Tool of the day: Readability

I downloaded this great tool a year ago, and I just recently remembered to start using it again.  It reformats badly-designed, small-print, ad-laden, and otherwise hard-to-read web pages to a nice, simple, easy-to-read format.  Like so:

Before:  small text, distracting sidebar ads

After:  ahhhhhhhhh.

Download Readability for free here.

Blogging Code4Lib PNW

Mark Dahl, Lewis & Clark:  Developing a Digital Initiatives Program at a Liberal Arts College

  • libraries/special collections transitioning from managing a local collection toward helping users navigate and contribute to global information network
  • less time buying, archiving, and providing gateway to resources (redundant across libraries) and more time in instruction, consultation, managing unique assets (unique activities at individual libraries)
  • thematic digital collections:  academic projects focused on a niche teaching/research area (NY Neighborhoods from Columbia University, accessCeramics image resource (Lewis & Clark), William Stafford archives, etc.)
  • different direction for libraries: moving from institutional collections, uniform practices, to non-standard practices & models, focused collections, consultative services
  • higher ed is seeing centers and institutes popping up around digital humanities projects:  UVa, Kenyon College, Columbia, Hamilton, Univ of Richmond
  • Lewis & Clark started with digitizing student theses, moved toward special collections & archives (ContentDM), visual resources, thematic projects closely related to research & curriculum on campus.  New challenges such as getting grants, hiring web developers, getting artists to contribute images to the database.
  • want to use the expertise from these projects to expand more widely to other projects on campus.  conversations with faculty revealed projects ranging from sciences (spiders) to history (oral histories) to many disciplines.
  • trends that emerged from these conversations:  interest in web mapping (showing historical points of interest on a map).  Traditional scholarly communication still very important, book publishing still more important than digital projects esp for pre-TP faculty.  Everyone wants web design help.  Scientists have have places to put data.  Scientists would like publicity for their work.
  • must choose how to prioritize projects; want to have high impact on student experience (tuition funds work) and faculty.
  • considering levels of service:  consultation only; assistance with discrete project; long-term collaborative effort for larger collection
  • i missed some points here…
  • potential pitfalls:  overloading staff, mission creep for library, unfair concentration of resources, sustainability of resources
  • upside is how wide the reach can be: visits to the site from all over the world; clear and direct benefits (as opposed to the “just in case” attitude of much library buying); increase library’s relevance; increase faculty support for library; directly advance academic mission; heighten institutional profile; highly gratifying; creative work = more cool projects


Question of Identity, Deborah Horrell, 1979
AccessCeramics project

Blogging Code4Lib PNW

Transitioning to Evergreen with Beth Longwell: Sage System Administrator & David Drexler:  Systems Librarian, EOU

  • Transitioning from current ILS Millennium using circ, cataloging, reserves, acquisitions, serials, etc. modules, to Evergreen ILS.
  • Other projects on the go at the same time: Evergreen development, marketing, catalog cleanup, etc.
  • Going live December 2010
  • Don’t want to lose features that patrons like in the current system
  • Will require new PIN for all users
  • Too many to-do tasks to list here.  Some include:  ensure that ll records have 008 & 007 entries where applicable, clean up patron & item records, set up bibliographic & holdings templates, import authority records and test interface with LTI, test how Marc editing works, modify main Evergreen search page for Sage libraries, modify relevancy algorithm to improve order of keyword search results, test EZProxy for authentication, train staff & do mock practice runs, etc.
  • Missing pieces:  remote access proxy (using EZProxy instead), cataloging interface, circulation has fixed due dates, need more sophisticated fund accounting, no serials module, reserves functionality very basic, reports are minimal, patron data is minimal (?), Summer interaction piece is unclear
  • Advantages:  can upgrade functionality without having to buy/budget for a new module purchase (i.e. bookings module); make best use of money, control over and access to consortial data, ability to choose how much support is contracted out, participation in open source project.

Blogging Code4Lib PNW

Al Cornish and Jon Scott (WSU) on LCSH Autocomplete in

  • Autocomplete = program predicts word/phrase that user wants.  Ubiquitous.
  • Subject autocompletion in WC based on LCSHeadings
  • When terms appear in the a-c drop-down they’re ordered not alphabetically but by “fitness” (approx. count of # of records returned in WC.)
  • Also available for MeSH and other subject headings systems
  • Test here.
  • Can type a % in that test window to see the macro subject areas listed in order of fitness.  “History” is #1.
  • Populates database using LCSH preferred headings from online list provided by LCSH.

I love this–amazing how much it helps focus and direct users’ searches toward correct LCSH, and helps clear up confusion about what a “subject” is (or, actually, removes the whole fiddly conversation about why subject headings matter) while still using LCSH to structure data, and getting people to the right item records.

Blogging Code4Lib PNW

Kyle Bannerjee on NoSQL databases:

  • Why would you care about the Great New Wave of NoSQL dbs?  Data needs have changed since the 1970s, when relational dbs reigned.  Now have semi-structured dbs, need to have highly responsive systems.
  • Sites using NoSQL:  BBC, Google, Hulu, FB, NY Times, Yahoo, etc.
  • There is no magic:  dbs are fast b/c they physically structure data on the disc so it can be accessed efficiently.  NoSQL achieves performance through tradeoffs that make sense in a Web environment.
  • NoSQL db = nonrelational data store.  Different construction depending on data needs (kind of queries needed to support, amount of data, versioning, whether data is separate from app, etc.)

Aaand then we get into deep water, and I wait for firmer footing to return.  😉

Blogging Code4Lib PNW

Trying to keep up…Michael Spalti from Willamette University is presenting about Serials Solutions’ 360 Link API.  I’m a little slow on the start, but a few notes:

  • Willamette U is using Serials Solutions’ API for its 360 Link link resolver (not its federated search)
  • Nobody else appears to be using the API–why not?
  • Used PHP to retrieve Serials Solutions XML from remote server, parse locally
  • Can be used to track usage stats (with a little workaround, adding rights information to each title)
  • Initially created mashup of Serials Solutions data and local catalog information; over time, added local catalog info to the SS database and now it all pulls from SS
  • See Daniel Talsky’s article in Code4Lib Journal about the API, Issue 4 2008-09 22
  • Hope to see an API for the e-journal portal of SSolutions (2011?)

Blogging Code4Lib Northwest

I’m at Code4Lib Pacific Northwest today, listening to some great presentations.  Just heard Michael Klein (OSU) on cloud computing; my notes on that are a little rushed but it was a great overview of the advantages and disadvantages of Internet-hosted apps, including a good definition of exactly what cloud computing is.

Now it’s Shirley Lincicum from Western Oregon University on Needle:  an application for modeling graph-based databases; building queries for data analysis, exporting data, etc.  Web-based, no programming required. Provides an API.

Initially developed for travel industry.  One library use:  combining title lists with URLs for titles (delivered separately by vendors) to compile and analyze data.  Could be used to analyze usage stats from different vendors or create custom data compilations (scraping data from websites, for instance.) Was used for Orbis Cascade Alliance staff webiste to scrape staff information from multiple university websites, populate database, and export to Orbis Cascade Alliance website.

Similar apps:  Connotate, Fetch, Kapow, Freebase Gridworks, Dap factory.

Demo follows…