LSJ Editors' Blog: December 2006

19 December 2006


I'm currently testing out the relatively new Firefox extension Zotero, which is a citation-gathering tool that has a lot of features you wouldn't expect to go together in one place:

  • Automatic capture of citation information from web pages
  • Storage of PDFs, files, images, links, and whole web pages
  • Flexible notetaking with autosave
  • Fast, as-you-type search through your materials
  • Playlist-like library organization, including saved searches (smart collections) and tags
  • Platform for new forms of digital research that can be extended with other web tools and services
  • Runs right in your web browser
  • Formatted citation export
  • Free and open source

A lot more is still in development. When you're on a page with metadata establishing its status as a citable source, the extension recognizes it and allows you to save the citation. You can also take snapshots of pages and run saved searches.

My only gripe with it at the moment is that due to it being an extension run on Firefox, I need to have it installed on the computer I'm working at. Which means that I have to have Firefox 2.0 installed on the machine. There is development in the area of making the software accessible via the web (along the lines of GoogleDocs) but I feel that might change the functionality too much. An alternative would be to run it on Portable Firefox (which runs on a USB flash drive) so that I could use the same extensions at any location I'm working at.

What does Zotero have to do with libraries? Well, it's a full-featured, open-source manager of bibliographic data that makes extensive use of the COinS (Context Objects in Spans), a microformat standard for embedding bibliographic data in an online content item, closely related to OpenURL.

Too many acronyms? Brain all 'splody?

But seriously, the emergence of so much "library-standards-compliant" software for private use is enabling library services to reach people with more personalization and creativity than ever before in the online era. There's also a downside—library systems have to keep up! Does your library handle OpenURL well? Do COinS translate well into queries to your link resolver? Is your OpenURL link resolver (SFX or what have you) at an address that is easily found on your library site? [I ask this because on the UB Libraries page, the address for an OpenURL connection is under the EndNote documentation, listed under SFX (UBlib: Endnote & SFX)—and it's not retrievable via a site search for OpenURL!]

So if you're a Firefox user and have an interest in serials, electronic resources, or metadata, Zotero is a great free tool to check out.

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12 December 2006

Bisson's WPopac wins Mellon Award

Congratulations to Casey Bisson, a much deserving winner of the 2006 Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration for his work with WPopac at Plymouth State University. WPopac uses the Word Press blog management application to add Web 2.0 functionality to library catalogs and make their records findable in Web search engines. Try it out at PSU's Lamson Library opac- it really is very impressive, incorporating tagging, comments, reviews and "search inside" from Amazon. The ILS vendors have been slow to add the sort of functionality library users have come to expect so its great to see librarians doing it themselves.

The PSU Press Release:

PSU’s Casey Bisson Wins Mellon Award for Innovative Search Software for Libraries
Making Libraries Relevant in an Internet-Based Society


You can’t trip over what’s not there. Every day millions of Internet users search online for information about millions of topics. And none of their search results includes resources from the countless libraries around the world—until now.

Casey Bisson, information architect for Plymouth State University’s Lamson Library, has received the prestigious Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration for his ground-breaking software application known as WPopac. The WPopac software will revolutionize the online search process by allowing titles and descriptions of library holdings to be found on the Internet.

The award was presented at a ceremony hosted by the Mellon Foundation on Monday, Dec. 4 at the fall meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information, in Washington, D.C., Bisson’s project was selected as one of only 10 recipients out of several hundred nominees for 2006, the first year the MATC awards have been granted. The decision was made by an all-star panel that included Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Mitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports the thoughtful application of information technology to a wide range of scholarly purposes, including developing digital technologies to enhance research, teaching, and distance learning, and new technical approaches to archiving text and multimedia materials.

Christopher Mackie, program officer for the Mellon Foundation’s Research in Information Technology section, was pleased with how well WPopac fits the foundation’s criteria.

“The award committee was particularly excited by the way WPopac makes library patrons more active participants in their library experience,” Mackie said. “By allowing patrons to add information to library records online, the software allows the community to work together to make their library resources more informative and more valuable. When you couple this with the reduced costs of access that WPopac permits, and the enthusiasm with which it has been received by librarians and patrons alike, the committee judged the project to have a truly revolutionary potential.”

“For years we’ve been talking about the digital divide in terms of access, and we’ve been working hard to put computers and networks into every school and library,” Bisson said. “But those same libraries, and their communities, are invisible to people online. If libraries are to be more than study halls in the Internet age, if they are to continue their role as centers of knowledge in every community, they need to be findable and available online. They need the tools to represent their collections, their services, and the unique history of their communities online. That’s what WPopac does.”

Other universities receiving MATC awards this year include the University of Washington, Yale, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the University of British Columbia.

According to PSU President Sara Jayne Steen, Bisson’s work is an example of exceptional effort and entrepreneurial spirit.

“Casey recognized a need for broader access to the myriad of resources contained in our libraries and developed a unique and creative solution designed to re-engage users of today’s web-based technologies,” Steen said. “We are proud of the Mellon Organization’s recognition of the university and Casey’s innovation and initiative.”

Dwight Fischer, director of information technology at PSU, called Bisson’s work an appropriate centerpiece for the university’s transformed academic library. “Over the past year, Lamson Library has implemented what is known as a Learning Commons,” Fischer explained. “This joint effort between library and IT professionals brings more technologies, online research materials, academic tutoring, writing and reading services to a central location in the library. Library faculty and staff members work side-by-side with IT professionals, forming a collaborative team that better reflects the needs of today’s students. Casey’s project will help build more bridges to more information for more people. We’re very proud of him.”

Links to more information:

Lamson Library:

WPopac for Lamson library's collection:

WPopac Web log:

New Hampshire Public Radio's interview with Casey Bisson from 12/5/06

For more information, contact: Christopher Williams, PSU Public Relations Director, 535-2476

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