Snazzy up your DB/TextWorks databases!

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, July 04, 2018 10:58 AM

DB/TextWorks has been around since the late 1990’s and we sometimes come across clients with databases that were developed almost that long ago!  Two recent projects we are working on involve rationalizing older databases to modern standards.   It’s amazing how old, ugly, inefficient interfaces can be spruced up through the use of one of our kits for libraries, archives and museums.  We use these as a starting point, and after updating field names to be as descriptive as possible, we import our query screens, report and edit forms and adjust these to show the clients fields.  If you have report designs you like, you can do this too!  Under Maintain > Manage Textbase Elements you can import and export forms from one database to another.  We like to color code our databases and it’s possible to open the exported forms in Notepad or other text editor and carefully edit to replace background colors. Archives_Accessions

Inevitably requirements change over the years, so we help clients review how fields are being used, and suggest adding or deleting fields to better handle their needs.  We also make sure to add automatic number and date fields, appropriate validation and substitution lists and work with clients to clean up their data by batch modifying or updating values through the validation lists. After so many years working with DB/TextWorks we have a lot of tricks up our sleeves, and often export data, adjust it in other software and re-import to split or combine fields.

If you need assistance with your databases, please check out some of our past blog posts that provide various suggestions for improvements.  Note that some of these reference older versions of DB/TextWorks so the location of functions may not be identical.

Spring Cleanup series:

Give your databases a new lease on life and contact us for a quote to help you love them again!

New ThinkWood Research Library Launches

by Jonathan Jacobsen Sunday, July 01, 2018 8:42 AM

The ThinkWood Research Library is a central resource for research on designing and building with wood. An enhanced search engine for this collection has just been launched at https://research.thinkwood.com

The library links to research publications from around the world about structural systems composed of mass timber, heavy timber, and light-frame construction (for buildings five stories and up). Research topics include design and systems, connections, mechanical properties, acoustics and vibration, energy performance, fire, seismic, moisture, wind, serviceability, environmental impact, cost and market adoption.

The library is managed by Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd, a provincial crown corporation, who approached Andornot for assistance with improving management and searching of this library.

Andornot recommended and then implemented a system using Inmagic DB/TextWorks as the back-end database and our Andornot Discovery Interface as the public search system. Data was converted and de-duplicated from two sources: MS Access and a WordPress site.

The result works well for both FII staff who catalog new resources and architects and engineers who have an easier means to search for them.

In the back-end DB/TextWorks database, a few features have proven to be particularly useful in this project, including:

  • Validation lists to ensure consistent application of names, keywords, topics, product types, etc.;
  • dead URL Link Checking to find and edit links to resources that move; and
  • batch modification to clean up older data.

While in AnDI, features such as spelling corrections, relevancy-ranked results, and facets to help narrow a search all combine to make for a simple and enjoyable search process. In particular for this project, made use of AnDI's synonyms feature to equate terms with their acronyms and variations, such as:

  • GLT, glulam, glued laminated timber, glue laminated timber
  • CLT, cross laminated timber, xlam, x-lam, cross-lam 

Whenever any term in a comma-separated set of terms is searched, all the others in the set are also searched for, resulting in broader discovery of resources, especially where different terms have been used.

To improve the visual appeal of the site, we took a small screenshot of each resource (PDFs and web pages) and included it as a thumbnail in the search results.

Andornot was delighted at the positive feedback we received, such as:

"Thank you very much for all the hard work and for all of your expertise. The whole team is very happy with the aesthetics and functionalities of the database and website.

-- Antje Wahl, Manager, Industry Innovation, Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd.

"This is very exciting! Overall, this was one of FII's smoothest web refits/redesigns! Well done to all that were involved :-)

  -- Lindsay Bridgman, Manager, IT, Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd.

Contact us to discuss projects to better manage your resources and library collections.

