Law Society of Saskatchewan Launches Genie

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, January 22, 2010 10:05 AM

The Law Society of Saskatchewan is the latest Andornot client to launch Genie (part of the Inmagic DB/Text Library Suite).

The Law Society Library is a long-time Inmagic user, with several textbases used to manage books, journals, legal resources, and other materials. These databases are maintained in the Society’s two main offices in Regina and Saskatoon, with online access for society members through the society's website.

One of the challenges facing the library was managing all of these databases from separate locations. "We were looking for any way to streamline our core tasks of acquisitions and circulation by eliminating double and sometimes triple data entry and the never-ending battle of syncing databases," says Toby Willis-Camp, Director of Libraries at the Law Society. The library selected Genie as a solution, as it provides a single, central, web-based system for all the core library functions. The library also opted to have Andornot host both the Genie system, as well as the entire society website, with its members-only resources and other searchable databases.

Andornot and the staff in the Law Society Library planned and completed a conversion of several Inmagic databases into the Genie system, with special attention paid to de-duplicating records from similar source databases.

Law_Society_of_Saskatchewan_Libraries_Search_Results While the library staff use the Genie Catalogue, Orders, Serials and other "back-end" modules for their day-to-day work, a new search interface for society members and the public was created, based on the Andornot Starter Kit. This OPAC features:

  • quick and advanced search screens for all library materials;
  • a specific search screen for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) materials;
  • the full text of CPD materials, with a link from the record to a PDF of the material, for immediate online access;
  • tick boxes allow society members to mark items as they find them, then submit a request to the library for those materials, or email a copy of the list to themselves or a colleague, or save or print the list; and
  • icons in the search results to help users more easily identify the types of materials in their search results. Different icons appear for books, journals, websites, DVDs and CPD materials.

"Every time I use the OPAC I break out into a huge smile, because I am so pleased with how it's working and presents the information.  I am absolutely ecstatic about the 'public face' we now present," says Willis-Camp.

Members of the Law Society register in a different online system, but thanks to a behind-the-scenes transfer of information into Genie on a regular basis, the Genie Borrowers database is always up to date with society members.

"It was a year filled with immense change at the Library.  Working with Andornot made most of those changes go more smoothly.  We are looking forward to using Genie at its full potential, and continuing to improve and expand our web presence with Andornot's expert assistance." says Willis-Camp.

Please contact Andornot for more information on Genie, the Andornot Starter Kit, and our hosting and consulting services.

"Sharing, Sharing, Sharing"

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:09 PM

In my kindergarten, we sang a song most days about sharing (probably when one of us brought in a special toy, or a bag of cookies). I no longer remember all the words, nor the melody (which as a 5 year old I probably couldn't manage anyhow), but I sure had it drilled into me that Sharing is Good.

To that end, and following hot on the heels of our recent addition of Google Book Covers and Previews to the Andornot Starter Kit (ASK), today we added a Share button to ASK.

share_button

Look familiar? Yes, you've seen this button before. Just about every website has one now. What is it? A very quick way of letting others know about something you've found. Imagine you've been searching and searching in one online database after another for a very particular resource and... You Found It! And you're excited, and impatient, and you want to share the news, either by email or Twitter or on your Facebook page, or through any other social networking site. With just a couple clicks, you can do that.

This particular button is provided by AddThis.com. This site aggregates hooks into every known social networking site, from Facebook to Twitter to Delicious, as well as providing the ability to simply bookmark the page or email the link to a friend.

When you get your own button from AddThis.com, you can customize its appearance and the social bookmarking services offered, and sign up to have AddThis track usage, so you know how often your resources are being shared.

These buttons are available from other sites as well, such as ShareThis.com. You could also construct your own that provides all the same services: emailing, bookmarking, sharing... but it's far simpler to take one of these pre-built buttons, available at no cost.

Why should you have a Share button in your online database? These have become ubiquitous on the web. More and more users are expecting a site to have these and the ability to quickly click a button to grab the identifying information. As links are shared, more users will become aware of your resources. Search engines rarely index deep into databases, but they do index social networking sites, providing a whole new way for users to find and re-share your resources. This in turn may help increase your website's standing in search engine rankings, especially if you have unique or very specialized content.

A small but major caution: By default, the AddThis button shares the URL that appears in your browser's address bar. After searching an Inmagic WebPublisher PRO textbase, this URL contains a temporary variable. While the URL will continue to link to a record for a while, depending on the volume of searches on your site, the link may no longer work after just a few days. However, Andornot has developed a Permanent URL http handler that can be easily added to a textbase so that the URL that is bookmarked remains valid indefinitely.

What next? See the button in action here (search, click through to the full record detail page, and test the button by emailing yourself details of a book), then contact us to help you add a Share button to your site.

Top Ten Word 2007 Features

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, November 16, 2009 9:34 AM

Up until a couple years ago, I was a fan of OpenOffice, the open-source office suite, and in particular Writer and Calc, the word processor and spreadsheet applications. I found they had all the same features as Microsoft Word and Excel, and the price ($0) was great. Sure, the interface was a bit dated and you had to hunt through endless menus to find features, but that had been my experience with all the versions of MS Office up to that point.

