or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Maybe LCSH isn’t so bad…

   December 20th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Insulation and Weatherizing book on Amazon.comIn preparation for this colder weather, my library had a book display about home insulation, heating efficiency, and weatherizing. This prompted me to purchase a few new books, but I found something I never expected.

When looking for books similar to what the library already has, one of the tools I use is Amazon.com. That might be library blasphemy, but between Amazon's various suggestion services, its subject categories, and a greasemonkey script for directly checking our catalog, it's a quick and dirty way to find what I'm looking for.

As you might think, it's certainly not 100% reliable. But this time, I happened across one book with subjects that puts even "cookery" to shame.

The book in question is Insulate and Weatherize, by Bruce Harley. My library already has a copy, and I was looking at it on Amazon for updates. But I was astounded when I came to their subject listings (keep in mind, this is a home improvement-type book on insulation and weatherizing a house):
Amazon Home Insulation Subjects

"Cloning?" "Babysitters?" "Juvenile fiction?" And my favorite, "Life on other planets?" I know Amazon's sole function is to push as much stuff as possible at visitors to maximize sales, but come on. At least it was good for a laugh.

amazon, amazon.com, chelmsford, greasemonkey, headings, libraries, library, public, subject, subjects

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Greasemonkeying Around

   March 8th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Greasemonkey logo from WhirlycottLate to the party as usual, I'm just now finding out how much fun coding with greasemonkey can be.

As I understand it, greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that lets you write code to modify how your Firefox browser displays other peoples' web pages. So, if you would like a link from Google's homepage to your own, you can write a greasemonkey script to do that. You're not changing the Google homepage itself - only those Firefox browsers with your greasemonkey script installed will display the link.

But even that is great. There are a lot of scripts out there to play with, so I picked one and tried to modify it for my library's use. It puts a button on Amazon book detail pages, so I can link right into my library's catalog to see if we have the book (similar to our bookmarklet).

To use the script, you just click and install the file (after installing greasemonkey, of course). Then, view a book page on Amazon, and look for the Chelmsford/MVLC logo and link on the right (under the Ordering button).

Editing them is basically coding in javascript, with some differences. It's fun, though, and powerful. The barrier will be creating something useful, and then getting patrons to install it on their own computers. I'm working on a few others, and will be adding them to the library's Tech Tools page.

browsers, coding, firefox, firefox extension, firefox extensions, greasemonkey, javascript, libraries, library, public libraries, public library

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