Blogs

Q&A: finding both sides of an issue

February 23, 2012
by Mr. James R. (Librarian) Jacobs

Question: What are some good resources for researching the pros and cons of a debate topic?

Answer: There are several solid resources that can help you find both sides of an issue. The following guides provide background data and references for more information used in debating many topics:

Indexing MARC records for SearchWorks - navigating Open Source Software

February 16, 2012

The (meta)data underneath SearchWorks is largely based on our MARC records from Symphony. MARC records are exported from Symphony, then slurped up by an application called SolrMarc, which transforms the MARC data into an index for the Solr search engine used by SearchWorks.

SolrMarc is open source software made available by Bob Haschart of the University of Virginia Libraries. SolrMarc is used by all(?) VuFind sites as well as most Blacklight sites built on MARC data (e.g. SearchWorks). SolrMarc has been great for us -- it gave us an enormous jump start for SearchWorks. Bob is also a great guy, and made me a "committer" almost immediately -- so I can make contributions to the open source code.

But.

Open Source Software does best when there is a critical mass of developers: group wisdom rocks, as does sharing the work. To date, SolrMarc is very much Bob's project, despite a number of committers such as myself. There are some ... interesting ... practices as to how SolrMarc is organized and how it is tested. I've even contributed a bit to some of its squirreliness. Occasionally, changes to the SolrMarc codebase break the code I've written especially for Stanford.

New Subject Guide design coming soon!

January 20, 2012
by Ray Heigemeir

The Online Experience Group has been working hard on a proposed new design for subject guides. Subject guides are envisioned as tools to help users navigate a broad or specific subject area and to identify key SULAIR specialists.

We carefully considered how the website redesign would impact the many and varied subject guides. Based on user studies and subject specialist interviews, the proposed subject guide model is intended to provide maximum flexibility for providing content within a visually consistent, branded framework; and to support maximum ease in content creation, organization, and maintenance. The guide model strives for a simple, intuitive design, with support for media, automatic feeds, and custom design within a standard framework.

Six personas (user categories) were developed, each with specific needs. The new design intends to meet the needs of each of these user types:

Q&A: How do I find out the party affiliation of California city council members?

January 4, 2012
by Kris Kasianovitz

Question: How do I find out the party affiliation of California city council members?

Answer: City council offices in California are non-partisan offices, which means no party affiliation is declared. You can try to get this information from news sources or articles that may discuss activities of the council members but unless they specifically state their affiliation, you would be inferring this information. For background on non-partisan offices in California, see:

Stopwords in SearchWorks - to be or not to be

December 16, 2011

We've been examining whether or not to restore stopwords to the SearchWorks index. Stopwords are words ignored by a search engine when matching queries to results. Any list of terms can be a stopword list; most often the stopwords comprise the most commonly occurring words in a language, occasionally limited to certain functions (articles, prepositions vs. verbs, nouns).

The original usage of stopwords in search engines was to improve index performance (query matching time and disk usage) without degrading result relevancy (and possibly improving it!). It is common practice for search engines to employ stopwords; in fact Solr (http://lucene.apache.org/solr), the search engine behind SearchWorks, has English stopwords turned on as the default setting.

In our implementation of SearchWorks, there was no compelling reason to change most of the default Solr settings; thus, since SearchWorks's inception we have been using the following stopword list: a, an, and, are, as, at, be, but, by, for, if, in, into, is, it, no, not, of, on, or, s, such, t, that, the, their, then, there, these, they, this, to, was, will, with.

What follows is an analysis of how stopwords are currently affecting SearchWorks, and what might happen if we restore stopwords to SearchWorks, making every word signficant for every search.

KEEP - Keeping Emulation Environments Portable

December 12, 2011
by Michael G Olson

I recently attended a workshop of the KEEP project (Keeping Emulation Environments Portable) in Rome. KEEP is an EU funded project to develop software that virtualizes old computer hardware and software environments. This allows you to run old operating systems and the applications that were designed for them on modern computers. The KEEP project is multi-partner project that than includes a consortium of national libries (BNF, Koninklijke Bibliotheek), the University of Portsmouth, a computer history museum (Computerspiele Museum), commercial partners (Tessella), and the European Game Developers Association.

The project is scheduled to end in February 2012 and has already released software version 1.0.0 on SourceForge ( http://emuframework.sourceforge.net/ ). This version supports:
* 5 platforms: x86, C64, Amiga, BBC Micro, Amstrad
* 6 emulators included: Dioscuri, Qemu, VICE, UAE, BeebEm, JavaCPC
* 22 file formats supported: PDF, TXT, XML, JPG, TIFF, PNG, BMP, Quark, ARJ, EXE, disk/tape images and more
* Integration with format identification FITS
* Web services for software and emulator archives

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