Tag Archives: AquaBrowser

Online AquaBrowser Tutorial

With the implementation of AquaBrowser at my library, I was charged with creating a tutorial for staff. Rather than the usual pdf or Word document, I wanted to create something dynamic which allows for continuous updating and editing, as AquaBrowser continues to develop and we find new ways to use AquaBrowser in our everyday core library services.

When I started writing this tutorial, I realized that there wasn’t a lot of available literature around to assist in developing this, and that while a lot of libraries may want to train their staff on AquaBrowser, or schools want to introduce their students to what social catalogues are, there were limited resources available to do so. As a result, I not only wanted to created this tutorial for staff here at my library, but for other professionals to adopt as they saw fit and for library schools, hoping to not only teach what features are common in next generation catalogues, but the many different ways you can implement its functions into services such as Readers’ Services, Youth Services and Promotions/Events. Hopefully this tutorial will spark lots of ideas for you, indicate some future directions these catalogues should be exploring and the possibilities for using social catalogues.

One of the key objectives was to show staff that AquaBrowser (which we have named “Discover“) is more than just an updated version of the classic catalogue. As a result, the different sections of the tutorial explore, albeit not too deeply, the many ways we can use social catalogues to assist and enhance core library services. It isn’t just about pointing out what features exist and where they are located, but how to implement the use and benefits of AquaBrowser into everyday library services – and perhaps, while doing this, to realize some shortcomings, some potential and inspire additional ideas and thoughts about how social catalogues will be used in the future.

Because this is an ongoing work and the tutorial will continue to change and be updated to reflect ongoing enhancements, versions or components, I welcome new ideas or additional thoughts on how these catalogues can be used – or are being used in your libraries.

In the meantime, please feel free to use this tutorial at your own libraries, or to create your own tutorial using this one as a guide. Rather than re-inventing the wheel and duplicating the same “how to use our new catalogue” tutorial, I’d rather see other professionals spend their time thinking about additional ways to use these catalogues and how they benefit library services.

1 Comment

Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue

Discover! Library Catalogues and RA Services

This morning, I gave a presentation in our library to new readers’ advisors. While my topic was short compared to the rest of the RA training for the day (but maybe this will change down the road!), I thought I’d share my presentation with all of you.

Unlike in past years, this year I focused on our new catalogue – AquaBrowser, which we are calling “Discover“. With the launch of our new catalogue looming in the near future, I felt it important to show the possibilities these new catalogues hold for RAs and Readers’ Services. With only a half hour to present, I had to fit a lot of content in – and leave out a lot too. If I could have presented everything on my wishlist, I would have addressed the following:

1. Theory behind using the catalogue and its benefits
2. Future directions with using the catalogue – especially with the direction next generation catalogues are heading and the integration of tools like NoveList Select.
3. How to use the catalogue today as an RA tool and the benefits of collaboration.
4 A hands on exercise for staff to attempt to use the catalogue in an RA conversation or to add RA content into the catalogue.

Alas, I only had time to present on number 3 – and only in the most superficial capacity. However, as always, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to present and to expose staff every year to the possibilities of the library catalogue – beyond that of the traditional, static inventory model that focuses on Boolean searching.


Filed under Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

How to: Deep Linking in AquaBrowser

Yesterday, I tweeted a quick post asking for assistance in creating either hrefs or URLS that could link into AquaBrowser. Specifically, link into canned searches, such as author searches, a specific subject or a combination of the two.

This is an issue that has been uppermost in my mind because of the popularity of reading lists and canned searches which we all use when linking from our websites or library blogs into the catalogue. For example, if we want to create a genealogy splash page, we want to link into key resources or pre-determined searches in our catalogues – if we can’t do this with our new catalogues, it’s a failure. One of the purposes of social catalogues, such as AquaBrowser, is to enhance user access and make the collection more visible by asking users to share and collaborate – and to make linking into the catalogue even easier! Fortunately, thanks to two colleagues of mine (one from my own library, and one from the New Brunswick Public Library Services), I’ve discovered this is possible. Not as easy as, perhaps, it should be, but we can continue creating our reading lists, resource lists and canned searches. Hopefully the “ease” in creating these links will develop as part of the vendor’s “intuitive” vision for these catalogues. From my own experience, the hands-on AquaBrowser crew are keen on new ideas and addressing shortcomings – so I think we’ll see some enhancements to deep linking in AquaBrowser.

While I’m still working out how to create complex canned searches that include Boolean – basic subject, author, ISBN and simple Boolean (with an implied AND) do work.

So, for those of you who have been trying to figure this out – I’m going to provide some examples straight out of our catalogue. Also, a nod to my colleague in New Brunswick who provided a really neat URL resource for linking into other libraries’ catalogues.

Examples for Deep-Linking in AquaBrowser





If you use a MARC tag, such as the 449 tag, to create linkable reading lists, you can recall those lists as well. For example, we have a Teen Picks List at HPL. This is how you’d link to it:

http://discover.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/?q=librarylist:Teen Picks

And finally, just some helpful tips when creating links into AquaBrowser:
• – ‘q’ initiates the Aquabrowser with a query. This can be used to build a search box on another site or page, and deep link into AquaBrowser with a query.
• – ‘uilang=en’ sets the user interface language ‘ENglish’. Also supported are ‘nl’ ‘fr’ etc. More languages can be added in language.xml.
• – ‘itemid=default::31234′ (2.0 only) gives a direct deep link to the item in the table ‘default’ and id=’31234′.
• – ‘itemid=|library/marc/howardcounty|453410′ (2.2 and up) gives a direct deep link to the item with extID=’|library/marc/howardcounty|453410′ (extID can be found in record when ?debug=true)
• ‘branch=branchcoe’ allows you to preselect locations (branches). Note that you need to branch CODE, which may be different than the name displayed. To see the branch codes use debug=true and look at the xml generated for the branch selector (under the feedback module).

