Thursday, May 22, 2008

Drupal Millennium Module 1.3 released

The Millennium module for Drupal is now at version 1.3. It fixes a number of bugs (mainly with MARC import) and has some new features:
  • added option to show Google Books links (thanks Tim Spalding!)
  • now shows a direct link to "Place hold" for current item. It only shows if this is really possible, by contacting Millennium when the node is generated.
  • provides a block which shows actions (comment, hold, favorites, etc) which normally show under the item. (This should probably go into another module, though, as it is not really Millennium-related!)
The Google Books links show like this. It only shows if the current item has a "Full view" or "Preview" available at Google Books.
The other nice feature is a more cosmetic one; I made a block to join all the actions that can be made on an item on a Drupal block, so you can more fully place and style it:
Now, the only link that's actually generated by the Millennium module is the "Place hold or request delivery" link; the others come from other modules (Add This Button, Views Bookmark, and the core Comment module).

Thanks to everyone contributing! See the project page for more info, or you can go see our live demo.

What to show when you have no book cover images?

Whipping up a new (test) face for our OPAC brings many things to the table: researching wanted functionality, usability in interface design, and of course--looking great. ("Look" impacts users' perception of site credibility and ease of use, here)

So, of course, trying to put cover images was a must. For our current OPAC, which we share amongst 30+ libraries, has lot of book covers, thanks to cover digitizing being done in several libraries. But, we don't have cover images for all books. Those books either didn't get the process done, or didn't have book jackets--just a plain-color hardcover.

So, our super-duper social-powered wall of books ends up looking like this:

...which is not super at all.

So, fishing around I found my answer: make book covers on the fly. Library Thing and Google Books are doing this, with different methods (it seems!)

Google Books' looks like this: [link]
and Library Thing's like this: [link]
So, how are these made?
  • a background image with a blank cover. I'm thinking it would be cool if, say, a book from 1950 had a worn-out cover, a classic novel with a stylized cover, etc.
  • overlaid text (html) with the title and author.
So my strategies will be:
  1. keep digitizing or getting book covers from our vendors
  2. add some code to provide blank-book images when we don't have a local image, and count views of books with no local image (so you can prioritize the first strategy).
The dirty tech aspects will be the subject of a future post =)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Firefox 3 RC 1 released

It's been out for a few days, but I wanted to try it out first.

I'm happy! It's solid, lightning fast, and worked with some extensions I really need like Firebug and Live HTTP Headers.

Go ahead and Get It Now!

Firebug for Firefox 3.0b+

Firefox 3 being so fast, it's painful to have to go back to Firefox 2 just for the great extensions like FireBug. However, I found out that the beta 1.1 of Firebug works great!
  1. Run Firefox 3
  2. Go to:
  3. Click the link under Firebug 1.1 Betas
  4. Confirm the XPI install in Firefox.
  5. Restart!
  6. Ta da!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

2nd generation OLPC laptop an ebook

Nicholas Negroponte unveiled plans for the second generation of its OLPC (One laptop Per Child) project, which is now more an e-book than a laptop:
The book-like design of the device “comes from something we’ve learned over the past couple of years—that the book experience is key,” Negroponte said during his presentation this morning. “Some people have asked me why not just give kids cell phones? And in fact there will be 1.2 billion cell phones manufactured this year, and cell phones are of huge consequence in the developing world—but the cell phone is not a learning device. The next generation laptop should be a book.”
Via XConomy (read more)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Creating a Multilingual OPAC

Do you have students that speak different languages (say spanish, german, english) visiting your Library? Do you offer an OPAC in different language? Do you do keep subject headings in different languages in your MARC records?

As we are trying to build a new OPAC based on Drupal, and our users are coming more and more from other countries, what should we do?

It turns out that as Drupal has some great functionality for multilingual content, as well as doing some of that for categories. You can set up "automatic" translation for certain phrases (you tell Drupal to, say, always translate the english phrase "Chemical Engineering" for the spanish equivalent "IngenierĂ­a QuĂ­mica"), and it just goes and translates wherever there´s a complete phrase (and case-sensitive) match. This is one way to do it for categories.

Just porting MARC into Drupal nodes has a whole set of pros and cons; now, doing something like automatic (well, semi-automatic) translation MUST have some pros and cons... guess I'm about to find out =)

I'll keep you posted.

Translating your home page in Drupal

Agaric Design, you made my day:

This works using the i18n module.