Automating Municipal Records Transfers to an Archives

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, May 16, 2016 8:23 PM

Andornot recently helped a municipal archives save hours of manual work when civic records are transferred to them, by automating part of the data transfer process. 

This municipal archives uses Inmagic DB/TextWorks to manage their collections. The many departments in the municipality complete a form when they are transferring records to the archives. The form is a fillable PDF form, but when the archives receives it with the records, they still need to re-key, or copy and paste, data into their DB/TextWorks system.

This fillable PDF form was altered so that a Submit button placed prominently on the form generates an XML file in Adobe's .xfdf format. Andornot developed an XSLT that can be used by DB/TextWorks' data import feature to transform data from this XML file into DB/TextWorks records. The XSLT selects appropriate data from the XML, and adds some default values like the material type, some notes, etc. 

Dozens of records can now be imported in seconds or minutes, ready for the archives to review and edit further.

Further automation is also possible using the Inmagic Importer, which can monitor a folder and import files when they appear. This would allow the archives to drop multiple XML files from the transfer forms into a folder at once and then a few minutes later, access those records in the DB/TextWorks database.

Approaches like this are great for all sorts of institutions. Another common example is libraries sourcing catalogue records from other catalogues, such as by using BookWhere software, and importing those records into their catalogue, through DB/TextWorks or Genie.

Contact Andornot for assistance improving your workflow  and automating repetitive tasks like this example.

Succession planning and your databases

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, May 03, 2016 8:45 PM

We’ve heard recently from several long time clients that they are retiring soon or considering a move to another job. Most are concerned about their “legacy” when they leave, and so we have been talking about succession planning with regard to their databases.  Many have been using Inmagic software for many years and know it well.  However for their replacement coming in fresh, it’d be helpful to provide some documentation and background information, especially if there is no overlap and the new person will be faced with learning the software on their own.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at a system from an outsiders perspective especially if “it works fine and has always been that way”. For example, we came across a client recently who used basic everything, i.e. basic query screens, basic reports and basic edit screen.  He regularly needed to work on writing abstracts which often exceeded the default 3 lines provided in a basic edit screen, so he would use the scroll bar up and down to view the contents as he typed.  

image edit-ASK

Basic edit screen

Edit screen from the Andornot Starter Kit with field groupings, boxes sized for contents, added help tips.

It was something he’d never thought about, but he had to admit that creating a new edit screen with the box height set as unlimited made life much, much easier. Basic screens also always list fields in the textbase structure order, but fields may have been added over the years resulting in no logical groupings.  Think how confusing working with basic screens will be to a newcomer to your system!

We therefore suggest you make it easier on your successor by doing a check of the usability of your databases and writing up notes on your infrastructure. This will also be helpful for new IT staff, and if you have to contact Inmagic for support.

  • Which version of the software is installed and what are the serial numbers?  What is the operating system of the server? Where is the software installed and who has access set up to use it?  Are there any older versions of the software that should be uninstalled?
  • Where are all your databases located on the server?  In multiple folders?  Are any restricted to certain staff or have other special permissions? Do they have passwords? Are there any older copies that may have been saved as backups or are the remnants of recover operations?  Search for *.tba or *.cba to check, then delete the duplicate copies now to avoid confusion later. Are there any obsolete or test databases that could be deleted or archived?
  • Are all your database field names clear and unambiguous?  In older versions of DB/TextWorks there was a limit to their length so we’ve seen some pretty cryptic abbreviations!  Are all the fields in use still?
  • Do you have unused report forms or edit screens.  Are they named clearly and consistently?
  • If you have Genie or WebPublisher PRO, where are these installed and what is the web address and full UNC server path? Do you have access to these folders?  If you have DB/Text for SQL, do you have access to the Admin tool? Is the Importer set up for automated import of data?  If so, what is the source and the format?
  • For WebPublisher PRO are there test or unused query screens? Is the data live immediately or is there some script that transfer databases nightly to a webserver? (This can cause much head scratching trying to figure out why changes don’t appear if this workflow is not documented.)
  • If you haven’t upgraded to version 15 or 15.5 yet, note that this requires an upgrade to your textbases and thus the textbase and forms creation date will be updated too.  This was previously a handy way of checking on the vintage to help determine the history and retention value.

Check out our series of blog posts from last year on Spring Cleanup for your Databases which provide some detailed suggestions covering many of these points:

See also our post on Retirement Planning for Servers. Please contact us if you need any assistance.  We are available to analyze your databases and infrastructure and can write up a report and/or implement changes to your databases to make them easier for your successor to work with.

VuFind 3.0 Released

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, April 27, 2016 8:21 PM

Version 3.0 of VuFind, the popular open-source discovery interface, was released April 25, 2016.

