In my previous job, one of my tasks was to create authentication scripts for remote access to databases for my libraries. This was something I proactively pursued because most of my libraries didn’t have a programmer on staff who knew how to create these scripts, let alone a server to run them on. Now that I’m not there anymore, those scripts are no longer available, and it’s upsetting to think that those libraries can no longer offer that service to their patrons.
But some vendors are starting to understand that helping libraries increase usage of the databases they’re purchasing is not just a good thing to do but is good business, as well. RSS is a great step in that direction, so I’ve been more than happy to highlight ProQuest’s and EBSCO’s efforts, and I was gratified to learn recently that OCLC is working on providing RSS from WorldCat and FirstSearch (via a message in Facebook).
Another promising step in this direction is the new ProQuest Search Widget creator, a tool that gives subscribers the code to add search boxes to any web page. You can specify a database to be searched, include your proxy server’s address, add specific terms to the search for automatic “and” functionality, and even change the color and border of the box.
When the user enters a search term, if they’re within an authenticated IP range or using your proxy server (if you have one), they’ll get right to the search results. If not, they’ll be prompted to log in.
Tip: If you know a little HTML, you can include the ProQuest logo in the code by default and then change it to be your own logo afterwards if you want to add the search box to non-library pages.
Speaking of where you could put this widget, ProQuest gives you some ideas and even provides some mock-ups as suggestions, but the general idea is to put it anywhere and everywhere your users may be. In some of the example screenshots, you can see how nicely the search box complements an RSS feed of new, subject-specific items from the database. The examples are all for an academic library, but this works just as well for school libraries (classroom project pages), public libraries (municipality sites, park district pages, parent network pages), and even special libraries (intranets). Add in your library’s logo, and you have a fairly simple, yet powerful, way to get your services off your site and into the intertubes your users are using.
Sidenote: After almost three years of promises, ProQuest is finally scheduled to roll out RSS in April. Finally, but hooray!