OPAC keyword email alerts

One of the medical conditions I suffer from is the common “not-enough-hours-in-the-day-itus” — bits of software and new stuff gets prototyped or developed to the proof-of-concept stage, and then put to one side when something more important comes up.

This is something I originally coded in January 2006, briefly blogged about in mid February, then got slightly miffed when Hennepin County Library went live with something similar, and finally almost managed to forget all about it!

Anyway, I’ve dusted off the code and plugged it into ye olde OPACeth.  All I can do now is sit back and see if anyone will actually use it!

It’s a very simple hack and I’ll happily post the code if anyone wants it.  It’s just a couple of small Perl scripts — one to set up new alerts, and another to periodically process all of the existing alerts.

Here’s how it looks from the end user’s point of view:

  • User runs a keyword search (general, title, author, etc), for example “xml”.  At the foot of the results is a link to create a new email alert…

  • User clicks on link and enters their email address…

  • The server periodically re-runs the search (e.g. in the early hours of a Sunday morning) and compares the latest results with the previous ones.  If anything new has been added to the catalogue, then it sends out an email alert to the user…

If anyone is interested in the code, let me know.  It should work fine on both Horizon and Dynix — all you need is a web server to run the Perl scripts on.

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8 comments
  1. Mr. Pattern: We’ve created a large number of materials lists on our web site through SQL queries against the Horizon database. The items with bibliographic information appear on the page with the title and author hyperlinked to HIP – pretty run of the mill stuff.

    When someone chooses one of these links, they get to the item in the catalog. If they would like to put it on hold, they provide their authentication information (card number and PIN). When they go back to the web script that delivered the materials list and choose another, they must athenticate again.

    Do you know of a way to gather their authentication information and keep it with them as they go? If so, would you correspond with me via email about it?

    Thanks.

  2. Glenn said:

    Nice work! I’m betting it will get used. We offer email alerts for authors only (keyword and other searches via RSS only at this point) but over 2100 patrons have signed up, tracking about 3200 authors. The Author Alerts service is generating more positive feedback from our users than any other web innovation in recent memory!

    Glenn Peterson
    Hennepin County Library

  3. Hi David

    It is now — we have two smaller libraries (Barnsley and Oldham) and they wanted to be able to set up alerts for their profiles and their limits, so I’ve update the code to pick up whatever settings were in place when the keyword search was run.

    p.s. have you finished packing your suitcases yet?

  4. Frank said:

    This is great! One question though…

    How do users discontinue an e-mail alert on a subject or author they are no longer interested in?

    Frank at PLCMC
    http://www.plcmc.org

  5. Hi Frank

    There’s a few ways:

    1) When they first set up the alert, we send out an automated confirmation email which asks the user to click on a link to activate the alert. That email also contains a link which can be used at any time to cancel the alert.

    2) Each alert email also contains a link to cancel that specific alert.

    3) We also send out a periodic email (currently every 2 months) which lists all of the active alerts for that specific email address, with options to cancel any individual alert or to cancel all alerts for that address.

    It’s fairly quiet in the library at the moment (due to the summer vacation), so we’ve only had about 50 alerts set up so far.

    If the service gets popular once the new academic year starts in September, I might develop a web interface for users to manage their alerts.

    Also, once I get some spare time, I’m planning to set up something similar to provide RSS alerts.

  6. I’d like to get a copy of the code for this, please.

  7. Chris said:

    Hey!

    Looks like a great script. Would love to have a copy…

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