Then two events conspired to change my view: Microsoft released Office 2007, with a greatly revised user interface, and I took a job teaching other people how to use it! It's a bit of a challenge to teach something you don't use, so I dived in to Office 2007, and in particular Word, poking into all the nooks and crannies to master every last feature... or at least to keep one step ahead of my students. It was painful at first, abandoning the familiar menus for the new Ribbon Bar, but I must say, within a couple of months I was a convert. I truly enjoy using Office 2007 every day now. And to celebrate that, I put together a top ten list of my favourite Word 2007 features. Many have been around for a while, but are even more usable in this version, while others are new.

1. Push Pins

As you work on documents, they appear in the Recent Documents list under the Office button in the top left corner. A single click on one re-opens it for editing, until it's pushed off the bottom of the list by new arrivals. Clicking the push pin sticks the document to the list for as long as you need to work on it.

2. Table Styles

Tables are a great way to present information, and now, it's easy to make them pretty with the built-in table styles.

3. Smart Art

Attractive, easy to use, pre-created charts and diagrams come in handy and save time when I want to add some visual interest to a document, as an alternative to a table.

4. Cropping Images

I am often pasting screenshots of websites into documents, and I think they are tidier without the browser window around them. I want the viewer to focus just on the web page content. The image cropping tool is invaluable for quickly trimming an image down, without need for external image software.

5. Visual Previews

I love seeing changes happen as I make them, such as when resizing an image or previewing different styles. Such a change from the earliest versions of Word, where you waited many minutes for a page to re-render after adding an image!

6. Track Changes

When collaborating on a document, it's critical to see the changes others make. Enabling this feature makes that such a breeze.

7. Compare Documents

However, if your collaborators forget to track their changes, this feature will find them, by comparing two different versions of the same document. You can easily accept, reject and merge changes into a final version.

8. Inspect Document

After a series of revisions, changes tracked and accepted or rejected, and comments added and removed, running the Document Inspector is wise. It will let you know about any last stray changes and comments, so that the version you release is truly the final one.

Read more about issues related to tracking changes in these two blog posts:

9. Save as PDF

Not everyone has Office 2007, but most people have or can install Adobe Reader or one of several other PDF readers. You can save your document as a PDF directly from Word with no additional software required.

10. The Ribbon Bar

Last but not least, I've found that the grouping of features on the Ribbon Bar really does make sense. A skeptic at heart, I've come to enjoy using this interface over the options buried many levels deep in menus.

Single Search Boxes and the Submit Button

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, September 10, 2009 8:32 AM

 

On a search form with only one search term box and one submit button, such as the Quick Search form in the Andornot Starter Kit, the usual user behaviour is to type search terms and press the Enter key. However, there is a longstanding issue with ASP .NET that results in seemingly nothing happening in this case, in some browsers. The form does a weird empty postback because it submits the form, but does not call your ASP.NET submit button's click event: i.e., it does a postback, but does not do anything. The user must instead use the mouse to click the Submit button.

A simple workaround for this is to add a second search box to the form, but make it invisible. For example, add:

<input type="text" style="display:none;" />

Now when the user presses the enter key, the subsequent postback operates as expected (i.e. in the case of the Andornot Starter Kit Quick Search form, it submits the search instead of just doing an "empty" postback that doesn't do anything).

More information on this ASP.NET behaviour is available here. Information on similar behaviour in AJAX Update Panels is in an earlier Andornot developer blog post.

Syncing Active Directory with Borrowers and GenieKey

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, August 28, 2009 11:36 AM

In a project we worked on over the summer, we needed a way to sync staff information in an Active Directory database with the Inmagic Genie borrower and user login records. Single sign on had been enabled so that staff can access their MyGenie interface to see an up to date list of their loans, orders and reserves without having to manually login. Since borrower and user information is stored in 2 separate textbases (Borrowers and GenieKey), we knew there would be several steps involved in moving and synchronizing this information. The organization has ~1,200 employees, who move departments, change names, and come and go, so it was clear that an automated sync process would save time and effort, compared to library staff manually updating Genie.

We concluded that the Inmagic PowerPack Importer was ideal for automatically importing data into the Borrowers and GenieKey textbases, but that an additional tool would need to be developed for automatically extracting data from Borrowers and Active Directory. The client developed the AD export, and from Andornot came... Extract-o-matic!

Extract-o-matic is a small, command-line application, written in C#, that uses an ODBC connection to a textbase and writes output to a text file. It accepts as input the textbase name and ODBC DSN connection, the names of fields to be extracted, a query string to select records, and information about the desired output format. Output is a single line per record extracted, so a comma-separated or tab-separated format works well (but XML could be generated as well).

The complete data migration process in this project is:

  • An Active Directory CSV export file is generated and placed in a folder watched by the Importer.
  • The AD data is imported into the Genie Borrowers textbase by the Importer, updating existing records and creating new ones.
  • A scheduled task runs a batch file to direct Extract-o-matic to select all Borrower records except those of library staff and system administrators and writes these records to a text file in a different folder also watched by the Importer.
  • The Borrower export is imported into the GenieKey textbase by the Importer to update all regular staff user records (library staff and admins with higher Genie privileges are not updated).
  • Exception logs are monitored and any issues handled.
  • A separate, manual process is followed to handle staff who leave the organization.

This automated synchronization of an Active Directory staff database to Genie Borrowers and users works well, freeing employees and library staff for other work. We expect to find other uses for Extract-o-matic in the future. Let us know if you think of any and we'll get you set up!

Please contact us for more information on this process or on the Inmagic Library Suite.

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