Task Force on Social Networking Software

Medical Library Association

5 things you didn’t know about AJAX

Filed under: IL2008,Tools in Use — Molly Knapp at 12:42 am on Monday, October 20, 2008

1. It’s not just a cleaning product.

It was also the subject of a workshop at IL 2008. AJAX is short for ‘asynchronous Javascript and XML’. Basically, it’s a way for a web page client to communicate directly with a web server without reloading the page, using the magic of the JavaScript XMLHttpRequest object. For a more detailed overview, check out this tutorial from W3 school.

2. This blog is using it right now.

Ajax has many potential uses, from error checking and auto-suggest features on forms to pre-loading content and drag and drop functionality you see on sites like Google Maps Street View. One of the things I learned is that WordPress (the software that provides this blog to the public) uses it to provide some features on their platform. Ajax is also a way to explain the new features you see when databases redesign. EbscoHost, Ovid and Scopus all have a the feature where you can click a link to ‘view abstract’ and immediately the content is revealed, without ever having to reload or go to another page. Ajax is one of the methods that allows web pages to do this.

3. It can help you provide a more dynamic library website.

Ajax has many library applications. It can offer a way to browse subject headings by suggesting likely terms, or alert users to potential number of search results, as Virginia Tech did with “Guesstimate” in their library catalog. It can serve as a substitute for long drop down menus, or keep pages clean by offering a search box only when users click on a link (click on ‘Site Search’ on this page from Montana State University Libraries for an example). You can even use Ajax to write your own federated search engine, as Curtain University Library in Australia has done. Of course, writing your own federated search engine comes with it’s own unique challenges, especially when it comes to authenticating users, which if you’re wondering, can in some cases be done using API keys from vendors.

4. You don’t need a Computer Science degree to use it, but it helps.

One of the things I realized during this class was how much more I needed to learn about xml, css, php, sql, and various other programming-related acronyms in order to implement anything scripted in Ajax on my library site. The workshop instructors (Karen Coombs and Jason Clark), in addition to being highly informative and engaging teachers, were also both self taught, and one the best pieces of advice they gave was to read up on the documentation and just keep practicing and writing pages until they work. One of the other librarians in the workshop wondered about the challenge this offers to those who do not have time to learn a new scripting language on top of their other responsibilities. Karen Coombs had an astute observation in this respect: that it is good for Public Services folks to at least see what is going on behind the scenes on library site design. In gaining an understanding of what the tech people have to do to make something work, you start to understand that it is not all just that easy.

5. Medical Librarians are EVERYWHERE.

Well, this one is not really about Ajax, but I have to point out that out of about 17 people in the CE, 4 of us were from medical libraries. And just next door, Sadie Honey was teaching a class on project management. We’re certainly pervasive, aren’t we?

Suggested resources

The workshop’s slide presentation – Ajax for Libraries
Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications brief overview by Jesse James Garret
Getting Started with Ajax from Alistapart.com
Google AJAX libraries API
Foundations of Ajax
by R. Asleson & N. Schutta (ISBN 1590595823)

Medical Librarians Invade Internet Librarian 2008

Filed under: IL2008,TF — Molly Knapp at 11:31 pm on Friday, October 17, 2008

Medical Librarians will converge upon Internet Librarian 2008 next week in Monterey, Ca. This 12th annual conference targets information professionals who are using, developing, and embracing Internet, Intranet, and Web-based strategies in their roles as information architects and navigators. Thanks in part from a career development grant from the Medical Informatics Section, I’ll be attending a CE called ‘AJAX for Libraries’ (in which we’ll learn how to build web applications “as seen in popular Web 2.0 sites such as Google Maps and Flickr”), as well as attending program tracks on Web Design, Learning, and Social Media. I’m also going to try and catch a “Cyber Tour” by Amanda Etches Johnson, who you might remember from MLA 2008′s Plenary Webcast. I’ll be joined by my colleague Jennifer Lloyd, and several other MLA members from the South Central Chapter. Are you attending? Leave a comment and let us know.

Look for updates starting tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s some other people covering the conference.

13 Things – Learning 2.0 class from MidContinental Region

Filed under: Social Networking Applications — Melissa_DeSantis at 4:15 pm on Friday, October 3, 2008

Here is a *free* opportunity to learn about Web 2.0 technologies.  This online class is being offered by the MidContental Region (MCR) but anyone can take the course even if you are not in the region.  See the course description and registration information below:

Have you wanted the chance to learn more about Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, podcasting, and video sharing?   The MCR will be offering a 10-week online class using a self-discovery format called Learning 2.0.  MCR’s implementation of the Learning 2.0 program is based on the popular Learning 2.0  “23 Things” class originally created by Helene Blowers at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County and recently adapted for health sciences libraries by Becker Library at Washington University.   Our implementation has reduced “23 Things” to “13 Things,” but we think you will still find the class interesting and enjoyable!
 
The class is offered in an asynchronous format, so you can participate at any time that works for you.  We anticipate the class work will take (on average) 2 hours of your time per week.  We will also be offering optional synchronous sessions using Adobe Connect (dates to be announced) related to the current “13 Things” topic.
 
The class will be held from October 13, 2008 through December 19, 2008.
 
As a further incentive, the first 30 MCR members who sign up will, upon completion of the class, receive a USB MP3 player.  Others may sign up but we are only able to MP3 player to the first 30 MCR registrants who also complete the class.  So register now!
 
To learn more about the topics that will be covered the class, visit the class blog at:
http://nnlm-l2.blogspot.com/
 
To sign up, please e-mail Sharon Dennis at sdennis@lib.med.utah.edu    The first 30 will be determined by the date and time stamp on your e-mail.

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