ArticlesPlus Browser Bookmarklet

November 19, 2010

Ever visited a web page and wanted to find more information, from the academic or popular press, on the same subject? This bookmarklet will automatically search ArticlesPlus for the title of the page you are visiting. (You can edit the query if you like, to remove or add other keywords.)

What It Does

Say, for example, you're on the Wikipedia page for President Franklin Roosevelt. You want to quickly find scholarly articles about him. Click the bookmarklet and you're given a box to edit the search query:

Screen shot of Wikipedia page with ArticlesPlus bookmarklet window superimposed

Click "OK" and you're taken to an ArticlesPlus search results page for that same query:

ArticlesPlus results for 'Franklin Roosevelt' search

Where to Get It

The ArticlesPlus bookmarklet is on the University Library's MLibrary Labs site.


This bookmarklet is based on a similar one developed by Barbara Arnett and Valerie Forrestal at the Stevens Institute of Technology's S.C. Williams Library.

Posted by Ken Varnum at 02:36 PM. Permalink | Comments (2)

Proxy Server Bookmarklet -- Updated for iPad

May 21, 2010

The Proxy Server Bookmarklet (originally released in September 2009, and described in the post titled Proxy Server Bookmarklet for iPhone) has been updated to include instructions for using it on an iPad, as well as on an iPod Touch or iPhone. Installation is now a bit simpler than it was since the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch now allow copying and pasting.

The Proxy Server Bookmarklet allows you to take any web page you are viewing on your handheld device and redirect it through the library's proxy server. You might want to do this if you have found an article through a web search engine but cannot access the full text because you are off campus. Simply tapping this bookmarklet will give you a chance to log in and return to the article so you can get the full text.

See the MLibrary Proxy This Bookmarklet for iPhone and iPad for installation instructions.

There are also instructions for configuring the popular Papers application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch for use with the library proxy server.

Posted by Ken Varnum at 01:35 PM. Permalink | Comments (2)

PictureIt Rare Book Reader Code

April 02, 2010

by Eric Maslowski

If you’ve ever wanted to view and share some of the most rare and beautiful items in the Library’s collection, the PictureIt Rare Book Reader is your tool. The PictureIt site allows you to “turn the pages” of digitized rare materials on the web. Check out the PictureIt tool.

The PictureIt project is available in two forms: as a configurable self-contained tool, and as a Flex project with full source code. The configurable tool allows you to add your own pages, customize the interface, and even add your own acknowledgements under a Creative Commons License. This version is easy to use and a great way to get started with the PictureIt tool. The tool can be downloaded from:

If you find yourself needing more functionality than what is currently exposed through the configuration files, the full source code is available under the Apache License at the link below. The associated Flex project is provided along with sample pages to experiment with. The code may be downloaded from:

Posted by Ken Varnum at 04:28 PM. Permalink | Comments (0)

PictureIt Rare Book Reader

March 08, 2010

We bring old books to life. See them again for the first time.

by Catherine Soehner

It is my pleasure to announce the public debut of PictureIt Rare Book Reader ( A collaborative effort between several Library units, the product is now available for shared use after 18 months in development.

PictureIt Rare Book Reader

PictureIt is a web-based animation program that gives users the sensation of turning the pages of digitized rare materials that would be otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to view or obtain. Volume 1 of John James Audubon’s Birds of America was selected as the inaugural PictureIt book for a few reasons. Foremost, the eight volume set has special meaning as the first purchase for the Library by the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan. As well, the University of Pittsburgh had already digitized all volumes of the Birds of America set and was willing to share the images with us. And finally, the illustrated plates of this set were intricately completed, making them as much art work as scientific work. Volume 1 of Audubon’s Birds of America was also selected for the first PictureIt book because its complex images demonstrate the product’s embedded magnification tool which allows users to get up-close and view the details of each illustration.

While the Library is excited to share Volume 1 of Audubon’s Birds of America within the University of Michigan community, the scope of the PictureIt project is much larger. The animation programming for PictureIt was designed as a template to allow for the easy and quick insertion of other digitized rare materials. The PictureIt project is also under a Creative Commons License, which will allow others to use and change the programming with proper attribution to the University of Michigan. As a result, we hope many institutions will post their digitized rare materials using PictureIt as a growing collection of primary source materials available for worldwide viewing.