This is new to me as well – so please play around with it. As you can see, it’s not as intuitive as it can be – and will definitely take some time to create. In the past with our classic catalogues, all we had to do was use the URL provided to us by our search. However, in AquaBrowser, the URL never changes or “refreshes”, so we can’t see the URL. Unfortunately, patrons still won’t be able to share more than a single item URL with friends. Hopefully, in time, we’ll see if this changes. But, in the meantime, libraries can continue to link to pre-determined searches and reading lists in AquaBrowser.

And, just for fun, my New Brunswick colleague sent me the coolest link. Here’s what she had to say:

This is my favourite type of link to do in a social catalogue: http://discover.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/?q=md_tags:awesome

Everything user-tagged “Awesome”


Filed under Access Issues, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Implementing AquaBrowser

Back in May, I was invited to give a presentation on Halifax’s implementation of our social discovery tool, AquaBrowser. Here are my slides of that presentation.

1 Comment

Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

AquaBrowser Launches in Eastern Canada

Yesterday, Halifax Public Libraries launched their new discovery tool, AquaBrowser! While still in beta, we’re inviting feedback and I wanted to invite all of you to have a look at our new catalogue – and to provide your input. You can do this through the feedback button at the top of the catalogue, or by posting your thoughts right here!

We’ve been working on this installation for a year – and we’re very happy with the results.


Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Choosing a Discovery Tool

So, you’ve decided that you want a social catalogue, a discovery tool (and often referred to as a “solution” or “platform”).  How are you going to decide which one?  What if you don’t even know about them?

Like any software, discovery tools have their problems. You can find a number of articles discussing the technical difficulties or support issues that have been encountered for each solution. However, all discovery tools offer a package that many libraries can no longer afford to ignore. Especially if we want to compete with information giants such as Google, Amazon and LibraryThing.  Without switching to a new ILS, we can implement a “did you mean?” function, spelling recommendations, search results with no dead ends, social tagging, list making, review writing and user ratings. We can finally include tag clouds and federated searching in a single search box. Given the relative newness of this software, their features are continually being enhanced and expanded. And, unlike an ILS, you are not “stuck” with a solution if you want to change it.

If you’ve been playing with the idea of implementing a discovery tool in your library, here are some tips that I recommend:

1. Look at what our competitors are doing.  Check out other libraries, play with Amazon, LibraryThing, Facebook and other social catalogues, networks and software. What are they doing?  Has it been successful and why?

2. Research. At this time, don’t pigeon-hole yourself into looking at your options.  This research should be a bit broader.  What are people saying about social catalogues? Are their surveys available regarding the use of social catalogues and their features? Stories of successes and failures? What about lessons learned or blog posts of first-hand experiences? Even if you start researching with only a basic understanding of discovery tool, this process will introduce you to the software available, as well as studies, research, opinions and surveys available for review. Why reinvent the wheel?

3. Now that you’ve got a good foundation of knowledge on social catalogues, it’s time to consider the following:

Proprietary vs. Open Source Software
System Requirements (ie. What would you like the software to do? what does it have to do?)
Budget, staff resources and time-line

By this point, you’ve probably narrowed down your choices to a handful of options. Call those vendors or software developers to ask them about their product. Many times, they’ll even send you sample RFPs to assist you if you’re required to draft one.  If not, this will give you a good idea of what other libraries require of the software. This is a great time to ask about special customized features or to address concerns you have about something you’ve read. And, of coure, contact other libraries. Don’y be afraid to speak with colleagues at other libraries about their experiences or opinions.

For those of you who really want to learn more about discovery tool platforms, check out the following resources:

Dicovering the Library: Finding the Hidden Barriers to Success Using the Catalog

New Discovery Tools: Ranking Customer Results First

Discovery Tools blog by John Houser

OPAC: The Next Generation

MOBIUS ILS Task Force Report

Integrated Library Systems and Discovery Applications

1 Comment

Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Discovery Platforms Require Excellent MARC Records

Last week, I attended a presentation for the discovery tool Encore. Encore is one of many up and coming discovery tools being overlaid onto library catalogues. Other examples of discovery tools include AquaBrowser and Primo.

This is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit through a full presentation pitch on discovery tools. In the past, there have been brief visits with vendors at conferences or short presentations to whet my appetite, but never the full opportunity to sit back and analyze the potential of these products and exactly how they work.

As most (or all) of you know, discovery platforms overlay a library’s existing catalogue. They read our MARC records and extrapolate that information for use in the discovery tool overlay. Therefore, a discovery tool is only as good as your MARC records. Without full, descriptive records and appropriate subject headings, your tag clouds and refined search parameters are sloppy and inaccurate. Without uniformity, your tag cloud will assist in retrieving some items but not others with different.

This is quite interesting with the amount of records currently being supplied by vendors. Will these records provide the level of quality and accuracy necessary to make discovery tools successful? If records lack descriptive elements or the “local” touch, will they be as effective in this setting? In Encore, the tag cloud depends upon the subject headings and I find it hard to believe that records that have not been edited or reviewed by in-house cataloguers are able to provide the same quality needed to properly sustain these new platforms.

From my understanding, all of the discovery tool platforms rely on the information in MARC and convert it to a more user-friendly format. Given the growing popularity of platforms, it appears as if there is a growing need for quality cataloguing. As a selling feature, these platforms sell themselves as user friendly as well as “automated reference librarians”, allowing patrons to be guided through their discovery by the catalogue, rather than by an individual. With this type of reliance on a tool, it is imperative that the information created for these tools is of the highest quality, as emphasized by the vendors themselves.

1 Comment

Filed under future of cataloguing, The Library Catalogue