Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The OU Engineering Toolbar and Breakdown of the Components

Here is a picture of the current engineering toolbar that I am coordinating beta testing with my faculty. For a better view of the toolbar just click the picture.

The first thing to note is that there is a nice OU Engineering Toolbar pull-down menu which allows me to provide useful links to pertinent information that our students may need. This functionality is very useful as the Russ College of Engineering is one of the departments that is located furthest away from Alden. The links that I selected are basic services: Library account information, Document Deliver/Interlibrary Loan, Contact Information, Etc.

Databases that have been selected to be included in this pull down menu are ones that are useful to Engineers. I included subscription databases that we have access to that do not allow us to redirect searches through a persistent url (those databases that do allow this are handled in the Search section of the Toolbar). I also included needed free resources. I am open to suggestions for additions of resources that Engineers will find useful though at this time my faculty have indicated that these are the ones that they prefer. I think the goal here from a development standpoint is to reduce the amount of clutter and to fine tune for efficiency. If students want to look at all the resources we have available to them that link is in the regular OU Engineering Toolbar menu under the Infotree heading.

Chat functionality has been setup so that any students, faculty or staff who are making use of the OU Engineering Toolbar can just click the CHAT button and it will connect them straight to me via the web client Meebo. If I am available I can then attempt to answer their questions and requests or direct them to appropriate resources. The advantage of Meebo is that since it is an application delivered through your web browser no one needs to install a chat client to ask questions. If I am not available there is a link to Other Help Options which leads to our Alden Library chat and would put users of the toolbar in touch with our reference service which is open all hours that the Alden Library Learning Commons is available.

Searching is a two part process. The user of the toolbar first selects the database they want to search in. If they click the go button at this point it will take them straight to the database that they have selected. If they add a search term then it will search in the appropriate database. On campus this is a seamless process as there is no need to authenticate via proxy. Off campus all links are run through the proxy service so people will be able to access there resources wherever they need to.

I will be posting a link to a working copy of this application. I can also go through examples of code if there is enough interest.

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