I wish to express my deep gratitude to the many people who participated in bringing PictureIt from idea to finished product, including Lilienne Chan, Peggy Daub, Sara Henry, Karen Jordan, Melissa Levine, Ken Varnum, John Weise, and John Merlin Williams. I also would like to extend a special thanks to Eric Maslowski, who provided the programming skills and the vision of a template for this product.

Update April 2, 2010: Application and Source Now Available

Posted by John Weise at 11:17 AM. Permalink | Comments (8)

Proxy Server Bookmarklet for iPhone

September 28, 2009

There are now instructions for using the library's Proxy Server Bookmarklet with an iPhone.

The original Proxy Server Bookmarklet allows you to save a bookmark into your browser that will take any web page and send it through the library's proxy server. If you click from Google Scholar or some other site into a journal or database to which your affiliation with the University of Michigan Library gives you access, but which doesn't recognize you as being from U-M, you can use the bookmark to reload the web page through a library server, giving you access.

Now, this same bookmark is available for iPhone users. See the MLibrary Proxy This Bookmarklet for iPhone for details and instructions (it takes one additional step to set up the bookmark on your iPhone, compared with desktop- or laptop-based browsers).

Posted by Ken Varnum at 01:57 PM. Permalink | Comments (0)

Just Go

October 22, 2008

Search is a hard problem. I take it for granted because I have things like Google and Lucene available to me. But it is a difficult problem, and it's made more difficult when you're not actually allowed to go around and index everything you want to search. Furthermore this difficulty is compounded when you want to repeat this search in multiple locations, and then combine the results.

Now, performing multiple searches is necessary when you want to provide easy searching over information indexed in multiple places. But when the number of indexes increases so does the wait time. To try to make this easier and more bearable, I've been working on a Database Finder, an MLibrary Labs project that tries to identify indexes relevant to a search based on the keywords you supply. So far I've included indexes indexed by Search Tools and some of MLibrary's digital collections hosted by DLPS.

Between the two main sources of databases, I have much more information about the databases from Search Tools. It's likely you'll see a great difference in the quality of search results from both, so keep that in mind when you use the DBFinder.

So, like I said, I understand why federated search has such a hard time of being friendly. There are licensing issues, there are diverse schema issues, ranking issues, and overall, it's just a pain to make things play nicely together and keep the response time reasonable. Despite knowing what's hard about federated searching, what I still want is a way to sit down at a website type some keywords in a box, and get pointers to information relevant to my interest. I mean, Google Scholar does it, why can't I?

Well, I should take a step back. If Google Scholar does it, why should I? The real reason is, there's a problem with completeness of information. Google Scholar hasn't been given permission to index everything the library subscribes to so it isn't a complete index for my purposes.

Back to what I really want: to provide a website with a search box and be able to "just go." I clearly don't have this yet, but I have made steps in that direction. For an MLibrary Labs project, I've been making a layer on top of Search Tools with the intention of simplifying the search process within Search Tools. This really is just a first step, but it is rather fun if you compare it to the current state of affairs.

Let's take a quick look at what the status quo is.

I expect the first thing you'll notice is that you need to select one of eleven different options to search in before you can really make progress. Maybe it's clear which set you want to search, but if it isn't. Let's say you're like me, and you want to research cognitive modeling. Is that Engineering or Social Science? I don't know, and even after performing the same search in both, I couldn't tell you.

In the other hand, where I'm headed is just a search box with a go button. It looks fairly simple, really just something like this:

Which is a contrast to the early decision presented by Search Tools. Is it better? That's difficult to quantify, and I'm pretty sure the answer will change depending on who you ask, and what he is trying to accomplish. I haven't really set out how to evaluate the application other than conducting a few test searches of my own design. I expect my searches to be unlikely to be representative of the general population's searches, but I was generally pleased with the results.

With all that said, how does it work? You may have seen the keyword search in Search Tools' Find databases link, and if you've used it, you've more than likely found it a lackluster feature unless you knew what you were looking for. The Database Finder does not use this feature.

