Streamlining Access to Library Resources with LibX

Streamlining Access to Library Resources with LibX

Annette Bailey (Virginia Tech, USA) and Godmar Back (Virginia Tech, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3938-6.ch004
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LibX is a platform that allows libraries to create customized web browser extensions that simplify direct access to library resources and services. LibX provides multiple user interfaces, including popups, context menus, and contextualized cues to direct the user’s attention to these resources. LibX is supported by two toolbuilder applications - the Edition Builder and the LibApp Builder – which allow anyone to create, manage, and share LibX configurations and applications. These tools automate the process of software creation and distribution, allowing librarians to become software distributors. This chapter provides background and history of the LibX project, as well as in-depth analysis of the design and use of the LibX Edition Builder that has helped enable its success.
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In 2005, OCLC (OCLC, 2005) conducted a study on Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, which included a companion report on college students’ perception in particular. This report found that search engines, rather than physical or online libraries, were most students’ first choice when seeking a source or place for information. 72% of college students and 80% of overall respondents preferred search engines, compared to 24% and 17% who preferred physical or online libraries. These respondents valued search engines for their reliability, cost-effectiveness, ease of use, convenience, and speed. On the other hand, libraries outranked search engines in the survey participants’ perception of trustworthiness and accuracy by a similarly wide margin. The conclusions we drew from the survey, as well as from our own and others (Fast & Campbell, 2004) concurrent observations, were twofold. First, we concluded that library search interfaces needed to be improved to compete better with search engines. Most existing interfaces were simple databases that indexed only metadata and required users to use arcane search syntaxes. Since then, this deficiency has been recognized by library system vendors and publishers of abstracting and indexing databases, resulting in the proliferation of discovery systems such as ProQuest’s Summon service. These systems adopt the innovations and the resulting user experience introduced by search engines, while providing access to full text indices of many licensed academic resources.

Second, we realized that like search engines, which are often directly accessible through a browser’s user interface (also called the browser’s “chrome”), library interfaces should be accessible in a similarly direct and easy-to-use way, integrated with the user’s “webflow.” Moreover, by integrating access to library resources into the browser, we expected to be able to provide integrated services than went beyond mere user-initiated searching.

Others had similar realizations. In 2005, Jon Udell started his Library Lookup Project, which provides a way to generate bookmarklets for searches in popular library OPAC implementations. Bookmarklets are canned snippets of JavaScript code that can be stored in a browser’s bookmark file. Selecting the bookmark activates the code, which then performs a search in a given library’s OPAC.

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