Working with the users’ tools


Like Mr Stephen Fry, many users have several “home pages” that they go to every time they open their browsers. Chances are that for most of our users, our library web site is not among them.

As a very nice student politely told me, when most of them access our library site, they do not come through our home page and then take the carefully crafted and orderly route we’ve crafted for them – they bookmark the “databases” and the “catalogue search” page and only ever use these.

Many people use a web browser and some kind of portal/personal home page ( iGoogle, Facebook, Netvibes) as a starting point these days. What if libraries worked with our users to give them the tools to use our library resources without leaving these familiar home pages? Well, the tools below do just that…and many of them allow your library to join in so your own users can play too…

1) LibX – A Firefox extension for libraries

Created by Virginia Tech, LibX allows you to search the holdings of your library and much, much more, straight from your browser. I was going to summarise its features, but it’s packed full of such goodness that I’ve used the description from their site:

  • Toolbar & right-click context menu: Direct access to the catalog via a toolbar and context (right-click) menu – automatic construction of simple or advanced searches. Search by entering terms, select and right-click, or select and drag-and-drop without having to navigate to the library catalog page. LibX supports Millennium, Voyager, Aleph, Sirsi, Dynix/IPAC, and user-defined catalogs.
  • Adaptive context menus: The context menu changes automatically depending on what is selected. For instance, if an ISBN is selected, the context menu will offer the option to search directly using that specific identifier. Currently recognized are CrossRef DOIs, ISBNs, and ISSNs, and PubMed IDs.
  • OpenURL support: OpenURL is a standard that helps your library get you to appropriate resources, including the full text of journals to which it subscribes. LibX gives direct access to your institution’s OpenURL resolver, which can directly point you at the full text of an article you are looking for. (OpenURL resolvers are often called “Find it@”, “Article Finder”, “Article Linker”, “WebBridge”, “Get it@”, “Find Fulltext”, “Article Express” or similar names.) OpenURL can work well in connection with Google Scholar.
  • Google Scholar Support (The ‘Magic Button’): Select text and search for the selected text on Google Scholar. In addition, LibX will read Scholar’s results for you, determine whether the paper was found and if so, ask the OpenURL resolver for a paid-for copy, should you not have access to the copy to which Scholar links. You can use this feature even from inside a PDF, which makes retrieving papers referenced in a PDF file a snap.
    If your library has not subscribed to Scholar’s services, see Question 11 in the FAQ: Can I get the Google Scholar search to work even if my institution has not registered with Google?
  • Web Localization via Embedded Cues: LibX places localized cues in web pages you visit if the library has resources related to that page. Whenever you see the cue, click on the link to look at what the library has to offer. For instance, book pages at Amazon or Barnes & Noble contain cues that can check whether the library has the book you are looking to buy. Other pages that contain cues are Google, Yahoo! Search, the NY Times Book Review, and others. See the screencasts in Demo 3 for examples of this cool feature.
  • Autolinking: Based on Jesse Ruderman’s autolinking script, LibX automatically links ISBNs, ISSNs, DOIs, and other identifiers to the catalog or OpenURL resolver.
  • Off-campus access via EZProxy or WAM: Support for off-campus access to licensed resources, if your institution uses EZ Proxy or III’s WAM. You may reload a page through the proxy, or follow a link via the proxy, making it appear as though you are coming from an on-campus computer. This features gives you access to resources to which only on-campus users have access.
  • Support for COinS: LibX supports COinS, which can turn hidden tags inserted by web site authors or publishers into actionable OpenURLs links that allow a user to download the full text of an item. More information on COinS.
  • Support for xISBN: Support for OCLC’s xISBN: find a book, given an ISBN, even if the library holds this book under a different ISBN.

2) A Library specific Toolbar for Firefox

If LibX doesn’t suit your library, you could create from scratch a Firefox toolbar for your users to download and install. You could put in a search box or RSS feeds, a chat box or bookmarks to useful sites.

Guus van den Brekel from the University Medical Centre library in Groningen has created a slideshow about library specific toolbars – how to make them and why – The Library Toolbar in Detail. This tutorial from Jonah Bishop at Born Geek is a very good detailed starting point: Firefox Toolbar Tutorial.

3) A google widget for the google home page

You could use google widgets to create a search box for your library, then offer your users the code so they could embed it in their iGoogle page.

The University Of Western Australia has a nice example of this, on their Library Catalogue Tools page.

4) An OpenSearch plugin

You can give your users a plugin that adds your library as an option in the drop down search box at the top right of their Firefox or IE7 browser.

Here’s an example that one of our IT guys made for my library at Murdoch University, Murdoch Catalogue plugin.

5) Facebook catalogue search widget

Now that Facebook allows external applications, and it may be useful as a portal, you could create an specifically for your library, like this one from . This Facebook applicaton from library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain adds a small widget to your Facebook page, allowing you to search the catalogue and chat with an online librarian. David Ward has released the code he used to make it, and it has already been copied by to make a Facebook ap for Hennepin Public Library.

6) LibGuides Facebook application

This is a paid service from Springshare that

enables you to access the content from your library inside of facebook. Read your course-related library Guides, get research help, chat with reference librarians, or search the library catalog using LibGuides.

I’m a bit wary of something you need to pay for when you can make it for free, but for libraries without developers (ie. most of us) this may be an option. You can find information on the Facebook Libguides page.

7) Embed code for catalogue searchbox on MySpace

You could provide users with a paragraph of code that they could use to embed on their home page – particularly useful for MySpace Users . Morris Library at Southern Illinois University, Cabondale provides this for their users (as well as a LibX download) on their Library Downloads page.

While these types of services won’t be useful for all our users, and will be unintelligible for many, we should know how to create them now, so that we can provide quality service to our early adopters.

3 thoughts on “Working with the users’ tools

  1. I am immediately sending this around to the email discussion list at MPOW. I didn’t know about LibX and its exactly the sort of thing that we ought to be considering. Thanks.

  2. LibX is awesome. It takes a little work, but I created a customised version for my institution about 6 months ago. The vast majority of people I’ve demonstrated it to were very impressed.

    For those that aren’t able to use Firefox, there’s an IE version in development.

  3. Yes, of all these options, I find LibX the most interesting. Does it really do all that it claims to do or does it need major tweaking to make it all work?

What do you think? Let us know.