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Publication cover management in a library system
Stefano Bargioni, 33rd ADLUG Meeting, Piazza Armerina 2014
Slide 2 "Book ...
Slide 7 "An intermediate solution using Koha"
Our solution was especially directed to simplify as much as possible the wor...
Slide 12 "Carousel in the OPAC main page (1)"
Twice a month, immediately after my our cataloguers release the newsletter o...
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Publication cover management in a library system (text)


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Book covers can be stored in a Library Management System. This work -presented at 33rd ADLUG meeting in Piazza Armerina, oct 2014- discusses pros and cons, and how to collect book covers during cataloguing or circulation operations.

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Publication cover management in a library system (text)

  1. 1. Publication cover management in a library system Stefano Bargioni, 33rd ADLUG Meeting, Piazza Armerina 2014 Slide 2 "Book covers in ILS" Book covers, in form of thumbnails and sometimes in larger formats, appeared years ago in our library management systems, especially in OPACs. They represent one of the most important enrichment of a library catalog, followed by external contributes like summaries, table of contents, comments, likes, votes, and so on, coming from social media. Normally, book covers are retrieved on the fly from external sources, but they can be locally stored too. Some of these external sources are free; others are on a payment basis, joined with other content enrichments. Slide 3 "Book covers in OPAC results" The base is the ISBN: through this standard identifier, the book cover can be retrieved from an external source, building its URL or sending a block of ISBNs and obtaining back a script that contains a lot of information about each book, including the URL of each thumbnail. If your server acts as a proxy for thumbnails, it can also cache them. This is a functionality of VuFind. Slide 4 "Storing images... (1)" Storing images can be interesting if you need to do something more than show them in a search result page. Thumbnails or larger book covers can be bought, or even downloaded in bulk for free from some providers. Of course, it is difficult to say the percentage of success: how many of my books will have a cover after I obtain a bulk of images? Slide 5 "Storing images... (2)" Some library management systems offer a feature that helps to solve this, saving complexities. Of course, it is also possible to adopt a custom solution, that can be integrated to the OPAC without much effort, thanks to the web technology. We choose an intermediate solution, since our library management system has the ability to store local cover images, but lacks of a full set of APIs to manage them. Slide 6 "Local cover images in Koha" Koha stores images related to bibliographic records in a SQL table. More than one image can be connected to each record. However, up to now it is impossible to connect each one to a specific item or volume. This is a limitation.
  2. 2. Slide 7 "An intermediate solution using Koha" Our solution was especially directed to simplify as much as possible the work related to choose and store the best image available on the net. Choosing a book cover image is now a very simple task for our staff. At the same time, we were interested to fall back to an external source like Google Books, when a local image is not available. In newsletters and carousels of new acquisitions, images come from the local store, but in search result pages, where books catalogued in the past are frequently shown, an external source will satisfy our needs for many years from now. Slide 8 "Choosing a cover (1)" A floating window -built using the jQuery library- appears in the cataloguing page or during circulation operations. If more than one ISBN is available, the cataloguer has to choose the appropriate one. Otherwise, the search for images on the net starts immediately. Searches are performed in parallel, even if there is a local image yet stored in our catalog. This will add images to new bibliographic records. Or to old records, when they have to be corrected. The window can be moved everywhere, or closed. Its position is saved in a cookie. Slide 9 "Choosing a cover (2)" We choose important sources, and some other that are related to our trends of acquisitions. They are all free sources. Images are retrieved by the script that built the floating window, i.e. by the browser, and independently from the server that runs Koha. An exceptions is represented by the local image, of course. A click on an image will enlarge it, to check and compare its quality. Best sources seem to be Amazon and Google Books, both numerically and for quality. Slide 10 "Choosing a cover (3)" When the standard method does not retrieve any image, the interface allows to perform a search on Google Images, opening a new browser window. If this search is successful, the cataloguer can paste the url to upload the image in Koha. It is also possible to load a local file. This functionality will be explained later. Slide 11 "Applications" A new carousel in the first page of the OPAC, more images in the result pages, and a renewed newsletter, are the most important applications for us. Interesting results come from the circulation: during check in or check out, when the book cover is shown, the staff member can be sure to manage the correct book. We do not have barcode readers or something similar yet, and that reduced errors during registering item numbers. Note that circulation staff can upload images. They perform this task especially during check in, and so adding images to old bibliographic records.
  3. 3. Slide 12 "Carousel in the OPAC main page (1)" Twice a month, immediately after my our cataloguers release the newsletter of new acquisitions, the same group of bibliographic records is used to compose a new carousel. A little window shows book covers in groups of ten. Hovering with the mouse, author, title and publishing data are shown at the bottom. A click on a cover will open the full record. Book covers are formatted using the same width, trying to mimic a shelf. Slide 13 "Carousel in the OPAC main page (2)" Since they are new acquisitions, all book covers of the carousel come from Koha. Hundred of images cannot be loaded to the web browser in few seconds. Fortunately, browsers are able to show an image starting from its binary representation, encoded in BASE64 or other encoding standards. Slide 14 "Carousel in the OPAC main page (3)" This possibility allows to send the whole group of images as a single response. It is a bulk of data, structured in JSON [pronounce: jason] format. A script will interpret it, in order to compose the carousel very quickly. Books without a cover are rendered using random light colors, with gradients, through CSS3 style commands. Slide 15 "Book covers & the digital library" Our new important project is the digital library. We have a scanner system and, thanks to IBAI, a DSpace server. Our first goal with the digital library will be to preserve old books. This will allow us to scan the title pages, also known as frontispieces. We will us them as the cover images for the old books. They will be saved in Koha using the "Upload local file" button. We will consider the possibility of scanning modern book covers that are not available on the net. This will be important especially for books written by the faculty of our university. Slide 16 "Statistics" Some numbers... About 380 covers saved per month is a good performance for our staff, especially because it is not an extra task. It is only a click on an image automatically retrieved. Slide 17 "Licensing" We discussed a lot about this topic. We tried to find terms of agreement pages or something similar in Google Books, Amazon, and so on. In my opinion, publishers and resellers are happy to know that their books are shown in their full gory in library catalogs. Even if the cover itself can be a piece of art, its thumbnail is only a low resolution version. And we save it one by one. Of course, I'm interested in other opinions about the reuse of covers from external sources. _______