Archive for the ‘search’ category

SirsiDynix SuperConference – Day 3

February 22, 2007

The iBistro/iLink Sharing Session was spirited. The enhancement requests and status were discussed. Several long-standing enhancements had been accepted and were scheduled for implementation. Many huzzahs from the audience. The spirited discussion came during the Q & A session and dealt with the EPS web client and its appropriateness to academic libraries. Academics seem to prefer, as a rule, solid, fast, accurate searching without a lot of portal associated features.

Another session gave an overview of RSS feeds and used as an example generating a new book feed from Unicorn. Pretty nifty. This is going to be a project I’m going to work on when I get back to work. However, J_ went to a session on project management and I think RSS feeds will be a lower priority. Still, an RSS feed looks to be fairly straight foreward and as the presenter pointed out, why not look for ways to provide information to your users.

The last session of the conference (for me) was a SirsiDynix staff presentation on future trends in searching. SirsiDynix has partnered with FAST to use their search engine as an add-on enhancement for the OPACs (WebCat, iBlink, EPS, Web2) to deliver faceted search results with real relevance ranking. This isn’t an OPAC upgrade or replacement. Rather, it is an additional search point for the library’s collection. It is scheduled for release in mid-2007 so it is still in development however what we saw is pretty impressive. It does require that the library’s holdings be exported to the FAST search engine but that is in line with similar products that have been discussed in the library world. I was pleased to see SirsiDynix putting something like this together fairly quickly. Pricing and exactly how it will work are still to be announced but it is scheduled for release in mid-2007.

Some Observations from SC2007

  • One feeling I always take away with me from a SuperConference is that there are a lot of very smart people who are extraordinarily generous with their time and expertise.
  • Major props to all the SirsiDynix staff. I’ve known many of them for 12 years and consider them friends.
  • The Broadmoor is beautiful, well appointed, and has the most friendly staff I’ve ever encountered. Too bad the only place I could afford to eat were the bars. I’m really tired of bar food.
  • SirsiDynix staff didn’t have much to say about the abrupt departure of Pat Sommers except that it caught everyone by surprise and there wan’t hostility between Pat and Vista. The speculatios have been interesting and imaginative.
  • SirsiDynix staff seem to be upbeat about the Vista purchase of SirsiDynix. Apparently Vista is an old money San Francisco company that invests in niche technology companies. I gather that Vista people were in the executive track at SC2007.

SirsiDynix SuperConference – Day 2

February 21, 2007

I went to a very interesting presentation called Look What I Can Do! Social Networking and Keyword-in-Heading Searching in the OPAC.  In this presentation the OPAC is Web2 and not iLink/iBistro which is what we run.  The first half dealt with browse headings.  The problem with browse is that the patron has to know how the heading begins.  The first presenter described how he extracts the browse headings to a MySQL database and indexes them.  The patron can then search for keywords within the headings.  If all the patron knows is the first name of the author he could retrieve all the author headings with that name.  Of if he wanted to find things on the Civil War, he could use those words in a search to find all the subject headings that included Civil War.  Clicking on a heading takes the user to the OPAC.

The second presenter described how she rebuilt the MyAccount feature to include tagging, book-lists, and reviews.  As with the keyword-in-heading application, Unicorn data is extracted to MySQL  There are private and public tags and book-lists can be shared for collaborative projects.

As with the presentations I attended yesterday, customers are figuring out how to add value to data outside  boundaries of Unicorn and the OPAC.  I look at these two apps as proof-of-concept and feel inspired to pick up the skills to perform this sort of data manipulation/data massaging and look for opportunities for mashups in the library.

Later in the afternoon was the API Sharing Session which I moderated.  This
session was mostly administrative and

  • we welcomed the new APIers
    • gave them some tips about the forums and listservs
  • discussed the API enhancements and the enhancement process
  • discussed the desirability of an API wiki
  • discussed the API training opportunities

Following the Sharing Session we held the API After Hours session for the die-hard crowd that didn’t want to go to Colorado Springs.  We had two presentations:

  • some very interesting report customizations done by Infohio
  • a more technical discussion of the social networking app from the morning session.

Following the presentations two of our experienced members gave the audience the opportunity to try to stump them.

I might go back and fill in some details of today’s events but right now I’m about to fall asleep.

BiblioPage – New Search Service Afilliated with Amazon

July 10, 2006

In the book section of LIS News, Blake reported on, an interesting new search service afilliated with Amazon. UPDATE: A reader, Tim, points out that there is a similar service, also gives price comparisons between various such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Abebooks, etc. Take a look at both. Thanks Tim.

Here is how they describe themselves: is a book finding service. Currently we have a database of approximately 500,000 unique titles. We are an affiliate site of and provide links for our users to purchase titles. The information provided on this site is meant to help anyone who is interested in finding a good book to read.

Behind the scenes they access open Z39.50 servers around the world and parse the MARC records to build a database of unique titles. I find it most interesting to see web services drawing upon traditional library collections to enhance their services. When you add an item to your personal library on, it searches a variety of libraries for the bibliographic information. With BiblioPage, the Amazon shopping experience is enhanced by drawing upon the skills libraries have in organization bibliographic data. I hope we begin to see more of these connections.

