A message for library catalog vendors

The LibraryLookup project is almost five years old, and people are still gradually discovering it, as I’m periodically reminded when I get a flurry of emails such as was provoked by this Lifehacker article. I think it’s time for this idea to graduate from the realm of hacks for adventurous people, and enter the realm of normal capabilities that everyone takes for granted.

For starters, if your system supports searching by ISBN, I suggest that you offer — in addition to whatever syntax you already use — one simple and standard pattern:


Next, use the OCLC’s xISBN service to expand the search to include all manifestations of the work indicated by the given ISBN.

Finally, have each instance of your system publish the bookmarklet made from these ingredients on its home page, along with instructions for using it.

For extra credit, enable patrons to indicate wish lists of books they’re interested in, and notify them when books on those lists become available.

People like this stuff when they discover it, but as yet not many have, and until it’s baked into your systems, most won’t.

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9 thoughts on “A message for library catalog vendors

  1. Jon,

    I used to enjoy using LibraryLookup, before my library “upgraded” their web software to Sirsi. I also lost the wish list capability, since Sirsi’s only last’s for the current session (why even bother?).

    In addition to your suggestions, I would like to see an RSS feed of all new items, and another RSS feed/email alert for titles by specific authors.

    Back in the 80’s, when dealing with databases from a large IT department, where getting a new database report was impossible, I found that instead of getting the IT department to create a new application, all I really needed was the raw data. A little dBase did the trick.

    I think that an upgrade to the Library’s application might be difficult, but just publishing list of ISBN numbers in stock would allow me to do what I want with the data. Additional info, like the quantity, might be useful. All I need is a text file. So my suggestion is to post a text file containing a list of all ISBN’s at the library on the web site.

    Thank you for the interest in this subject.

  2. May I argue for a more REST-ful approach? That would make the search look like:


    If we get that far, one might want to look into John Blyberg’s PatREST” draft proposal.

  3. “/search/isbn/1565925378”

    Yeah, that’s better. Or even, I guess, simply


    “one might want to look into John Blyberg’s PatREST” draft proposal”

    Yes, of course, I should’ve remembered that. In which case it’d be:


    Which also, come to think of it, arguably might simply be:


  4. Does anybody know how to query an innovative database by date? I just want a feed of the most recent acquisitions. My library does not publish that information. If I can query it, I can scrape it. Please help!

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