inside the man

Monday, November 07, 2005

Monkeying with your OPAC

First off, I hate the term "OPAC", but I had to make sure that I got the attention of all of the librarians out there. For non-librarians, OPAC stands for "online public access catalogue", which is a ridiculously antiquated way of referring to a library's search interface. These days, this is usually a web-based search interface of an integrated library system or "ILS". Your local public library probably has one, your local university and college libraries probably have one, and your local school library probably does not (most school libraries do not make this a priority).

Anyway, much has been said lately of the short comings of most library search interfaces. My favorite critiques come from Mr. Lorcan Dempsey and of course Ross Singer's classic post Polishing the turd: the dangers of redesigning the OPAC. Now, virtually every library uses COTS for their ILS as there is really no other option (go!). Now there is a way to theoretically transcend the limitations of your ILS web interface without being limited by the API or web templating language, or without tampering under the hood in a way that might violate your licensing or support agreements. The Ajaxian blog brings to our attention monkeygrease!

Monkeygrease is for the server-side what greasemonkey is for the client side (at least with firefox). Basically, it uses the filtering function of current Java Servlet engines to rewrite HTML en route to the browser. This could be a significant tool in modernizing your web search without having to wait for your ILS vendor to do it. The possibilities really are endless - from including information from outside your ILS in search results to a fully Ajax enabled search, and everything in between.

Let me know if you plan to try this out.


Ross said...

We are planning on trying this out here at Georgia Tech. The intial plan is to see how it works on DSpace, then, later, see how it works with Voyager.

...Fingers crossed...

thrashor said...

Ross - be sure to blog about it!

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Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Returned to working as a Management Consultant, specializing in risk, security, and regulatory compliance, with Fujitsu Canada after running the IT shop in the largest library in the South Pacific.

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