New Search Options for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania Library and Archives

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, November 20, 2015 10:30 AM

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania maintains a collection of tens of thousands of resources related to railroading in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The collection is diverse - historical, political, cultural, social, economic, and technological - and emphasizes its development from the 1830s through the present day. Every manner of printed materials is in the collection, from annual reports to timetables, as well as an extensive set of photographs and negatives. A reference library contains books, periodicals, railroad association and union publications, government documents, and trade catalogues.

Public search access has been available for many years through an interface developed by Andornot using our Andornot Starter Kit. However, as with all websites and applications, renewal and refurbishment is necessary every few years, to keep up with technology standards and user expectations. In particular, we noticed that the search logs indicated no records found for many user searches, so we knew that some new features were needed to help users connect to resources.

In 2015, the museum began a project with Andornot to develop a new, modern search engine using the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). This is now available at http://rrmuseumpa.andornot.com 

"We had two primary objectives – to replace an earlier online catalog search system that was sagging under the growing weight of tens of thousands of new records and images, and to make the system more useful to users who have become accustomed to the more intelligent finding systems currently available in so many places on the web. Andornot delivered admirably on both needs." -- James Alexander, Jr., the museum's webmaster and lead on this project.

Large Collection Needs Advanced Search Features

The new search offers users access to over 270,000 records from both the library and archives databases, which were formerly separate. 80,000 of these records have digitized photographs available online. With such a large data set, advanced search features are needed to help researchers uncover resources of interest to them.

AnDI's Apache Solr search engine excels at indexing large data sets. The more records that are available to it, the better it can analyze words and perform frequency analysis on them, one of the many algorithms it uses to deliver relevant results first.

Key to the search process are the facets that allow researchers to narrow their initial search by many criteria, such as the names of railroads, individuals, corporations and other organizations, subjects, geographic places, and dates.

As with all AnDI sites, users can view brief and full records, view photographs in a gallery layout, save records to a list, share search results on social media, and of course, access the site as easily from a tablet or phone as a desktop web browser.

The small selection of videos included in search results are published through the museum's YouTube channel to expose the museum to the widest possible audience. A YouTube player is embedded in search results for playback within the new site.

AnDI Handles Spelling Variations

As is to be expected with such a large collection, entered over many years by a variety of people, spelling variations and typographic errors have crept in. AnDI helps users locate resources despite this, using two key features:

1. The Apache Solr search engine in AnDI is very, very good at parsing terms from records and suggesting correct terms based on what's in the records and what user's search for. These appear in search results as spelling corrections and "Did you mean?" suggestions, which a user may click to try a different search.

2. A synonym list created by museum staff relates correct terms to some of the many variations that appear. 

For example, the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway appears in around 7,000 records, but with the name Susquehanna spelled at least 11 different ways. Given that searchers may not enter the correct spelling either, the search problem is not trivial! The combination of the synonym list and Solr's other suggestions and corrections helps ensure that no matter how either the data was originally entered, nor how a user searches for it, AnDI can return relevant and complete results.

A video introduction and written search help are both available to introduce users to the site. 

Inmagic DB/TextWorks for Back-End Data Management

Behind the scenes, the museum continues to use Inmagic DB/TextWorks to manage these records. This database management system is invaluable to them in managing metadata, selecting standard metadata from validation lists, and providing access to volunteers for every-day data entry.

The museum's search engine continues to be hosted by Andornot as part of our managed hosting service.

"While Andornot had available a well-built modern search system in AnDI, they spent a lot of time with us learning about our particular users' needs, helping us think through the most useful processes, and refining the search experience. They know the business of both managing records internally and helping users find what they need. 

In the process two things happened – we learned more about the strengths and weaknesses in our data entry processes, and the usefulness and public recognition of our holdings were enhanced through improved web access.  The search help video was a real plus, and they worked with us in making our search page both functional and attractive." – James Alexander, Jr.

We're very pleased to continue our work with the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Contact us to discuss upgrades and search options for your museum collections.

Andornot Authentication Manager: Perfect for Managing Access to Online Content

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, November 18, 2015 7:25 AM

While there is an ongoing move towards open access content, open data and open source applications, some of our clients do manage subscription-based resources. In some cases a subset of their information resources are available to the public, while more detailed information requires a paid membership. In other cases, all access requires some sort of login.