I'll start off by saying that Search Tools stores a log of search queries, and which databases found how many results. So, if I consider this to be a measure of how useful these databases are for those particular searches, then I can estimate how useful the resource is for your particular query. This kind of work is often done with probabilities so:

Let A = You find resource A to be useful in your search
Let B = You supply keywords B in your search

P(A | B) = P(A and B)/P(B)

Since I have log files, I'll estimate the probabilities with counts of articles found from searches in the past so:

P(A | B) = count(A and B)/count(B)

So really, this is the number of articles resource A came up with in past searches for keywords B, divided by the number of times keyword B has been searched for. That's pretty straight-forward. It turns out that for a given search, count(B) is constant. And if all I care about is how these things rank in comparison, I can omit that factor, so:

utility(A | B) = count(A and B)

But there's a little more to the story. Maybe it helps, maybe it makes things worse, but you probably know that the coverage of these resources differ wildly. I wanted our search results to reflect this. So if proquest has a lot of stuff in it, in general, I figured it might do to further weight the results such that resources which are more generally useful are placed higher in the results ranking, thus my new estimate for utility is:

utility'(A | B) = count(A) * count(A and B)

So, there it is, pretty simple and generally brain-dead, but at the same time it seems to work. If you'd like to try it yourself now that you've read about it, here's another chance to just go:

Posted by bertrama at 10:49 AM. Permalink | Comments (0)

MLibrary Labs Proxy Bookmarklet

October 16, 2008

The proxy bookmarklet lets you reload a web page through the U-M Library's proxy server. If the page you are visiting is one that the library has a subscription for, and you're presently off-campus, then you should get you immediate access to the resource once you've logged in with your uniqname and Kerberos password and have been verified to have a valid library account.

Get the MLibrary Proxy bookmarklet

Posted by Ken Varnum at 10:12 AM. Permalink | Comments (2)

MLibrary Labs Project Summary

May 22, 2008

MLibrary Labs is the University Library's test bed and playground. Here's a summary of all the tools that have been released since we launched it in September 2007. We use the Labs to get user feedback and real-world experience with tools that are not quite ready for prime time. We encourage you to try them out and -- this is important! -- let us know what you think of them by sending an email to

Library RSS Feed Browser

Want to stay current on what's going on in the Library? The RSS Feed Browser gathers many of the library's RSS feeds into a single location. Browse news, events, new items, and more. Try it out!

iGoogle Gadget

The MLibrary Search Gadget for iGoogle puts commonly used library search tools on your personalized Google portal page. iGoogle can be customized with various "gadgets" (a gadget is a module that performs some simple tasks -- displays news headlines, the local weather, how many email messages are waiting for you, etc.). MLibrary has a gadget that lets you search Mirlyn, Search Tools, and the library web site -- and includes a link to our "ask a librarian" service, Ask Us, as well -- so a reference librarian is a click away. Learn about and install the iGoogle MLibrary gadget.

Interactive Maps to UM Libraries

Find a U-M library on a map and see a picture of the building it's located in with our new Library Map application. Get directions to the library of your choice.

New and Updated Facebook Applications

The Facebook Mirlyn Search application lets you post Mirlyn items to your Facebook profile, add items to your Mirlyn "My Shelf" space, and share items with your Facebook friends.

The Facebook Library Hours application lets you add the hours for your favorite UM library to your profile so you can always see when your "home" library opens and closes.

Search Plug-Ins for Firefox & Internet Explorer

Search plug-ins allow you to add collections to the search box in the upper right of many web browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, and others). These plug-ins allow you to search Mirlyn, OAIster, or Deep Blue directly from your browser. Learn about and install these search plug-ins.

LibX Toolbar

Have you ever found the perfect book at Amazon and wanted to see if it was available through Mirlyn? Found an article citation on a web page and wanted to get a full-text copy? The LibX Toolbar is for Firefox only and will not work in Internet Explorer, Safari, or any other browser. Learn more or go get LibX.

WorldCat Search

Want to search across the world's libraries all at once for a particular item? Try the OCLC WorldCat search. It will search across thousands of libraries' catalogs, showing you those libraries that have the item you're looking for -- sorted by proximity to wherever you are.

Posted by Ken Varnum at 09:30 AM. Permalink | Comments (0)