Arctic Health Upgrades Search Engine for Easier Access by Researchers

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, June 11, 2018 7:46 AM

Arctic Health, intended for students, researchers, and anyone with an interest in health aspects of the Arctic, is a central source for information on diverse aspects of the Arctic environment and the health of northern peoples. The Arctic Health website provides access to a database of over 280,000 evaluated publications and resources on these topics. To improve access to this collection, a new search engine has just been launched at https://arctichealth.org

Search results in Arctic Health include published and unpublished articles, reports, data, and links to organizations pertinent to Arctic health, as well as out-of-print publications and information from special collections at the University of Alaska. Resources come from hundreds of local, state, national, and international agencies, as well as from professional societies, tribal groups, and universities.

Arctic Health is managed by the Alaska Medical Library at the University of Alaska Anchorage, by Prof. Kathy Murray and a team of staff. Andornot has worked with this group since 2005 and designed several previous search interfaces using Inmagic WebPublisher PRO and dtSearch.

Prof. Murray approached Andornot last year with several updates in mind, such as to ensure the search results are accessible on mobile devices, not just desktops. Rather than simply adjust the existing site, this precipitated a complete review of the current system, including data entry workflow and the actual content to be included, as well as discussions on a more modern search engine.  

As we do with many projects, Andornot began this challenge by separating out the user groups and functions. Library staff need a system to manage and upload records, with features for adding, editing, converting and validating data. Researchers and health care practitioners, on the other hand, need an easy to use, robust system for searching the vast archive of resources. With such a large number of records, a sophisticated search engine is needed to float the most relevant results to the top of any search.

For the back-end, Andornot developed a web application that uses Inmagic DB/TextWorks for data storage, and Inmagic WebPublisher PRO as a middle layer. We were able to update and re-use an XSLT we'd previously developed that UAA uses to import records in XML format from PubMed. This hybrid approach of using existing commercial software and a custom-developed web application provided the features needed by library staff at a more economical cost than a completely custom written system. 

For the public search interface, we used our Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). AnDI is a modern search engine based on the popular Apache Solr system, with features such as:

  • Excellent keyword search engine and relevancy-ranked search results.
  • Automatic spelling corrections and “did you mean?” search suggestions.
  • Full text indexing of linked documents.
  • Facets, such as subjects, authors, places, dates, and material types, to allow users to quickly and simply refine their search.
  • A selection list allows users to mark items of interest as they search, then view, print or email the list.

AnDI helps users quickly find relevant materials from the large collection at Arctic Health and is a significant improvement over the previous search options.

Both systems in this solution are hosted by Andornot as part of our Managed Hosting Service.

Check out the new iteration of the Arctic Health resource database at https://arctichealth.org, and contact Andornot for help with your project.

Converting DB/TextWorks Data to MARC: Not as Easy as it Sounds!

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, April 25, 2018 4:55 PM

We recently had a client ask us if we could help them convert their DB/TextWorks library catalogue database to MARC format, for submission to another search system.

Our initial reaction was "Sure, easy-peasy." After all, we're librarians, we know MARC well, we're experts in DB/TextWorks, and we've done this before. How hard could it be?

Ha! Famous last words, and all that.

To be fair, there are a few wrinkles:

  1. The conversion is not a one-time affair, but rather something the client would like automated and running on a regular basis.
  2. Not all records in the database are to be converted.
  3. MARC is not the simplest of formats. Whether MARC or MARCXML, there are a fairly rigid set of rules that must be followed to create 100% valid, standards-compliant MARC records.

Nonetheless, since MARC has been around rather a long time, there are a plethora of tools available for creating MARC records from other data sources. There's Inmagic's own MARC Transformer, which works directly with DB/TextWorks databases, as well as various free or open source tools from the U.S. Library of Congress and other agencies, MARCEdit, Balboa Software's Data Magician, and others.

We also have our Andornot Data Extraction Utility for automatically exporting data from a DB/TextWorks database and manipulating it into a variety of formats.

Ever optimistic, we figured some combination of these tools could be strung together in sequence without too much effort to create a solution for this client. We wanted to avoid developing a DB/TextWorks-to-MARC conversion program from scratch as it would be quite time consuming, mostly due to the MARC format requirements themselves.

