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Library catalogues are boring.  Face it, their dullness is only mitigated by the thrill received when your catalogue search results have either a link to the full text or a website or to an image or something other than just the basic bibliographic details.  Ok, some folks use the library catalogue to find books - on the shelf and in their library - but if you are not familiar with that book, how do you know if it is worth your while seeking out? 

See the cover and preview the book.  Now there is a way to liven up and to add value to your catalogue, with both a book cover image and a preview of the text, if they are available.  Just by having the book's ISBN in the catalogue database, a link can be made to Google Books.  With this link you can have an image of the book's cover in full and beautiful colour displayed next to the bibliographic information.  You can also have a link to the Google Book Preview, if it is available.  Andornot has long since advocated enhancing the library catalogue and added the Google Books covers and previews to its own Starter Kit.  We then suggested that Inmagic WebPublisher PRO hosted clients do the same. 

Several clients took up the offer and now there are many examples to show you.  Elizabeth Lamont from the Royal Victoria Hospital Library, who oversees the coordination of the McGill University Health Centre Libraries catalogue (try the New Books link), loved this feature:  "Nice visuals for our users. We particularly like the added information on book contents. All without any extra work on our part!"  Both Lance Nordstom and Marci Gibson from WorkSafeBC appreciated the addition to their library catalogue of "a bit of colour to the results pages".  When it was suggested to Leah Harms, the librarian at the Resource Library for the Environment and the Law, that she add this feature to her library catalogue, she said of the Google Books Preview example shown to her that she "had no idea how great that book was until I read the preview."  And after we added them Leah commented: "I really am very pleased with the vibrancy of the covers and the usefulness of having the preview links. They function to better pique curiosity much like abstracts do for journal articles."

You can also see this feature on a few other catalogue databases:  Northern Health, Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, and the Resource Centre for Voluntary Organizations.  For best results, may we suggest that you search for books published since 2000.

Contact us to help you add Google Book covers and previews to your online catalogue. 

We've been doing renovations - raising the roof, adding re-bar to the foundations and while we are at it, we added a sundeck. What has this got to do with databases you ask? Well - at least in a metaphorical way - we think it does. One of Andornot's strengths is our ability to integrate a database into a website. To continue to do that - which by the way, we think is essential - we had to change a few areas of our base add-on product called ASK.

A bit of history

ASK - short for Andornot Starter Kit - started off as a desktop add-on for Inmagic DB/TextWorks, with a nice looking search page, a few well designed search results reports, a full display form and a fully functional data entry form for a typical catalogue database. This was mostly to help us quickly get a client's database up and running quickly and beautifully. I mean why keep re-inventing the wheel? We added a menu screen and navigational script buttons to each query screen and form to ease repetitive tasks. We eventually added a web search screen and a few web forms to work with Inmagic WebPublisher Pro. In due course we thought that we should have all of this on our website so we could showcase many of the bells and whistles that we have developed over the years. We set-up using the "include" file method that was added as of Inmagic WebPublisher version 8 with lots to show off.

And so it grows

We used the site as a vehicle for our search and results scripts (including several versions over time - adding revise search, URL Tamer, and AutoBoolean), our Email, Save and Print add-on, our Ordering cart add-on and canned searches. We used this product as a basis for many a fine looking site. But then we became restless - we wanted to add more, we wanted to change the undercarriage. We wanted to make it even better!

The renovations

The "include" files were frustrating our staff. While they were a good and simple solution, we wanted to have something more robust; something easier to maintain. As it turned out we had that in another format. We converted the includes to ASP.NET Master Pages and used our webpub results control, which our late great developer Nathan Mayr was instrumental in creating and which we previously only implemented for our high-end clients. It was time to share it with everyone.

The extras

So once we got the groundwork redone, we added the extras. Based on user requests, we had wanted to add book covers for a while, but what with copyright issues always at the door, we hesitated, but then Google Books with cover images rose to the fore. Imagine every book in your catalogue having a nice book cover image in the record and a link to preview the book all through a bit of code around the ISBN number. Note that if there is no matching ISBN at Google Books, nothing shows. The amount of information available at Google Books varies widely - see the title Knowledge and Strategy for a book that has a detailed Preview with table of contents and selected pages. A great way of letting your users evaluate a title better! Check out the canned search Example of Book Covers from Google... we have added the sundeck to the site.

The future

Who knows what more we can add to this already pretty groovy set of features and functions. Tell us what you would like. You are our lifeblood: we listen to our clients. Go to and be part of the next reno - we are thinking about a turret or a wine cellar or a bay-window.

A couple of weeks ago Google released a Book Viewability API for Google Book Search. I'm always looking for ways to enhance the usefulness of library catalogs so of course I had to give it a try! Google offers 3 ways to set this up. I looked at Sample 1: Using a Callback to Determine Viewability and figured that would be pretty easy to implement using raw HTML in the Inmagic DB/TextWorks form designer and wrapping the ISBN with the supplied code. First I pasted the script code from the Google site into the Head tag under Form Properties. I wrapped the ISBN field with beginning and ending text as instructed. Then I added a box to initiate the search by adding the ISBN again and wrapping it again with different beginning and ending text to send the request to the Google Books search server. I was delighted that in 10 minutes I had created a form that checked Google Book Search as the page loaded and if a match was found, it displayed the link to Preview in Google Book Search. Unfortunately after announcing my success to my colleagues I was disappointed to find that this does not work in IE6 and is unreliable in IE7 and Firefox. As Peter puts it: "IE6 is having trouble parsing things synchronously. The API returns a JSON (Javascript Object Notation) object which calls the function ProcessGBSBookInfo() when it is written into the page. The browser is supposed to wait until the external script resource is loaded before parsing said contents and moving on past the closing script tag. IE6 is not doing this consistently. Notice sometimes you can refresh the page and the preview link will appear. Such is life with older browsers and synchronous javascript-driven page updates. Although the sample you chose to implement seems the most straightforward, you can see now why there are reasons for going with more complicated options: AJAX options would be asynchronous and would avoid this type of issue, for instance, but at the cost of more up-front scripting." You can check out my test page. Click on the link for Google Book Search which is a canned search of records in this test database with ISBN's - hopefully you will see some links to Preview in Google from the full displays. These can include the cover image, table of contents and chapter excerpts and would be very useful for users evaluating a title. Anyone wanting more background might want to listen to the Library 2.0 Gang podcast. I guess we'll have to wait till we have time to test the AJAX methodology before we suggest clients implement this. In the meantime if anyone would like us to push this higher on our development schedule, please let us know!


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