Help me hack my OPAC
January 18, 2015 3:06 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a way to generate lists of library books from my library's catalog and have them display on a different webpage.

I am a public librarian, and as such I spend a lot of time curating lists of books. I would like to display these lists on our website in a dynamic way.
Currently I have an Excel formula that generates an HTML file. I just paste isbn and title in and I get a list of links back. This works, but I want more! (I do have access to something called Bookletters, which does some of what I want, but has limitations that make it less than ideal.)
What would make me deliriously happy is some way to enter isbn and have more info come back: title, author, date, book cover and ideally, the book's circulation status. Basically scraping the database.
Our library system uses Sirsidynix Enterprise. The library's website is separate and not integrated with the catalog.
I am not a programmer, but I am comfortable with exploring programming to accomplish this task.
One problem: our website runs on Weebly, so I don't have database access. I guess am looking for a script that would just run from the page.
Does anything about this sound do-able?
posted by Biblio to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You probably want to look into Python and Beautiful Soup for the scraping. I'd use a second website to publish and use a plugin on weebly that can pull an RSS from somewhere like blogspot. The problem is that the circulation status will not be dynamic - it will only be accurate as of the last scrape.
posted by srboisvert at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2015

If your library site is javascript heavy then it gets a lot more complicated.
posted by srboisvert at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2015

This is actually of interest to me, because I'm looking to do something fun with the DC Public Library's catalog, which also uses Sirsidynix. DC doesn't appear to have it activated, but Sirsidynix systems integrate with a whole bunch of APIs. These might facilitate much of what you aim to do. I haven't yet found a listing of these (the company seems to guard a lot of info from the public). As srboisvert suggests, what you've described is highly doable with Python and beautiful soup. If you want an pretty simple walkthrough of this, you could sign up for ScraperWiki, which makes it easy to conduct regular scrapes and put the info into a data table.

You've probably already figured it out, but the way to bring up a particular book's info page for your system (it's slightly different for DCPL's) using the ISBN-13 is to GET:

Where ISBN13 is the value for the resource you're interested in. Then you can snoop around your page's html using 'inspect element' (in Chrome).
posted by waninggibbon at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2015

Best answer: Addendum:

It appears super easy to get book covers in your system. E.g. for Maira Kalman's 'Various Illuminations' the image resides at

Just replace the isbn as needed, as before.
posted by waninggibbon at 4:43 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is exciting! This project is just something I'm fooling around with, so I can spend some time getting to know Python. Thanks!
posted by Biblio at 6:39 PM on January 19, 2015

No problem. It would be cool to see what you end up doing (even if it's something small).
posted by waninggibbon at 1:36 PM on January 20, 2015

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