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Providing a library toolbar that interacts with the ILS for a better service to our users.

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Chalon PX, Hourlay L.  2012.  Providing a library toolbar that interacts with the ILS for a better service to our users. 13th EAHIL Conferences "Health information without frontiers". [Oral Presentation]


In the last 20 years, scientific resources moved to the clouds. When searching for scientific information, users have thus to surf the Web, far from the OPAC or the intranet. Bringing users to the resources selected by the library in a simple way is therefore a challenge.

To answer to such a challenge, librarians may provide their users with a tool ensuring permanent visibility of libraries' resources: a toolbar for Web browsers (1). One technical option is the Community Toolbar, a toolbar provided for free by a commercial company.

Community toolbar is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Google Chrome, and supports either Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. This toolbar may be customized without any programming skills. This probably explains why about 200000 publishers choose this platform, with among them about 3000 libraries (2). Community toolbar allows to search within a catalogue from the toolbar itself. It provides shortcuts to WebPages, but also to RSS feeds and Tweets. It also provides a catalogue of "Gadgets" to add supplemental functionalities; e.g. a live chat. Publisher of a toolbar has also access to analytics (e.g. active users, most used menus).

A Community toolbar is not intended to replace the OPAC but should be seen as a complement. The main advantage is its permanent visibility when surfing the Web: users do not need to go back to the OPAC or an intranet page to benefit from resources selected by the librarian. One disadvantage is that the toolbar is yet another place where the resources must be described. This can add workload to a one person library, and could also increase the risk of dead links or incomplete list of resources.

The library of the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE), inspired by an EAHIL's colleague (3), introduced a Community toolbar in 2007. The KCEBIB library toolbar was designed to provide links to resources and catalogues, paying attention to workload of the librarian.

To describe how the toolbar interacts with the library catalogue, its use and how users evaluate it.

The information specialist created a Community toolbar, the KCEBIB toolbar, using the Free online service available at Selected functionalities are the search box that allows to search selected resources; menus containing direct links or sub menus; RSS feeds and Tweets aggregators. This toolbar is standard at KCE: either Internet Explorer as Firefox are fitted with the KCEBIB toolbar on all computers.

The Integrated Library Management System (ILS) PMB is used to catalogue physical and online resources since 2006 (4). PMB provides lists of resources from an indexation term, and produces RSS feeds from selection of resources.

Analytics are provided by the Conduit toolbar and by the Google analytics code placed on the OPAC.

A poll was conducted on the Intranet of KCE in November 2011 to get feedback from users (55 people, including 40 researchers).

The KCE Library Toolbar counts 10 items: a search field, a direct link to the OPAC, four menus to library resources (references, databases, journals, data sources), one menu listing tools, one menu providing links to other institutional websites, one menu listing RSS feeds and one menu listing Tweets (Fig. 1).

The search box is fitted with 12 supplemental sources to search, including the library catalogue, OAIster or Flickr Creative Commons.
The "References" menu provides 11 direct links (scientific procedures, thesaurus, classifications), 6 links to lists from the OPAC (classifications, dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias, online courses, selected eBooks) and a link to the VDIC e-books online catalogue (consortium catalogue), also build with PMB (5).
The "Databases" menu provides direct links to "core" databases (bibliographical databases, clinical guidelines databases, clinical trials registers, Institutional repositories). Each list of direct links is completed by a link pointing to a list of resources indexed under the same MeSH term on the OPAC (e.g. “Databases, Bibliographic” counts more than 80 resources).
The "Journals" menu provides 18 links to "core" journals, either a direct link or link a to the journal page on the AtoZ catalogue (when several different accesses are available for the same journal). Two more links are provided: a link to the OPAC listing the KCE collection of journals, and a link to the AtoZ catalogue of e-journals (consortium catalogue).
The "Data sources" menu provides 13 links to core resources, but also a supplemental link to the OPAC for resources indexed under "statistic & numerical data".
A “Tools” menu lists 8 useful internal tools (e.g. Who’s who) and a “Links” menu lists 23 institutional Websites of interest (e.g. KCE Website, Extranet, Belgian or International organizations).
22 RSS feeds (News from selected Web sites, recent entries in the KCE library catalogue and TOC from core Journals) and 2 Tweets (Cochrane, EUnetHTA) are also provided through the toolbar.

Analytics of the toolbar show that all colleagues are active users of the toolbar. The top 3 menus are “Databases”, “Tools” and “Journals” (Tab.1). Analytics of the OPAC show that direct access counts for 17% of the total accesses (Tab.1).

The poll showed that a majority of the 19 respondents are satisfied by the library toolbar: 63% find the library toolbar very useful, and 26 % useful (Tab.1).

KCE acquires its library resources directly or through a consortium (VDIC, consortium of Belgian governmental health libraries); this results in several different catalogues to consult in order to access the library resources, either subscribed or free.

A library toolbar appeared thus to be a simple and inexpensive tool to provide a place to access the resources selected by the library always under the eyes of users surfing the web.

After 5 years, we can confirm that Conduit claim to provide a Community toolbar being manageable without coding skills is a reality. Adding a link to a resource, an RSS feed or a Tweet feed is really a piece of cake; even adding a target to the search box is a very simple operation.

But adding on the toolbar all pertinent resources that are already listed at the library catalogue(s), even if not complicated to achieve, cannot be recommended: it would result in a duplication of efforts and waste of time.

So, beside the list of core resources (which is stable), we make use of links to those lists of items indexed under the same term in the library catalogue. This allows us to keep maintenance as low as possible while offering to user a centralized and efficient discovery interface.

Also, considering the toolbar is standard on all computers, a page listing library resources on the institution's intranet is not required anymore. A toolbar managed by the librarian is a far more flexible option than an intranet page, especially when the intervention of a webmaster is required for updates.

Using a toolbar in conjunction with the ILS turn thus to be a very efficient way to present resources selected by the library to its users while keeping maintenance limited.