vLib upgrade planned for Wed 16-09-09

We are planning to upgrade our portal software to MetaLib version 4.3.

Unfortunately, a downtime of several hours will be inevitable, consequently vLib is likely to be unavailable between 08:00 and 12:00 a.m. that day.

We would like to apologize in advance for any inconvenience.

UPDATE (16 September, 12:19): Installation process delayed. Services continue to be unavailable.

UPDATE (16 September, 15:45): Services available again.

Extended metasearches enabled in vLib

To enable extended metasearches, and thus to emphasize the big asset of metasearching (which is covering the widest possible range of information sources in the course of carrying out a single search) the number of resources searchable simultaneously via vLib has been increased significantly.

This enables creating overall search interfaces such as, for example, a search across all MPG Library Catalogs available at


which may be useful to locate a needle in a haystack.

Of course, users will be deciding whether the usability of huge metasearch interfaces is acceptable. Hence we are curious to have some feedback.

Some appetite for Table of Contents feeds?

Over the last years, many academic publishers introduced web syndication formats like RSS and Atom to provide their users with Table of Contents (TOC) alerting services. Due to the wide adoption of feed formats in the web, this trend promotes metadata reuse in many ways:

  1. Individual users may subscribe to TOC feeds in a reader client to receive information about recent publications. They can also apply web tools (like xfruits) to aggregate feeds and convert them to another message format.
  2. Website owners may use syndication services to dynamically integrate article information into their applications. For an example, check the homepage of the National Library of Health Sciences at the University of Helsinki (FeedNavigator boxes).

How to discover TOC feeds without searching each publisher’s homepage one after another? The ticTOCs project collected more than 12,000 journal feeds from over 400 publishers and offers an intuitive web interface on the top. In addition, the project team was broad-minded enough to share the source data with the community in order to ensure that journal feeds "osmose" into as many environments as possible. This strategy proved to be successful: the ticTOCs data is reused by numerous systems, including OCLC’s xISSN service, a Google application as well as library catalogs at Jönköping University or Wageningen UR

… and finally we managed to load the data into the MPG/SFX link resolver as well, see http://tinyurl.sfx.mpg.de/q4r3 for an example:

screen shot of sfx menu

However, one question remains: What will happen to the ticTOCs service now – after project end? Ed Pentz announced in the CrossRef Quarterly from May 2009 that "CrossRef is now investigating hosting the service on an ongoing basis", see version cached by Google. Currently, the ticTOCs homepage lacks an option to report problems or corrections, so the service manly relies on harvesting publisher websites. Will this be enough to keep the service up-to-date and unambiguous?

New in MPG/SFX: "View this record in Web of Science"

Wouldn’t it be nice if the MPG/SFX service menu for a specific journal article includes a link to the corresponding record in the Web of Science – to provide you with an easy option to lookup cited references, citing articles and related publications? It took us a while to implement, but we finally came up with this:

screen shot of new sfx service
Example MPG/SFX menu: http://tinyurl.sfx.mpg.de/q45l

The target title ("Web of Science") links to the appropriate full record view and the "Times Cited" count to the citing articles page in the Web of Science (WoS). Please note that access to the WoS database requires a subscription, but all users from the Max Planck Society should have access from their workplace.

The above information is fetched on request by using Thomson Reuters new Links Article Match Retrieval Service (AMR). Our implementation for SFX is a bit preliminary and the service fails to identify the WoS record under certain circumstances (e.g inaccurate or incomplete metadata). Some detailed testing will be done next week, but your feedback is always welcomed!

vLib Resource Feeds get down to the nitty-gritty

There had been two major usage scenarios which motivated us to introduce various RSS feeds for vLib resource lists about a year ago:

  1. Updating individual users about new resources available in the Max Planck Society
  2. Enabling MPG librarians or developers to re-use the resource information available in the vLib portal

Our experiences show that the first use case is pretty obvious to most vLib users while the second requires a lot more explanation… but we are willing to share! Check out the revised documentation of the vLib Resource Feeds to get some ideas and working examples.

information resource feeds – is this the data we want?

vLib information resources are available in RSS 2.0 format, see http://vlib.mpg.de/vlib-rss-feed.html

What’s the benefit of this? A news stream to hook interest? A huge list of entry points to be filtered and maintained in a user’s own environment?

As items basically consist of a title, a description and a link, crucial information about the vLib resource represented by an RSS 2.0 item may fail to be conveyed.

This may be a mere mapping issue as discussed at https://devtools.mpdl.mpg.de/projects/vlib/wiki/RSS (i.e. map more fields to RSS 2.0 item description) – where we are not taking into account additional atom elements yet (to contain, for example, an html-formatted description), or atom format to contain more detailed data about a resource.

Or we might even consider pointing subscribers to our own interface to a resource rather than to the resource’s original web interface.

The vLib resource interface URL is actually present within items as guid, and, in fact, it is meant to be a permalink – however, certain feed readers appear to prefer a permalink in guid to the URL in item link, that’s why guid isPermaLink is presently set to false.

vLib-Workshop zur XXXII. Bibliothekstagung der MPG

In den letzten Jahren hat sich der Mai als Traditionsmonat für die MPG-Bibliothekstagung durchgesetzt. An der 32. Ausgabe hat sich das vLib Projekt mit einem Workshop zum Thema "vLib Dienste lokal nutzen" beteiligt:

Mein Fazit: Der Vortrag war auch für mich ein Experiment, weil ich die beschriebenen Möglichkeiten im Rahmen des Workshops "live" auf einer Beispielsseite umgesetzt habe. Dabei wollte ich vermitteln, dass sich viele Funktionalitäten (z.B. das Angebot von Suchboxen oder die dynamische Einbindung von Ressource-Listen) mit wenig Aufwand lokal realisieren lassen. Die Rückmeldungen zeigen allerdings, dass mir dies nur teilweise gelungen ist. Ich habe zuviel Inhalt in 75 Minuten gepackt, die Beispiele zu schnell entwickelt und einige ZuschauerInnen daher mit leichtem Schwindelgefühl zurückgelassen (lesson learned!). Trotzdem scheinen einige KollegInnen in Bastellaune geraten zu sein – und ich freue mich schon auf Ergebnisse, Anforderungen und neue Ideen.

Update: Mittlerweile steht die Präsentation auch auf dem eDoc-Server zur Verfügung.