LSJ Editors' Blog: Zotero

19 December 2006

Zotero

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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