Several tools, upon closer investigation, proved to be too ancient to run reliably on a modern Windows server, or couldn't work with the current version of DB/TextWorks. Others proved almost impossible to use in an automated fashion. They could be useful in a one-time manual conversion to MARC format, but not in the hands-off, automated workflow we needed.

The exploration of this issue was an interesting exercise in seeing how old data formats and old programs age and become harder to work with.

The recipe that baked the cake in the end was:

  1. Use the Andornot Data Extraction Utility and the Inmagic ODBC driver to extract data from the DB/TextWorks database to a pseudo-MARC plain text format. 
  2. Use a custom-developed PowerShell script to manipulate the records in this file to handle some of the quirks of the ODBC output and to more closely adhere to the MARC format.
  3. Use the command line interface to MARCEdit to convert the pseudo-MARC to MARC Communications Format files.
  4. Upload the MARC files over FTP to the destination server.
  5. Manage all the moving parts through a PowerShell script and log the steps and results to a file for easy troubleshooting in case of problems.
  6. Run the script nightly as a scheduled task on a Windows server.

When written like that, in hindsight, it sounds so simple. And in the end, it was, and works well. But the journey to arrive at this solution was one of the more challenging small projects we've undertaken, considering how simple the task sounds at first.

We hope this will help you if you have a similar project, but don't hesitate to ask us for help, now that we've worked through this.

DB/TextWorks Still A Popular Choice for Teaching in Schools

by Jonathan Jacobsen Saturday, October 28, 2017 7:44 AM

Inmagic DB/TextWorks continues to be a popular software application taught in schools. For example, the Library Technician programs at Langara College and the University of the Fraser Valley in B.C, as well as at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, each include it in some of their cases.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to students in the Library Technologies and Information Management class at Langara College. These budding library techs will learn to create a database for a class project using DB/TextWorks, hopefully with a bit of inspiration from the ideas I was able to share with them.

The image above shows screens from the Andornot Starter Kit, a ready-to-use DB/TextWorks database suitable for a small library.

Not all software has such longevity as DB/TextWorks, but I think this popular app endures because it remains unique in the market. For clients of ours with a modest budget who need to manage diverse kinds of information and don't have programming skills, it remains an excellent choice, once we heavily recommend to many clients.

We see it used in law firms to create and manage databases of experts, memos, precedents, boilerplate documents, corporate archives, and of course a traditional library catalogue. In hospitals, it's used to manage patient education materials, and libraries with a strong circulation component. Elsewhere, we see it used to manage museum artifact collections, archival documents, databases of digitized historic documents and audio-visual recordings. In municipalities, it manages bylaws, real estate development applications, council documents… the list is endless. 

There are many highly-specific database applications available, tailored to the needs of particular organizations (e.g. Inmagic Genie for specialized libraries, Lucidea's Argus for museums, etc.), but few tools that are as easy to use as DB/TextWorks that can be applied to managing any kind of information. Anyone can learn to create a database and snazzy search and edit screens and have a functional, aesthetically pleasing database in a very short time, with little technical aptitude needed. Managing this information is easy with the many built-in, pre-programmed features, such as validation lists, batch modifications, the URL checker, and so on.

Two other long-standing database programs are of course MS Access, included with almost every copy of the MS Office suite, and Apple's FileMaker. The former is practically free and so ubiquitous that many people use it out of necessity, while the latter is quite visually appealing and with many useful features. However, in our experience, both require a higher level of technical skills to really make useful. DB/TextWorks simply has more of the programming already done.

It's reasons like this that cause it to still be an excellent choice in many cases, when budgets and user skills are modest, and thus is well-worthwhile learning to use in a library technician or similar programm. Paired with a search interface like our Andornot Discovery Interface, VuFind, Omeka, or Inmagic Presto, it becomes a perfect back-end to a highly functional front-end, a great combination for managing and searching information.

Contact us to learn more about any of the above, or if you're a school or student and would like a trial version of DB/TextWorks to use.

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