[LibX] LibX and the "Magic Button"

LibX Project libx.org at gmail.com
Mon May 14 09:08:34 PDT 2007

Kiri Goldbeck, one of the librarians on the LibX team, presented and
demoed LibX at the recent LOEX conference. Some members of the
audience were already LibX adopters. It turned out, however, that they
didn't know about one of the coolest features LibX has to offer: the
Magic Button.

The "Magic Button" is the button labeled "Scholar" in the toolbar. It
can be used by selecting text from a page or pdf and dragging it onto
the button. Alternatively, and probably more frequently, it is used by
selecting text and choosing the "Search Google Scholar" option from
the right-click context menu. This option does not only search Google
Scholar for the item selected, it will also interpret the results from
Google Scholar using a similarity heuristics and lead the user
directly to the item via the OpenURL resolver. In many cases, if a
user for instance selects a complete or partial article title, this
reduced the amount of work to find a known item to a single
select-and-click. This feature is a huge time-saver that I and several
of my colleagues here in the CS department regularly use.

We recently conducted a study that evaluated the recall and precision
of LibX's search heuristics. The study will be published later this
year in the journal The Serials Librarian.  For those interested, I'm
copying the abstract below:

SUMMARY. LibX (http://libx.org/) is an open source Firefox extension
that provides direct access to library resources in multiple ways:
through a toolbar, a context menu, and via cues that LibX places into
web sites a user visits.  A LibX edition integrates support for the
resources to which a particular user community has access, including
the library OPAC, databases, and their OpenURL link resolver.  As one
of its features, LibX supports the fast (one-click) retrieval of known
items, such as research articles.  This frequent task is automated by
exploiting Google's Scholar service as a hidden backend that is used
for searches.  In this paper, we evaluate the effectiveness of LibX in
retrieving known items that were listed as references in a sample of
articles in 4 widely read journals.  We conclude that LibX's matching
algorithm can lead the user to an accessible copy of an item on
average in 81% of cases with a negligible number of irrelevant items
retrieved.  As a result, LibX can dramatically reduce the time spent
on known item searches.

I should point out that for this study, we selected references
randomly from 4 journals. Had we restricted ourselves only to journal
articles and other articles, we'd likely have a much higher recall. In
this study, we selected the entire title of an item. In short, this
study shows that the Magic Button works very well for references that
contain an article title. [As a side effect, it also shows that Google
Scholar is working pretty well, contrary to earlier studies published
by others.]

The Magic Button relies on screen-scraping Google Scholar. As such, it
is susceptible to changes in the layout Google uses. The last change
occurred in February, so this functionality is broken in editions
built before that. Have your edition rebuilt if you like this fixed.

In the study, we also evaluated how often users were presented with an
accessible copy by Scholar vs. when an OpenURL link was offered. We
found that there is great benefit to using an OpenURL resolver to lead
the user to accessible items (we used VT's Serials Solutions product
for this purpose.) This means that there may be tangible benefit for
you to participate in Google's program, despite their requirement that
you expose holdings to them.

 - Godmar

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