Panlibus Blog

Juice up your OPAC

prism_mta_screenshot Have you ever looked at the OPAC from another library that sports links to WorldCat, or Copac, or Amazon, or Google Book Search, or, or a shelf mapping program, an author video, or something similar and thought I wish I could have that on our interface!  Have you attended a presentation about next generation OPACs and heard the presenter say “… and I added a link to an external service” and whished you had them on your library staff to be able to do cool things like that. for you?

Even in the so called library-geek community, where they know how to do these kind of things, great ideas for extending their interfaces are only copied between them, each implementing them in their own way for their own application.  Because, until now, there has been no easy way to share the great innovation demonstrated by the few, we are seeing a massive waste of what could benefit the many.

The Juice Project is an open source initiative, which I launched at the recent Code4lib conference, with the specific objectives of making it easy to create extensions for web interfaces such as OPACs and then make it even easier to share those extensions in an open community of those who want to enhance their interfaces but do not have the skill or experience to do so.

Open and easy are two key facets of the approach used for this project.  JavaScript code gurus may find the way Juice is implemented a little over complex, but it is that approach which should make it simple for the non-gurus to adopt and use.  

Duke_icons_screenshotThe design of the extension framework, which is Juice, separates the extension itself from the code that interfaces to a particular web application.  The result being that an extension created to be used on say a VuFind OPAC can be re used to extend a Talis, or a Horizon, or any other OPAC or indeed any other suitable interface.

Obviously if you are going to make changes to your interface, you need some ability to access and change the mark-up that creates the web pages.  Many libraries have staff that are capable and confident enough to make a simple change to an interface – adding a link to another site in the footer, changing a bit of text on the home page etc.  Juice is targeted at exactly those staff.  On the Juice Project site there are simple ‘How-to’ documents, that step you through how to add the couple of lines of code to introduce Juice in to your interface, and then how to copy & paste examples into your version of Juice to add shared extensions.

Visits for all visitors - Google Analytics Juice is already enhancing live library interfaces; for instance we are using it at Talis to introduce Google Analytics site usage monitoring in to our Talis Prism OPAC tenancies, as this Prism Blog post highlights.

Juice is an open source project that I have initiated, which is hosed on Google Code.  Talis are supporting it, by letting me contribute my code and time to kick-start it, and play an active part in it. This kind of initiative, that will benefit all, can only be really successful if is owned by the community that will use and enhance it.

So, calling all those that want to add value to library and other web interfaces, take a look at and join the Juice Project.   It is early days and we haven’t as yet got many interface types identified and supportable in Juice, but the more that join in and share what they know the sooner we will be able to share the innovation between all libraries.

Once you have had a browse around the Juice site, and maybe dipped your toe in to using it, I would love to hear your thoughts either in the comments on this blog, or in the Juice Project Discussion forum.

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