For these clients, and for anyone wanting to manage access to web-based information resources, we offer the Andornot Authentication Manager.

This web application allows you to limit access to your website content and search applications based on:

  • usernames and passwords;
  • IP addresses (single or ranges); and
  • referring URLs (i.e. incoming links from an intranet or subscriber-only site).

The Authentication Manager controls what a user can see or access based on their role. For example, the general public may have search-only access to brief records, whereas a logged in user can view a full record, access full text or original digitized content, submit requests or orders, etc. This flexibility is perfect for subscription-based sites and services.

The Authentication Manager is designed to work specifically with the Andornot Discovery Interface and Andornot Starter Kit for Inmagic WebPublisher PRO, but can be adapted to other web applications. 

Other features include:

  • account and group profile management;
  • detailed reporting of site access, by account and time period; and
  • subscription and account expiration management.

The Authentication Manager is a .net web application, so designed for Windows Servers and web applications that run on them. The interface is accessible from both desktop and mobile browsers.

Contact us to learn more about the Andornot Authentication Manager.

Andornot's November 2015 Newsletter Now Available

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, November 17, 2015 9:05 AM

Our November 2015 newsletter has been emailed to subscribers and is available to read here.

In this issue:

  • A Round-up of Andornot's Summer Projects to Inspire You
  • Meet with Andornot at Upcoming Conferences and Events
  • Tips and Tricks: Upgrading to DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher PRO version 15
  • Tweets: Round-up of Library, Archive and Museum News

Contact us to subscribe to the emailed version.

Tags: newsletters

Let YouTube Transcribe Your Videos for You!

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, November 12, 2015 1:06 PM

Many institutions have videos in their collections, but searching these videos for specific content can be challenging and time-consuming for staff and users alike. You can catalogue the contents of videos so that they are more searchable, but that can take a lot of staff time.

That’s why YouTube’s automated transcription feature is potentially helpful for institutions to have in their repertoire of tools. With a simple click of a button, a timecode synced transcript can be created for videos that you have uploaded to YouTube. While the transcript will definitely have errors, it gives you a great starting point. After editing the transcript can be added to the video’s database record giving your users a way to search the video’s actual contents.

YouTube Transcript

When videos with speech are uploaded to YouTube, closed captions or subtitles are automatically generated. You can see if they are available by looking for the CC button in the bottom right. If the quality of the audio is reasonable, YouTube will also automatically make a text transcript which is accessible under the More hyperlink. This transcription can be copied and pasted into a field in your DB/TextWorks database and corrected while listening along to the video. This text can then be made fully searchable by your WebPublisher PRO or Andornot Discovery Interface software.

Even if you don’t want the videos to be permanently or publicly available on YouTube, you can still take advantage of YouTube’s transcript option. Videos can be uploaded privately, the transcripts generated and then copied and saved elsewhere, before the videos are then removed.

The accuracy of the transcript will depend on several factors, including the quality of the audio, the clarity of the speech and whether the subject matter contains many proper names. Apparently Scottish accents in particular can be problematic, but you can easily review the text first to check the quality.

As always, contact us for assistance to discuss possibilities for adding video transcriptions to your databases and search engines.

Tags: tips | tools | video

SLA Toronto Chapter Annual Holiday Social is December 10, 2015

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, November 09, 2015 12:55 PM

Andornot is pleased to once again sponsor the SLA Toronto Chapter Holiday Social on December 10, 2015 in Toronto. This event is held in conjuction with three other Toronto-area groups and is a great chance to mix and mingle in a beautiful building. We hope you will be able to join your colleagues at this event.

What: SLA/OLA-SLC/THLA/FIAA Joint Holiday Social

When: December 10, 2015, 6-8pm (registration starts at 5:30pm)

Where: Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, Toronto ON

Cost: $25 members | $40 nonmembers | $15 students & unemployed

SLA Toronto Chapter, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information Alumni Association (FIAA), Toronto Health Libraries Association (THLA) and Ontario Library Association Special Libraries Committee (OLA-SLC) cordially invite you to this year’s Joint Holiday Social at The Arts and Letters Club.  Join friends and colleagues for a fun-filled evening of holiday cheer.

A selection of hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Details and payment options: http://toronto.sla.org/events/?ee=675

Tags: events

Month List