We’ve been moving to Prism 3 as our main catalogue at Sussex. Until now we used Aquabrowser as a main catalogue and Prism 2 as an alternative. Aquabrowser could not reserve or renew books and had no ‘My Account’ functionality’. It used frames and flash, and no real software updates have come out since we went live with it.

Some nice things about Prism 3:

  • one of the few library products I’ve seen that actually lets you properly theme it. Not as much as WordPress or Eprints, but much more so than other commercial software I have seen.
  • Good UI and well designed, modern css/html.
  • Cool URLs (bookmarkable – predictable – readable)
  • Good attention to speed.
  • Good mobile implementation.
  • Live and Sandbox (dev) versions of the catalogue.

And some links

We can provide one CSS file. Once uploaded, this is actually merged in to a much bigger css file with the Prism css as well as our own. The bit we supply is actually wrapped in a @media screen declaration – though by adding a close bracket we can then add other @media declarations for printing and small screen, handy.

The CSS we provide is actually a number of CSS files the University uses for its templates merged together in one long file, plus extra app specific stuff adde by me.

Most html templates will open a number of classes/identifiers at the top of the page and close then right at the end (#page #content #wrapper etc). At first that was what I planned to do in the header.html and close in the footer.html – however the html in the application itself basically restricts this approach – for example the editable header.html is wrapped inside a class itself, so all classes opened in header.html need to be closed.

Github and tools
I’ve used github for keeping a track of changes. I found this useful. Originally I was using the git command line tools and git-gui. but yesterday discovered the much much nice Github for Windows – which is lush. you can see the repository here https://github.com/chriskeene/SussexPrism/

I found the Chrome Inspect Elements incredibly useful. So too was http://responsivepx.com/ and owning a smartphone!

Jquery has been used to modify bits we don’t have control over. The nice html design makes it easy to select elements.

CSS
CSS is often trumpeted as giving you ultimate flexibility. I always find it difficult to work with. For example you decide you want something on the screen should be further down in the display. Of course – css gives you full control – not a problem! but as far as I can see the only real way to move it is to use relative or absolute positioning. However both of these have down sides, relative leaves a blank where it originally was. And they are a blunt instrument – making assumptions that the desired location will be in the place (in terms of pixels) on every screen and configuration. What I really want is to say: take identifier X and place it after identifier Y – but flow the page as per nomal. Can’t see an easy way of doing this (without resorting to javascript/jquery). This probably shows my lack of understanding of CSS.

Search Everything

Originally I was disappointed that you could not do a blank search. You may find this odd but these can be useful, especially when the application allows you to create RSS feeds or alerts based on search results. Example: take a blank search, filter down to DVDs, and anything new in the results will be added to the RSS feed.

It turns out you can. For a start, we have had a little known about Twitter account which tweets new books at Sussex ( https://twitter.com/SussexLibNewBks ) It didn’t work too well as Aquabrowser only updated once a day, so all the tweets would come at once. However I was able to take the following link:
http://prism.talis.com/sussex-ac/items.rss?query=collection%3A%22Main+Catalogue%22&sort=shelveddate%3Ad&limit=20

There’s lot of potential for similar sorts of services for different collections or criteria in the future.

And I’m not sure if this link will work off campus but it allows us to create search forms that will automatically restrict the search results to certain locations/collections or any other facet http://wwwnewdev.sussex.ac.uk/library/contact/test 

No Results found

One nice feature is the ability to customise the ‘no results’ page. As a first attempt, we’ve set it up to link to various other library catalogues, bookshops, our Electronic Library and Special Collections.

Long summaries
Another small change is that if a book has a long summary, it will have a maximum vertical size and a scroll bar, so that on an average sized screen the user can still see the availability / holdings information above the fold. Example  http://prism.talis.com/sussex-ac-sandbox/items/1080620 

Printing
They seems to be an issues when printing an item with a Google Books preview. In most browsers it would print out an extra almost blank page, in IE it could print out over a hundred blank pages! The preview is now not included in printouts.

We have also hidden the Next/Previous links, and the star ratings from printouts. JQuery was used to add a message to print outs “Printed from the University of Sussex Library” (nothing worse than finding a print out and no idea where it is from).

I’d like to expand the items/availability information on printouts, in particular so that the shelfmark is included (so the user can pick up a print out and find the items on the shelves) – but haven’t worked out how yet.

My pet rant
One of the issues many (all?) catalogues face is the disjoint between bibliographic record and live holdings/availability. The bibliographic record is indexed, but live information needs to be provided ‘on the fly’ – this means the page will be slower to load, while the hosted application connects to our local server to find out the availability of information, and issues if there are problems connecting. Because of this, Prism only shows holdings and availability on the item detail page. This is understandable. But you can also understand users who want to search by shelfmark (something Capita are looking in to), and include shelfmarks in the display of lists (e.g. so they can print out the list and go and find the items in the library). [correction: you can search by classmark/shelfmark ]

Still to come
  • Need to make the homepage pretty done
  • Need to change the ‘no image available’ image, it’s distracting, either plan white or nothing at all. done
  • I think there could be further improvements in the ‘Save/Export area. people want to print/email records, and create a biography in Word. 
  • And, regarding lists, I think we should aspire to Amazon and Youtube’s ease of use when saving (wishlist/favorites) an item
  • implement proper authentication for My Account – not a borrower number (how many people can remember their borrower number).
  • We’re looking to use the very bottom of a record to place more advanced/experimental features (qr codes, links to other systems, social, etc) This will provide potentially useful features to users without cluttering up or confusing the core record at the top of the screen.

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