Wednesday, April 19, 2006

LibX: (Yet Another) Browser Toolbar Redux

LibX is a Firefox browser extension developed by Virginia Tech's Newman Library that provides direct access to a library's catalog using a toolbar and context menu. The catalog can be searched by entering terms or select and drag-and-drop without having to navigate to the library catalog page.

The system currently supports III Millenium, Dynix Horizon, Ex Libris Aleph and the Endeavor Voyager. It is currently being deployed at Rochester Institute of Technology and Washington and Lee University. Version 1.0.2 of the system supports Firefox 1.5.0.1

According to the developers the creation of a new edition of LibX is relatively simple if the OPAC being accessed is already supported. The customization involves branding, changing the name of the catalog, the OpenURL resolver, and off-campus proxy. Currently, only EZ Proxy is supported.

While they are planning a web-based interface for creating new editions, to get a new version a library has to either:
  • Create a configuration file ("config") and provide two logos and send them to the developers. Library's also provide two logos, small and large: the small one must display well at 16x16, the large one is for the about box.

  • Those wishing to create an edition locally requires knowledge of CVS and you must work in a Unix-like environment, such as cygwin on Windows, Linux, or Mac OSX.

LibX is distributed under an open-source license and is only available for Firefox.

While I have not yet had a chance to use or customize a LibX toolbar
(I have my programmer looking at it and will post what he comes up with), such discovery tools are growing in popularity. The reason is simple, they fit better into the workflow and information seeking behaviors of the LiveWeb user. (UPDATE: Thanks to the developer we now have an Ohio State / III edition available!)

The challenge is that there are so many toolbars available there are usability issues. What there is a need for is a toolbar plugin system in which pieces of other toolbars can be used to create a single toolbar. This way a library could plug in the LibX functionality into their unique toolbar. Sphere: Related Content

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this accurate summary of LibX.

I would like to mention two other groups of features that distinguish LibX from other toolbars, making it far more than "yet another browser toolbar."

First, LibX supports cues in pages that provide a means for librarians to customize pages a user visits. This is similar to what greasemonkey scripts do. LibX places links to the catalog on pages such as google.com, yahoo.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, the NY Times book review and others. Having this feature in place allowed for adding support for COinS, for instance, in a few lines of code.

Second, LibX provides a way to access your OpenURL resolver through Google Scholar. This makes retrieving articles usually a one-click affair. A tremendous productivity enhancer for researchers.

The challenge is that there are so many toolbars available there are usability issues. What there is a need for is a toolbar plugin system in which pieces of other toolbars can be used to create a single toolbar. This way a library could plug in the LibX functionality into their unique toolbar.

They can do that. The source is available. It's not plug-and-play, because our intention is the opposite, that libraries plug into LibX to create their own unique toolbars. We are finding that most toolbars are much less sophisticated than LibX's, either lacking support for multiple fields, or only supporting one catalog, or only a single catalog type, or lacking context menus, or lacking context menu adaptation.

Compared to the toolbar to which you link, LibX also follows a slightly different philosophy: we assume that users, in particular savvy Firefox users, will use other toolbars (and possibly greasemonkey script) in parallel with LibX. As such, we intentionally restrict LibX's functionality to library access and let the user install other toolbars should they need history or cache cleaning or email access.

- Godmar Back libx.org@gmail.com

Godmar Back said...

I should also mention that we support WAM for off-campus access.

Following the web4lib post, we expect that the number of official editions will increase to at least 10-12.

- Godmar