Access to library accounts for better user experience

8. Februar 2013 um 11:10 5 Kommentare

I just stumbled upon ReadersFirst, a coalition of (public) libraries that call for a better user experience for library patrons, especially to access e-books. The libraries regret that

the products currently offered by e-content distributors, the middlemen from whom libraries buy e-books, create a fragmented, disjointed and cumbersome user experience.

One of the explicit goals of ReadersFirst is to urge providers of e-content and integrated library systems for systems that allow users to

Place holds, check-out items, view availability, manage fines and receive communications within individual library catalogs or in the venue the library believes will serve them best, without having to visit separate websites.

In a summary of the first ReadersFirst meeting at January 28, the president of Queens Library (NY) is cited with the following request:

The reader should be able to look at their library account and see what they have borrowed regardless of the vendor that supplied the ebook.

This goal matches well with my activity at GBV: as part of a project to implement a mobile library app, I designed an API to access library accounts. The Patrons Account Information API (PAIA) is current being implemented and tested by two independent developers. It will also be used to provide a better user experience in VuFind discovery interfaces.

During the research for PAIA I was surprised by the lack of existing methods to access library patron accounts. Some library systems not even provide an internal API to connect to the loan system – not to speak of a public API that could directly be used by patrons and third parties. The only example I could find was York University Libraries with a simple, XML-based, read-only API. This lack of public APIs to library patron accounts is disappointing, given that its almost ten years after the buzz around Web 2.0, service oriented architecture, and mashups. All all major providers of web applications (Google, Twitter, Facebook, StackExchange, GitHub etc.) support access to user accounts via APIs.

The Patrons Account Information API will hopefully fill this gap with defined methods to place holds and to view checked out items and fines. PAPI is agnostic to specific library systems, aligned with similar APIs as listed above, and designed with RDF in mind (without any need to bother with RDF, apart from the requirement to use URIs as identifiers). Feedback and implementations are very welcome!


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  1. Cool, looks very helpful

    I have added some basic PAIA support to VideLibri, but has anyone a public PAIA server implementation to actually test it?

    Will it always return all hold documents in an answer to renew, or only the renewed?

    Have the document urls any meaning? To get author/title/isbn from them?

    Comment by Benito van der Zander — 11. Februar 2013 #

  2. There are at least two PAIA Server implementations for actual libraries being tested – I’ll send you the details by mail. The documents returned by renew should only include the renewed document. The document URIs should refer to a page with information about the document and/or copy, but the may also be a machine-readable page instead of the primary, nice page for users.

    Comment by Jakob — 15. Februar 2013 #

  3. >The document URIs should refer to a page with information about the document and/or copy, but the may also be a machine-readable page instead of the primary, nice page for users.

    So every library can use their own format for it?
    That makes it quite difficult to use the data for bibliography reference managment…

    Comment by Benito van der Zander — 20. Februar 2013 #

  4. The point of PAIA is not bibliography reference management – services should better be clearly separated. I created an FAQ to answer this questions: I think the most convenient solution is to use unAPI.

    Comment by jakob — 18. März 2013 #

  5. […] um ihre Leihfristen zu kontrollieren, Bücher zu verlängern, etc., etc., etc. Hier hat er darüber gebloggt und hier ist die Info zu seiner Patrons Account Information API. Eine App, die alle […]

    Pingback by Sich klonen können wäre gut – Bibcamp Teil 3 | Die Töchter Regalias — 5. Mai 2013 #

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