Friday, February 1st, 2013

A service tester for catalog-only computers

Libraries usually have special computers set aside for catalog searching only. They’re often set up to block non-catalog websites, so you don’t check Facebook from the catalog computers.

Unfortunately, the domain whitelists don’t always include all the enrichment services catalogs use, such as LibraryThing for Libraries, Syndetic Solutions, Google Books and so forth. (I discovered this recently at a local public library that uses LibraryThing for Libraries and Syndetic Solutions, neither of which functioned properly from the catalogs in the children’s section.)

To address this I created the Services Tester, a simple webpage to hit from catalog computers. As illustrated on the right, it reports on which domains worked and which didn’t, so a library can make sure all the needed domains are open.

I hope you find it useful! If you have other services to add, email me at tim@librarything.com. And if this gets you intrigued about LibraryThing for Libraries, check us out and email abby@librarything.com to find out more!


Technical notes:

  • Since catalog computers are often the oldest computers in the library, this has been tested down to XP IE6/FF3.
  • This works by loading images from the domains (in an invisible div) and using a sturdy, cross-browser way of identifying failed images. I couldn’t find a cross-browser (to IE6) technique for scripts, without looking for their internals, so I found images at each domain.
  • Subdomains vary extensively, either to split content across logical divisions or to thwart browser limits on concurrent downloads from a single domain. (In fact, of the library-specific services, only LibraryThing seems to do this. It makes a big difference.) To be sure services work, I recommend opening up all subdomains—except Google. If you open Google up all the way, catalog searchers will try to use Google’s main search page—and discover every link doesn’t work.

Labels: opacs, tools

One Comments:

  1. brightcopy says:

    Nifty idea. You know, it would be great if you had one for LT as well (i.e. not just LTFL). We often run into people who have problems that boil down to their library software blocking one of the domains like static.librarything.com but allowing the others. It’s very hard to track down when the users aren’t very technically savvy.

    I suppose in the meantime we could point them to this since a lot of the sites are the same. But just from playing with LT with firebug turned on, I see some missing ones:
    librarything.com (just that, no subdomain)
    ajax.googleapis.com (for prototype – for LTFL this is listed on the /services page but it seems like it’d be core for LT)

    The google books and charts and amazon ones.

    The google maps stuff. I note in addition to mt0.googleapis.com I also saw a hit to mt1.googleapis.com and csi.gstatic.com on the Local page.

    There’s probably more.

    I think you should put these all on one page because LT causes them to load and it’ll look like LT is buggy if any of them are down. Maybe all the core ones followed by all the sites that are not at a librarything.com domain.

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