Go-go Google Gadget!

I was having serious doubts that I’d find the time to put something together for Talis’s Mashing Up The Library competition. But that’s what late-nights are for, right?

Anyway, my idea was to submit a suite of Google gadgets that, even if it doesn’t win, will serve another important purpose of providing a proof-of-concept for my PatREST specification. So I’ve written four gadgets using the Google Gadgets API. These gadgets then consume the PatREST service for their data. If you’re unfamiliar with the Google gadget, they are the little customizable panels on Google’s personalized home page. This is what the page looks like with all four enabled:

Like all the other gadgets, they can be dragged around the page and individually configured. Also, you can choose which gadget to install, if you don’t want all four. They are:

  • tops.xml – Displays the hottest items at the library. You can configure it to display books, CDs, books on CDs, or everything. You can also select the number of results you want returned.
  • new.xml – Displays the newest material at the library. You can configure it to display books, CDs, books on CDs, or everything. You can also select the number of results you want returned.
  • curitems.xml – Displays all your currently checked-out items.
  • holds.xml – Displays all your requested material.

The beauty of these gadgets is that they require no modification of the code at all in order to be used with other libraries. The catch is that the library needs to provide the PatREST API (and right now, that’s only AADL). My hope is that other libraries will see and recognize the usefulness of a patron-friendly API.

Installing the gadget is dead easy. First, you need to create an account with Google so that you can personalize the Google home page. Then, click the “Add content” button (top-left). You’ll notice a small option next to the search box, “Add by URL”. Click it, and paste in the URL of one of the XML gadget files above. If successful, you’ll see something like:

You can repeat this process for all of the gadgets, if you like. When you’re finished, go back to your personalized homepage, and configure your gadgets:

Configuring the Top Items gadget:

Configuring the Check-outs gadget. Note that you will need a special token. This is the token used to access your personal RSS feeds:

That’s it! I doubt it could be muh easier. AADL patrons can benefit from these gadgets right away. Hopefully other libraries will consider the PatREST specification, (vendors too!). Once I had done the prototyping, creating additional gadgets was very easy because of PatREST’s simplicity and accessibility.

Naturally, these XML files are released under GPL v.2. Feel free to modify and extend them as you like. I have a number of ideas that I just don’t have time for right now, but hope to add in the future.

Also, because of the quality of XML data I get out of the III system, and, what I think is a bug on Google’s end, the results occasionally do not display. Once Google clears it’s internal cache, however, things usually fix themselves. I think this little bug is out of my hands–at least until I can learn more about it.

Please use these, and enjoy them responsibly!

*** Update 8/19/2006 ***

Added subject search to the New Items gadget.

*** Update 9/1/2006 ***

Not sure why I didn’t do this before, but I added “Add to Google” buttons to the links in this post, as well as on my files page. All you need to do to use these gadgets is click on the button and confirm by clicking on “Add it now”. How’s that for simple?


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