Keeping up with Google Books and new front-end possibilities

Last week, I started working on my work plan without settling on a useful way of visualizing it. However, I did manage to extract three issues for which I need to choose a way forward because I don’t yet know how I will execute the desired feature.

I think I might have found the solution to my third conundrum as I was working on this blog post, so I’ll address it in another. For now, I will put my first two quandries out in the world to get the ball rolling on finding solutions:

  • How to balance the desire for cool new features in the interface with the need for sustainability?
  • How to keep track of new digitized books?

Interface: the risk of dependencies

I need to do more research to find inspiration and decide which route to take to make the interface responsive (mobile-friendly), and maybe enhance browsing using filters (faceted search). My main issue with both is finding solutions without too many dependencies.

I tried sending out a tweet on 9 September regarding filters and faceted search but only got a response from Awesome Table saying lots of people use the work-around I found:

Ever since @alextheknitter introduced us to her database Bibliotecas Privadas de Navarra at #SharpFriday, I’ve been amazed by the clean layout of interactive filters offered by @Awesome_Table.

I’d like this type of faceted search for Price One Penny.

However, Price One Penny is a PHP website based on a MySQL database. I could use @Awesome_Table, but I’d need to go through an API to spit the MySQL tables into Google Spreadsheets.

They seem like cumbersome dependencies. Any more straightforward routes?

I’m thinking maybe a Facebook publication would stir up more useful conversations and correspondents to talk through the balance to be had between:

  1. nice shiny things and their depencencies; and
  2. open-source libraries with less features but easier maintenance.

Ongoing digitization and the difficulties keeping up

I need to establish how I’m going to find the new digital surrogates that have appeared since basically 2012. I assume I will use the same process to keep the list up-to-date. I reached out to Melodee Beals last week to see if she had any advice but she has not had time yet to get back to me.

So here’s the situation: I searched manually for library-held copies between 2010 and 2012 on worldcat and COPAC (now Library Hub Discover, not quite as compact). I recorded the library and the classmark for each copy, but not the OCLC (which should be a work-level ID, but in the case of my books, it can be an edition-level ID or even just a copy-level ID, as in the case of BL copies).

At the same time as I was searching for the titles of penny bloods in these aggregated catalogues, I was searching for them in Google Books, HathiTrust, and Internet Archive. I recorded their IDs on these services.

In the last 8 years, unsurprisingly, many more copies have been digitized. The British Library even launched its own in-house digitization service. I have previously asked their metadata team if I could provide them with a list of classmarks and they tell me if they’ve been digitized and provide me the ID of the digital surrogate, but I was told no.

My main questions are:

  1. Are there any APIs to access the metadata of these repositories of digitized books?
  2. If there aren’t, how receptive would the repositories be to me asking:
    1. to check whether certain titles in certain libraries they’ve been working with have been digitized?
    2. to keep me posted in the future when certain titles get digitized?
  3. If there’s no way to access their data directly and they don’t wanna check for me, where can I learn how to use Python to automatically search these repositories for the titles in my database to periodically find new digital surrogates?

One of the difficulties is that I doubt that the repositories store the information I use as a unique identifier for each book: its classmark (“call number” in North America). I now know these are neither stable nor unique, but I currently know of no other universal system to identify a book within a library (or even better: across libraries).


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