Tuesday, March 24, 2009

thinking more about OneBoxing WorldCat Local

I just checked with our implementation guy at OCLC about including some code in the header of our WorldCat Local instance that would allow us to add customized widgets into WorldCat Local search result screens. Sounds like it's a no go for now. WorldCat Local has a refreshingly simple branding customization options compared to what we're used to with Innovative's OPAC. But that simplicity will keep us from inserting some magic Javascript to achieve the OneBox effect.

I'm not sure if I was clear enough about what I'm interested in. Another way of looking at this is analagous to Google Ads. Google has established that placing context sensitive ads alongside search engine results is an effective way to drive traffic to advertiser websites.

If WorldCat Local becomes our library's search engine, shouldn't our library be able to put context sensitive "ads" next to results? These "ads" (or OneBoxes) would appear based on the search term and offer things like:
  • links to library created research guides that seem relevant to search at hand
  • links to course reserves if a prof's name is searched
  • results from a site search of our library's site
  • image results from ARTstor (ala Google images)
  • results (if any) from the library's digital collections
To offer something like this, OCLC wouldn't need to do anything unprecedented. Lots of web applications (including this one I'm using right now, Blogger) allow you to embed bits of HTML. Javascript widgets inside OPACs have been around for awhile too, a prime example being LibraryThing for Libraries. If OCLC put the search results data into some nicely formated JSON and allowed Javascript to be inserted in various places, it wouldn't be hard for libraries or third parties to build these little things.

The WorldCat API is nice and all, but who (besides Terry Reese) wants to build an entire interface from scratch using it?

Click on the image above for an illustration of the WorldCat Local OneBox concept.


Jeremy McWilliams said...

Thanks for posting this, Mark. Having this ability to 'brand' a library catalog is really important, and it extends beyond custom style sheets, etc. OCLC would benefit too, as it could see how developers could extend WorldCat for various local uses. Perhaps such 'plugins' could save them some development time as well. Help us help you, OCLC!

Brice Stacey said...

I'm not sure if this violates any service agreements, but you don't have to wait on OCLC. Heres the idea:

Proxy WCL through EZProxy and use the Find/Replace directives within the database definition for WCL to inject javascript within the page. Voila! Fully customizable WCL.

The only restriction is that you would be required to always proxy WCL sessions, which may be difficult as nothings stops a user from simply visiting the WCL page directly.

EZProxy docs on Find/Replace:

Mark Dahl said...


That's definitely brute force approach! We've done some experiments with this in the past and been a little frustrated by slow performance. But it should work in a pinch...