This version brings VuFind up to date with important PHP and Solr developments while also adding several new features and offering a straightforward upgrade path from the 2.x series of releases.

Some key additions and changes:

  • Improved support for indexing multiple authors (and other types of creators).
  • New filtering options in “combined search” mode to make your "bento box" search even more flexible.
  • A database-driven record cache to improve performance and permanence when working with third-party APIs.
  • Compatibility with PHP 7 and Ubuntu 16.04.
  • Inclusion of Solr 5.5.0, which adds new indexing features and better Windows support.
  • A significantly rewritten front-end theme offering greater stability, improved ease of customization and a more consistent user experience.
  • New recommendation modules to help guide users to better search results.

Additionally, several bug fixes, new configuration options and minor improvements have been incorporated.

Although VuFind was largely developed by and for academic libraries, we've found applications for it in other organizations, including smaller specialized libraries. Our blog has details of selected projects. In general, we recommend VuFind for organizations with purely bibliographic records and little or no need for customization, a custom graphic design, integration of other features or content, etc. For organizations with those requirements, our Andornot Discovery Interface is a perfect choice.

Contact us to learn more about the VuFind discovery interface and how it might suit your organization.

Société historique de Saint-Boniface Upgrades Archives Search Interface

by Jonathan Jacobsen Sunday, April 24, 2016 8:37 PM

The Centre du patrimoine (Heritage Centre) of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface is an archive and research facility dedicated to the preservation, study, dissemination and development of Francophone and Metis history in Manitoba and Western Canada. The Heritage Centre holds more than 500 archival fonds documenting every facet of life from culture to commerce, education to politics and religion to the economy.

In 2010-2011, Andornot helped the Heritage Centre to upgrade their DB/TextWorks-based collection management system, and publish the data online using our Andornot Starter Kit. This also included a collection of 35,000 records of contracts between fur traders (Voyageurs) and companies engaged in the fur trade in Canada between 1700 and ca. 1822.

This year, thanks to a grant from the Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program, the Heritage Centre was able to upgrade this web search interface to one powered by the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). The site is hosted by Andornot at http://archivesshsb.mb.ca

AnDI offers features not available in the previous site, such as the ability to search the museum, library and Voyageurs collections together, a more advanced search engine, spelling corrections and search suggestions, and facets to help users narrow their search.

The interface is designed for both desktop and mobile devices. There are features that help users view enlarged images, and to play back video recordings without leaving the site. 

New to the site in this upgrade are large high-resolution scans of architectural drawings. Even on large screens with an image at full-width, it can be hard to see small details in an architectural drawing, so Andornot implemented an image zooming feature that allows users to see both the whole drawing and enlargements of selected portions without having to download a very large image file.

Other useful features include an RSS feed of newly-added records, and a selection list that allows users to save, email or print records, or request more information on them from the Heritage Centre.

"The results are just fantastic and the transition was practically seamless."

-- Gilles Lesage, Directeur general, Centre du patrimoine

Contact Andornot to discuss a similar project for your museum or archives.

Bulkley Valley Museum Collection Now Online

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, April 11, 2016 9:25 AM

Since 1967, the Bulkley Valley Museum has built up a permanent collection of artifacts and documentary heritage materials that represent the human and natural history of the Town of Smithers, British Columbia, and the surrounding Bulkley Valley. This collection is now available online for the first time at http://search.bvmuseum.com

Andornot initially helped the museum to upgrade their DB/TextWorks-based collection management system, using our Andornot Starter Kits for archives and museum artifacts. We then used the Andornot Discovery Interface to build and host the site.

The search engine contains records for over 8,000 of the museum's archival and museum holdings, including 5,000 digitized historic photographs. Highlights of the collection include information on:

  • area railroads and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway;
  • fossils, rocks and minerals and the natural history of the area;
  • telegraphs;
  • farming and agriculture; and
  • records from Smithers, Telkwa, Moricetown and Hazelton towns.

On the site, users can share their favourite items to Facebook and Twitter, and generate PDFs or print lists of items they are interested in. 

Users can also provide feedback to the museum via email on specific photographs and records. This form of crowd-sourcing will help identify people whose names have been lost to history, and even with hours of the website launch, was proving popular.

"Our new website is part of the Museum's ongoing efforts to make its collections more accessible to our local communities, enabling users from anywhere in the Bulkley Valley, or anywhere in the world, to learn about our local history. 

We are 30-60 minutes away from some of the communities we serve and collect from, so having our collections online is really going have an impact on access to history for local researchers and for use in the classroom by students."

- Kira Westby, Curator, Bulkley Valley Museum

The Bulkley Valley Museum was one of several recipients of the Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program, which provides grants to select organizations for projects such as this. They join a growing list of Andornot clients who have selected the Andornot Discovery Interface to make their collections searchable online.

Contact Andornot to discuss a similar project for your museum or archives.

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