes? Is there an API you can use to access data? Can you get an export of your data at any time?

Think ahead about how you are going to connect data from one system to another (Try to use the same user id throughout)

This is a really long process: they liked the idea of a federated search, but they didn't have the money

Erica's overview: Karen and Amanda are doing a lot of good things to pull these disperate systems together to improve patrons' ease of use and build a more cohesive library experience. But why do vendors have to make this all so, so hard for librarians? We need to get together to build standards for vendors, using style sheets, and making it easier to either completely customize the look and feel of their products that we purchase or to simply pull their content into our sites and streamline the log-in/autheniticate processes.


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