VuFind 4.0 released with new features and fixes

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, July 17, 2017 7:48 AM

Version 4.0 of VuFind, the popular open-source discovery interface, was released early July 2017.

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:

  • New channels feature. These are similar to the canned queries we include in almost all projects we work on, no matter which system, where pre-created search parameters or groups of records are offered to users through a simple link, as a guide to interesting aspects of the collection. See a demo at https://vufind.org/demo/Channels/Home.
  • New ability to create and host static content pages. This feature is especially welcome as in previous versions, additional content (e.g. About Us, Contact Us) was most easily placed on the home page, which could make for a bit of a crowded space.
  • Improved ability to load cover images from local files. We added this ourselves as custom development in a previous VuFind project, so are happy to see it appear in the core VuFind system.
  • A new theme, called Sandals. As with several previous themes, it's based on the responsive Bootstrap framework, so it works well on mobile devices. This new theme has a somewhat more modern look to it.

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.

Ronald McDonald in the Library

by Denise Bonin Tuesday, October 30, 2012 10:34 AM

RonaldMacDonaldFaceFramedThe PG Family Resource Library in the Maternal Child Department at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia was established with the generous donation from the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities and provides access to a large number of materials about child health issues. The resources cover topics such as ADHD, bullying, dyslexia and Tourette's syndrome. 

Anne Allgaier, the British Columbia Northern Health Regional Librarian, included the bibliographic records for this collection of over 230 books and DVDs in her current library catalogue, and has also made them available on the library website. Users can search the catalogue database for just the Family Resource portion of the collection or chose from a list of topical searches on a webpage with a fun image of Ronald MacDonald in the background. 

Once the topic link is clicked, the user can see a list of items, with details about the item.  Most of the records for the books include book cover images, which link to Google Books for even more information about the resource and the ability to purchase, if desired.  Users can also add the items in their search results to a list and order them from the library. 

The Northern Health Regional Library has been a long time user of Inmagic DB/TextWorks as well as WebPublisher PRO software.  Their website is hosted by Andornot and the canned searches were designed using the Andornot Search Cannery Wizard

Anne says, “The images and links to the Family Resource Library will facilitate access to the resources for the patients and their families in the UHNBC Maternal Child department. The materials can all be borrowed and library staff will also help with accessing information not available in the Family Resource Library.”

“Thank you to Andornot for creating the special page for this unique collection.”

Parents and children in Prince George and indeed the whole Northern Health Region, will be delighted to have Ronald McDonald guide them through these wonderful resources. 

Capitalize on the latest trends: Topic Pages and Content Curation

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, August 28, 2012 12:56 PM

Two recent articles “Why Topic Pages Are The Next Big Thing”, and “5 Reasons Why Web Publishing is Changing (Again)” explore the rise in popularity of topic based (Pinterest, Medium) versus chronologically based web publishing (blogs, Facebook, and Twitter).

Thankfully Topic Pages are a trend that librarians and archivists should be able to embrace with ease!  We have catalogued our collections, so we can create topic lists or pages based on our subject headings without too much extra work. 

A quick and simple way to implement these is to build canned queries so that users can click on a hyperlink and view results from your catalogs without having to type into a search box.  We have been a long time advocate of these, and provide an Inmagic Search Cannery Wizard to help you build them.  When used within a Content Management System such as Umbraco, the canned query search results can be embedded into a page with custom headings and text. Check out the image galleries at the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network site to see how seamlessly this works. Even better, the page will be automatically updated to include any new records that match the query criteria. Take a look at another great example of topic pages that we helped Fraser Health set up. Their very popular Subject Guides incorporate the latest books along with other recommended resources and embedded RSS feeds of articles.

Curation, as in curated content or digital curation, is another recent buzzword.  The National Library of New Zealand describes it nicely as “the ongoing finding and sharing of relevant digital and non-digital content about a specific topic for a specific audience. Typically, this content will come from a variety of properly credited sources and will be collated in such a way that the collection will be more useful than its individual elements.”  As this post points out, this is what Librarians have always done!  A recent article in the Library Journal discusses career possibilities for librarians in this ever expanding field.   Check out a thought provoking list in Why Curation Will Transform Education and Learning: 10 Key Reasons and see how Google is planning to steal TV audiences with “the YouTube Election Hub, a multi-sourced video channel designed to aggregate coverage and commentary from across media outlets old and new. Alongside clips from the likes of ABC News, Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed is a curated feed of videos from other sources.”  

These developing trends translate into new opportunities for librarians to do what they have always done best, i.e. organize information. Let us know if you are implementing these ideas in your organization, or of course contact us if you need help.

