Category Archives: Integration

Interactive Maps and Technology

A current trend of interactive map making is for institutions to bring in a third-party vendor who has experience building maps, the proprietary software for interactivity and the hardware muscle to keep these interactive sites running on the vendor’s servers (while being accessed on the Client’s local web browser).

UT’s own Tarlton Law Library at the UT School of Law has implemented a product called “StackMap” to create their own online catalog called “Tallons”.  In doing so, Tarlton has created an interactive map that when accessed from a catalog entry within Tallons displays within the floor plan the location of the book or material in question.

When the desired material is found in Tallons, click on the title of the material, then click on the “Map It!” button and a multi-functional pop-up window appears with a location marker displaying the material sought.  (See image below.)

“Tallons” the Online Catalog of the Tarlton Law Library.


Interactive Maps Interacting with Technology
Some interactive maps will feature a larger, more detailed pop-up image of the one on which the site visitor clicks or over which the mouse hovers.  These pop-ups can contain detailed information such as the person occupying the space, their e-mail and phone number; all of this information being pulled from an active directory.

Simple Interactive Pop-Up Window of an Individual’s Details. (FloorPlanMapper.com)

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Readability – the App.

Readability the Reader App

Browsing the world of free “reader apps”, I came across Readability. There are pay reader apps out there that do much more and pay reader apps that do much less. But any apps with key functionality and rich user interface design deserve a little more attention – especially when they are free.

Like all things in life, Readability is not going to appeal to everyone, nor is it going to fit everyone’s definition of what the perfect reader app should do. However, if you are looking for a reader app that gives you the ability to download web pages and articles to read offline; and if a clean, crisp, modifiable page layout is important to you; and if it is important to you when the app button says “FREE”, Readability is worth reviewing.

Readability is a “service” delivered via a mobile app and/or a browser add-ons that allows you to organize articles or web pages for reading when you are online or download articles or web pages for reading later when you are offline. According to Readability, they want “to turn any page into a clean comfortable reading view” in order to create a “web designed for readers”.

The basic choices given by Readability are “Read Now” or “Read Later”. Reading now or reading later can both be done online, but Readability lends itself to be used as a tool of leisure reading, a gatherer of sorts, of material to be downloaded and read later when you are offline.

 

Creating Your Account
A simple registration process is required for you to open an account with Readability. They will send a confirmation e-mail to the address you provide, so be sure to use a working address from which you can respond to this confirmation.

 

Readability, the signup screen.

(The sign up screen for Readability.)

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Recent Arrivals Application

Recent Arrivals

We’ve launched our Recent Arrivals app, which features any item that’s been added to the catalog in the past 30 days along with any item that is on a designated new book shelf in a branch library.

Users have the option to filter these results by branch location, material type, and language.Results can be sorted by title or date added to the catalog.Any search combination, which can be defined as narrowly as Italian DVDs at the Fine Arts Library, can be saved as an RSS feed.

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Improvements to Researching by Subject

In the past, the UT Libraries have had a variety of independent pages that list subject-related information. These pages include databases by subject, subject guides, subject specialists, and so on. TIS identified several issues with that approach:

  • Subject names were not consistent. One page might list a subject called Children’s Studies, while another might call it Youth Studies.
  • Subject pages were not integrated. If a user was browsing databases by subject, there was no easy way to view that subject’s bibliographer.
  • Maintenance was difficult. If a specialist changer his/her office, that information needed to be updated in several places.

Our solution was to create a single database of subjects that contains all of the relevant information in one location. This database can be updated using a password-protected web interface. Now, if we decide to change “Theater” to “Theatre”, we make that update in one location and the change is reflected throughout our site.

Below is a list of pages that are currently using the new subjects database:

  • Research by Subject – In the past, this page simply linked to research guides. Now, it links to guides, databases, and specialist information.
  • Subject Detail pages – In addition to listing the information from the Research by Subject page, this page also provides links to related subjects.
  • Specialist Profile pages – This page serves as a profile page for subject specialists. The contact information is pulled from the campus directory, which prevents us from having to maintain that information. It also lists interests, publications, personal sites, degrees, and more.
  • Databases by Subject – Previously, this page only listed databases for each subject. Now, it lists recommended databases and provides links to that subject’s detail page and the specialist profile page.

We plan on using the data from new database on several other pages in the future. For example, we will integrate it with our existing library2blackboard application and an upcoming mobile version of our site. The work invested in this project will hopefully pay dividends long into the future.

Social Networking at the UT Libraries

The following post was contributed by our Outreach Librarian, Meghan Sitar

The University of Texas Libraries have maintained a presence in Facebook for several years now, starting as a Group before transitioning to one of the newer Fan Pages.  We’ve used this space to post content from our other social media sites, including blog posts from our New for Undergraduates blog, video tutorials posted on YouTube, and event photos published on Flickr.

With the redesign of Fan Pages and the ability to publish our content to our fans’ News Feeds, it seemed like a good time to reexamine how we were managing all of this and to look for methods of automating the interaction between all of these different sites.  At the same time, we had been hearing from students who wanted to see us on Twitter, which seems to have finally gained some popularity among students on campus.

Matt Lisle, our intrepid Instructional Designer, had the brilliant idea to link Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, and our WordPress blogs together using FriendFeed.

This is where things get a little complicated.

When one of these sites posts to FriendFeed, the post is then exported to Twitter.

Using a Facebook application called Twitter Fan Page Sync, we’ve linked together our Twitter account and our Facebook Fan Page.  Twitter then posts the same information it receives from the Friend Feed to the status on our Facebook Fan Page.

Perhaps an illustration is in order?

(Click the image to see the full version)

The benefit of this system is that the cross-posting between all of these outlets is automated and no one person is responsible for repurposing the content.  The time investment in posting to any one of these sites returns a greater yield since the visibility of that post is at least doubled.

We’ve seen some problems with the stability of the Facebook application.  While the FriendFeed postings are readily feeding to Twitter and then to Facebook, direct posts to Twitter only showed up in Facebook onces we installed a second Facebook application, Selective Twitter Status, which requires tweets to include a #fb at the end.

That small nuisance aside, we’re pleased to have found a way to consolidate our social media empire into one relatively simple system.

Shared library2blackboard Code

A few months ago, we announced that the University of Texas Libraries created an application that would integrate subject-specific library information into Blackboard courses. Finally, we’ve gotten around to sharing our code.

Integrating the Library in Blackboard

For the past several weeks we’ve been hard at work on a new project that will dynamically insert course-specific library information into each UT Blackboard course.

Students will access this new feature by clicking a “Research Tools” link in the menu bar, which is automatically added to all Blackboard courses at UT (see screenshot below). This new section will provide contact information for the subject bibliographer responsible for the course, a link to the subject guide for the course, search tools, and more research assistance.

The secret to doing this was to use Blackboard’s template variables. They enable you to create a URL that can pass information such as username, course prefix, course number, etc. In our case, we created a link that looked like this: http://www.ourlink.com/file.php?course=@X@course.course_id@X@ … which passed the course ID as a variable to our PHP script. We were then able to look up the course-specific information from our XML file. Click the thumbnail below to view a diagram that details the process:

The end result is a course-specific tool that students can use while conducting research in their courses. It also enables the library to make more students and faculty aware of the services that are available to them. Click here to view screenshots of the final product.

UT Libraries Facebook App

A few weeks ago we launched an updated version of our Facebook app for UT Libraries. The application includes search tools, instant messaging, video tutorials, our “How Do I” wiki, and library news.

We followed the instructions written by Gath Adams to create the app. Our hope is to expand on our work and include some more community building features, similar to the Facebook app created by the University of Michigan.