Give it a try and be sure to drill down to a specific title. there you will find a brief description of the item, related subject headings, and a “Browse the Shelf” feature arranged by LC classification. You could easily think you were in an OPAC. Take a look at this screen print.
BiblioPage Item Display

Demographics Prediction

June 28, 2006

According to Microsoft’s new adCenter Labs Demographics Prediction tool, this blog is male-oriented with a predicted audience in the 18-24 year old range.

When we started this blog we were not targeting this demographic at all. I would predict that the majority of our audience is quite a bit older than this.

I also ran Swem’s website through the demographic prediction tool:

To me this is about right (at least the ordering), though I would probably swap the under 18 and 25-34 brackets (I suspect we have more graduate students in this bracket than we do high schoolers using our site).

Evidence-based practice

June 27, 2006

Want to know more about evidence-based practice? The Wikipedia definition:“An approach to a profession informed by the review of evidence gathered in systematic ways. Evidence-based practice (EBP) uses research results, reasoning, and best practices to inform the improvement of whatever professional task is at hand. Evidence-based practice is a philosophical approach that is in opposition to rules of thumb, folklore, and tradition. Examples of a reliance on “the way it was always done” can be found in almost every profession, even when those practices are contradicted by new and better information. Evidence-based design and development decisions are made after reviewing information from repeated rigorous data gathering instead of relying on rules, single observations, or custom. Evidence-based medicine and evidence-based nursing practice are the two largest fields employing this approach.”

Given the intractability that change brings out in some librarians, gathering this kind of information seems like a good thing. It’s ammunition against the conventional wisdom.
For many of us there is little time or opportunity for extensive usability testing. The good news is that there is a new online journal, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, which presents articles using the evidence-based practice to information gathering. Here’s their focus and scope statement, “The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for librarians and other information professionals to discover research that may contribute to decision making in professional practice. EBLIP publishes original research and commentary on the topic of evidence based library and information practice, as well as reviews of previously published research (evidence summaries) on a wide number of topics.”

Even if you are preparing your own usability work the journal provides a good place to start. To quote from Steven D. Levitt’s Freakonomics blog, “The effective use of statistics is one issue for which I am always happy to be an advocate.”

Qube2 Desktop Client

June 23, 2006

While most browsers integrate search engines into the browser in some way, I ran across Qube and thought I'd give it a try. So first, what is Qube? Their site calls it "a third generation desktop client providing instant, browserless access to information from the collective index of traditional search engines." To me, that business speak for a browserless search client (I think this is a bit misleading, but more on that later) that allows you to perform one-click searches and has a built-in "previewer" (so you can view the web page…sounds kind of like a web browser to me ;))

I decided to put the search engine through it's paces. The first thing I noticed was the fact that there's auto-completion…nothing new or exciting there (see Google Suggest). The speed was pretty fast, but I don't think it's necessarily any faster than any web engine out there. With that said, let's get down the nitty-gritty.

I did a few searches…first "american colonial architecture." I got a decent number of results back, the first being a page from the Yale-New Haven Teacher's Institute. I'm really more interested in Virginia colonial architecture, so I did that search. Looking over the first screen of results, I notice (incorrectly I might add) that there are only five results. The preview pane has taken over the bottom of the screen. The results are reasonable, with the first result "Virginia Colonial Vernacular Architecture in Historic Chatham."

I took a look at some of the other features. One of the cooler "gee-whiz" things was the search history. It shows you the search you performed (with permutations of the search) with the pages you visited from the search. I could see this being useful , but it sure would be nice to be able to search that history also. I next checked out the RSS Reader. Again, there's nothing really new here as it only allows you to add/remove feeds. The fact that you can't search the feeds you aggregate in an application that is a search engine is, well, lame.

While I think this is a neat little program with a couple of cool tools, I don't see this as a replacement for my tried-and-true Firefox/Thunderbird/Google combination that allows me to do everything the Qube does, but also search my RSS feeds for that one entry someone wrote a few months ago about that thing I need to do now. Anyway, this will probably get uninstalled here pretty quick.

Using IM to Search

June 22, 2006

I ran across this cool use of IM on the Librarian in Black blog, IM your library catalog…sort of. If you add byomsWikipedia to your AIM buddy list, you can send a query to WikiPedia. You get back a short answer with a link to the complete WikiPedia article. Nifty. This is something cooked up by Korozu and made available at From the web site: "byoms are personalized instant messaging search you create from information sources you trust and rely on."

TechCrunch has a nice description – Korozu searches your favorite sites by IM – about byoms with additional examples such as the International Movie Database. See also SearchEngineWatch which has a long article, Kozoru Opens Public Beta Testing of Byoms.

The Librarian in Black tried to create one for her library catalog though it doesn't work well she says. Still, it is an interesting idea that will appeal to our mobile population. I'm going to create an account and give it a try.