New site design for RCVO@Volunteer Alberta

by Denise Bonin Thursday, June 09, 2011 9:48 AM

The collection of the Resource Center for Volunteer Organizations (RCVO) has recently come under the management of Volunteer Alberta.  The resources, which focus on the volunteer and nonprofit sector, are available at http://rcvo.org and are hosted by Andornot.  While the collection itself has not changed a great deal from under its previous management, the website interface has been completely redesigned and features a lively new look. 

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The site uses the Umbraco content management system to allow RCVO  staff to easily add and modify site content.  Andornot assisted RCVO in the selection of a website design and its development.  Access to the collection is via the Inmagic WebPublisher PRO search interface, with quick and advanced search screens.  A popular feature are the pages of canned searches available as Quick Subject Searches on the quick search page.  An RSS feed is available on the new catalogue additions and Google Book Covers and links augment the site.

A user searching the collection can add items to a cart as well as bookmark or copy the link for each item via its permalink.  The RCVO collection continues to be part of the Canadian Non-profit Library Network along with Imagine Canada and Volunteer Calgary making its combined collection the largest source of materials for this sector in Canada.  RCVO staff commented:

We have long been working on a website update, and are pleased to have it available for the nonprofit/voluntary sectors. Our ability to link with Imagine Canada and Volunteer Calgary’s library collections makes us an excellent hub for information relevant to the nonprofit/voluntary sector.”

How to replace those long canned query URLs with short, memorable ones

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, March 14, 2011 10:45 AM

Andornot has long recommend using canned queries into your databases as a means of surfacing information for users. On a web-accessible database, a canned query takes the form of a URL with some search terms in it that retrieve records from the database with a single click. Common uses are to retrieve:

  • new items added to a database, such as the latest books catalogued in a library, or latest legal memos in a law firm database;
  • items on a particular subject in a library catalogue, or a finding aid for a particular archival fonds;
  • a list of all journals, maps, DVDs, etc. in a library catalogue.

By constructing the search for the user, we can guide them towards new, interesting or relevant resources in a collection, and help new users in particular to quickly and easily see what the database contains. From there, users can begin their own searching, knowing what sort of information and keywords to use.

Andornot provides a web-based Search Cannery Wizard to help you construct URLs that will search your database. By filling in fields on this form, you can create a URL such as the following, which searches the sample library catalogue database included in our Andornot Starter Kit for all the journals:

http://ask.andornot.com/results.aspx?BU=/&TN=starter&QY=find%20%28MaterialType%20%3DJournal%29&RF=WebBrief&DF=WebFull&MR=10&NP=255&RL=0&DL=0&XC=&ID=&AC=QBE_QUERY

This is a very useful URL to be able to give a user. This one in particular can be given to new staff to ask which titles they’d like routed to them. There are just a couple potential problems with the URL:

1. It’s long and in some email clients, the text will wrap to a second line and the link will be broken.

2. The URL isn’t easily read to decipher what it might lead to (unlike, say, www.andornot.com, which can be predicted to lead to our website).

URL Rewriting

A great solution to these two issues is to use a technique known as URL rewriting to replace the lengthy URL with a shorter, friendlier one, such as http://ask.andornot.com/permalink/journals

This short URL is easily read and can be predicted to lead to a list of journals in the starter kit sample database.

A short URL like this can be emailed to colleagues or published on an intranet. When the web server receives a request for this “page” in the website, it translates it into the longer URL that performs the canned query. This all happens behind the scenes, so while the user immediately sees the list of journals, only the friendly URL remains in their browser address bar.

The permalink portion of the URL is a common term used to indicate that the URL will be around for a while and the user can reliably bookmark it. Though it’s not strictly necessary, it helps to differentiate these types of URLs from ones that correspond to folders in the website.

URL rewriting is also a great technique for linking to specific records in a database. For example, this short URL http://ask.andornot.com/permalink/67/Architectural Record leads to the catalogue record for the Architectural Record journal. The link can be generated using the unique ID or number that every record in a database should have, and a rewrite rule that translates it into a search.

Real-World Examples

The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has a series of short, friendly URLs set up to retrieve the latest works from their catalogue in different legal practice areas. The URLs also correspond to the RSS feeds set up in the same way. Both provide a means for lawyers to stay abreast of new items of interest to them, whether by bookmarking a short URL, or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

Here are a few examples:

http://lss.andornot.com/opac/permalink/commercial-law

http://lss.andornot.com/opac/permalink/environmental-law

http://lss.andornot.com/opac/permalink/family-law

More are listed on this page, along with the RSS feeds (which are described in detail in this blog post).

The Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI) runs most of their website content from an Inmagic database (we blogged about this here). We recently replaced lengthy canned query URLs with short, friendly ones, such as:

http://www.prcvi.org/NewsEvents

http://www.prcvi.org/LearningCentre

http://www.prcvi.org/SpecialInterest

These URLs are easily emailed to the students and teachers that PRCVI serves, yet always retrieve the latest information from their database.

Detailed instructions for setting up URL rewriting is provided below for DIY types who like to roll up their sleeves and get hands-on with their server. If you’d like our assistance, please contact us – we’d be happy to help you take advantage of this simple technique to improve service to your users.

 

URL Rewriting – How To Do It

diyCaution: technical jargon ahead!

URL rewriting can be set up in IIS, the Microsoft web server, quite easily. In IIS 7, for example, you would download and install the URL Rewriting module from Microsoft, if it’s not already installed, then set up rewrite rules such as this one:

<rewrite>

<rules>

<rule name="Journals">

<match url="^permalink/journals" />

<conditions logicalGrouping="MatchAll" />

<action type="Rewrite" url="/results.aspx?AC=qbe_query&amp;TN=starter&amp;RF=WebBrief&amp;DF=WebFull&amp;DL=0&amp;RL=0&amp;NP=255&amp;MR=10&amp;QY=find+MaterialType+=Journal" />

</rule>

</rules>

</rewrite>

As you can see, this rule takes an incoming URL that matches this

^permalink/journals

and translates it to this

/results.aspx?AC=qbe_query&amp;TN=starter&amp;RF=WebBrief&amp;DF=WebFull&amp;DL=0&amp;RL=0&amp;NP=255&amp;MR=10&amp;QY=find+MaterialType+=Journal

which is a canned query into a sample database that finds all records which are journals.

Note that you could still use the Andornot Search Cannery Wizard to construct this URL.

Here’s one that can take a URL that includes a unique record ID and a title, such as http://ask.andornot.com/permalink/67/Architectural Record and translate it into a search for a specific record in the database, using a regular expression (RegEx), to parse the ID and title from the URL .

<rule name="Permalink">

<match url="^permalink/([0-9]+)/(.*)" />

<conditions logicalGrouping="MatchAll" trackAllCaptures="false" />

<action type="Rewrite" url="/results.aspx?AC=qbe_query&amp;TN=starter&amp;RF=WebFullPURL&amp;DF=WebFullPURL&amp;DL=0&amp;RL=0&amp;NP=255&amp;MR=10&amp;QY=find+RecordId+%3d{R:1}" />

</rule>

In the above, the title is discarded and the unique record ID is used as a parameter in a search.

Rewrite rules can be added through the IIS management console GUI, or simply by editing your web application’s web.config.

You can learn more about the IIS 7 URL Rewrite module and download it here.

In IIS 6, we recommend using the open-source URL rewriting module available from http://www.urlrewriting.net. Instructions are provided for installing and configuring the module and making appropriate entries in your web application’s web.config file. Once installed, rules similar to those shown above for IIS 7 may be used. For example, this rule can be used to link to a specific record in a database.

<urlrewritingnet defaultPage = "default.aspx" xmlns="http://www.urlrewriting.net/schemas/config/2006/07" >

<rewrites>

<add name="Permalink" virtualUrl="^~/permalink/([0-9]+)/?default.aspx"

rewriteUrlParameter="ExcludeFromClientQueryString"

destinationUrl="~/results.aspx?AC=qbe_query&amp;TN=starter&amp;RF=WebFull&amp;DF=WebFull&amp;MF=GENERICWPEngMsg.ini&amp;NP=255&amp;RL=0&amp;DL=0&amp;CS=0&amp;QY=find%20RecordID%20%3d$1"

ignoreCase="true" />

</rewrites>

</urlrewritingnet>

Other Rewrite Rules

In addition to rewrite rules to link to a specific record and to replace long canned query URLs, we recommend that you set up two more additional rules, to add or remove trailing slashes, and to convert all URLs to lower case.

To a human and a web server, http://ask.andornot.com/permalink/67/ArchitecturalRecord and http://ask.andornot.com/permalink/67/ArchitecturalRecord/ are similar, but to a search engine, they are quite different. It's a good idea to set up a rule to consistently add or remove the trailing slash, to improve search engine ranking.

The same applies to mixed upper and lower case in URLs – it’s a good idea to enforce all lower case so that the page appears as one to a search engine. Examples of these rules may be found here: http://blogs.iis.net/ruslany/archive/2009/04/08/10-url-rewriting-tips-and-tricks.aspx

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