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Library debuts revamped Josiah

Monday, March 30, 2009

In an age where library resources are increasingly making use of new technologies, Josiah, the library’s online catalog, has been retooled with a series of new features that have been available since earlier this month. The new features include text messaging of book call numbers and access through Josiah to searchable, digital volumes on Google Books, along with other small upgrades.

The codes for both applications were adapted by Goran Tkalec GS, a graduate student of religious studies who also studies computer science. He collaborated with Bonnie Buzzell ’72, senior knowledge systems librarian, to implement the technology.

For texting, the user enters his or her cell phone number and carrier into Josiah. The resulting text message will include information on the title of the source, its call number and which of Brown’s libraries houses it.

The information on Google Books, in the form of images and text, “can help (a user) determine if the item is likely to be of interest before going to the stacks or placing a request,” according to Josiah’s Web site. Though more than a million volumes are available on Google Books, not all texts or images are complete, and its scans may be imperfect. Moreover, texts on Google Books cannot be saved or exported, according its Web site.

Brown’s librarians are always aware of new developments at other university libraries, said Jean Rainwater, co-leader of Integrated Technological Services. The text message feature adapted similar technology that was originally created by Adam Brin ’00 for Bryn Mawr College, where he worked as a librarian, Rainwater said. The original code for the Google Books function was developed at Virginia Tech.

The new services have garnered positive reviews from frequent library users and librarians.

“I appreciate that Brown Library Services now links Josiah entries to Google Books,” said Heather Lee, a second-year Ph.D. student in American Civilization who said she uses Josiah for research at least once a day.

“Previously, if a book was checked out of the Brown libraries, I would have checked Google Books for a digital copy in the case that I needed to read it immediately,” Lee said. “This new feature saves me trouble of searching another database.”

Rainwater said that, as a librarian, she particularly likes having direct links to Google Books. She said it allows her to consider which books to replace in the library.

The other, smaller enhancements to Josiah include an automatic e-mail notification from Josiah to the user when a newly catalogued item matches a saved search from the user’s account, Buzzell wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Christine Baumgarthuber GS, a graduate student in English who uses Josiah to do her research and to study for her exams, said the Josiah layout and navigation was already fairly straightforward. Having recently led students through the catalog and database in a section of ENGL 0110: “Critical Reading and Writing I: The Academic Essay” class that she teaches, she found that her students’ feedback was generally positive.

Rainwater also said another new feature would soon be added to the catalog. Users will be able to find call numbers in Josiah and take them to a floor map of the library, which will show the user where to find the books, she said.

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