Tag Archives: OPAC

Customizing the display of online resources like eBooks

The Athens County Public Libraries are members of the Ohio eBook Project Ohio Digital Library, a consortium of libraries who contribute to and share access to a collection of eBooks and other downloadable material through OverDrive. In order to make these resources more discoverable by our patrons we add MARC records for these titles to Koha.

When we started doing this we felt that it was important for the patrons to be able to tell very easily that the title they saw in search results was an electronic resource they could download. We already have many records in our catalog for web sites. We were concerned that these two types of resources would be difficult to distinguish.

Electronic resource in search results

An electronic resource in default OPAC search results

Since Koha gives us the ability to inject custom JavaScript into our OPAC, a JS-based solution seemed like the best option. The goal was to be able to use JS to examine each search result and look for a clue that any particular result was an Ohio eBook Project record. Luckily all the OEP records have something in common: A URL (stored in the MARC 856u) beginning with “http://ohdbks.” Here’s the JavaScript I came up with:

$("#userresults table td").each(function(i){
td = $(this);
var ohdbks_link = td.find("a[href^='http://ohdbks']");
var linkc = ohdbks_link.parent();
var ohdbks_link = ohdbks_link.attr("href");
$("td:eq("+i+") span.availability,td:eq("+i+") span.actions").hide();
linkc.html('<a class="ebook" href="'+ohdbks_link+'">Check the Ohio e-Book Project for availability</a>');

Stepping through this code:

  1. The script is triggered when #userresults is ready.
  2. We loop through each td within the table inside #userresults, storing the index of each iteration as i.
  3. The matched td is stored as a variable for easy reference.
  4. The script finds an anchor tag which matches the string we’re looking for and stores that in a variable.
  5. We want to refer later to the <a> tag’s parent container, so we use jQuery’s parent() to store that as linkc.
  6. We pull the href attribute value for the previously select <a> tag.
  7. If an href was found…
  8. …hide the availability and “actions” (“Place hold,” “Add to cart”, etc.) elements which we don’t consider relevant to e-resource records.
  9. Replace the contents of the original anchor tag’s container with new html which uses the previously-saved href attribute but changes the text of the link and adds a special CSS class.

We chose to label each eBook link “Check the Ohio Digital Library for availability” because Koha has no way of knowing whether a particular title is checked out. The link is styled by CSS added to Koha’s OPACUserCSS system preference:

a.ebook {
background: url("http://www.myacpl.org/files/image/opac-results-download-ebook.png") no-repeat scroll 5px 5px transparent;
border: 1px solid #8BC45C;
border-radius: 5px 5px 5px 5px;
font-size: 135%;
font-weight: bold;
line-height: 175%;
padding: 4px 4px 4px 25px;
text-decoration: none;

The result:

Electronic resource in customized search results

An electronic resource in customized OPAC search results

Electronic resource detail page

When the patron clicks to view more information about one of those electronic resource titles they come to a detail page which presents additional opportunities to simplify the display for this type of record.

Since this kind of title is available only through the Ohio Digital Library web site we don’t actually have any local holdings, but when we add MARC records for these resources we include a dummy item to which we can attach some additional information. One reason for this is to be able to have a searchable collection code attached to each record. But showing holdings information to the patron isn’t very useful because none of it is relevant:

Holdings information displayed by default for electronic resources

Holdings information displayed by default for electronic resources

Another aspect of the detail page which is less than ideal is that the link to the Ohio Digital Library is pretty well hidden in the other details about the title like publisher, subject headings, etc. We again turned to JavaScript to solve both of these problems at once:

var ohdbks_link = $("span.online_resources a[href^='http://ohdbks']").attr("href");
$("#holdings").html('<a href="'+ohdbks_link+'"><img src="http://www.myacpl.org/files/image/opac-download-ebook.png" alt="Check the Ohio e-Book Project for availability" /></a>');

This code is very similar to what we used on the search results page, but a little simpler.

  1. Again we trigger this function when this particular area of the page (“span.online_resources”) has completed loading.
  2. We find the link to the Ohio eBook Project download page and store the href attribute.
  3. If an href was found…
  4. Replace the holdings table (identified by the ID #holdings) with an image which links to the OEP download page.

In four lines of JavaScript both goals are accomplished: The meaningless holdings table is gone, and a prominent link is added to the Ohio eBook Project download page for the title the patron is looking at.

Here’s the result:

A customized link to the electronic resource download page

A customized link to the electronic resource download page

Cart and Lists buttons revisited

It’s been almost three years since I wrote Colorizing the Cart and Lists buttons. My conclusion then was that we needed a fairly complex combination of markup, CSS, and background images to create the appearance of the buttons.

This works fairly well in Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Unfortunately, it fails not only in Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8, but all versions of Opera too. For the time being, our more-complex process gives the desired result to a wider audience.

The time has come for the simpler version. My patch for Koha bug 7584, “Update cart and lists buttons style using CSS3 features” has just appeared in Koha’s master branch, the development version which precedes an official release.

What has changed? Firefox, Safari, and Chrome have had updates since then, which has at the very least expanded the number of users of those browsers who are on a more recent version. Opera, one of the holdbacks in 2009, now supports the features required. Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 still linger of course, but Internet Explorer 9 is available now. IE9 offers better support for the features we need.

For me what has changed is that I now think that Koha should be a little more aggressive about taking advantage of the features of up to date browsers even if that means the experience isn’t the same for users of older browsers.

The new style

Let’s take a look at the revised markup. Where the previous version needed a lot of extra elements (<i>, <span>, etc) the new version doesn’t:

<a href="#">Cart</a>

<a id="listsmenulink" href="#">Lists</a>

I’ll quote the relevant declarations from the CSS. First, both buttons are assigned rounded corners:

#cartmenulink, #listsmenulink {
-webkit-border-radius: 5px;
-moz-border-radius: 5px;
border-radius: 5px;

Notice the variations: “-webkit-border-radius” is specific to Chrome and Safari. “-moz-border-radius” is specific to Mozilla-based browsers like Firefox. When we specify a single value like “5px” the value is applied equally to all four corners. You can also specify different values:

#cartmenulink, #listsmenulink {
-webkit-border-radius: 4px 15px 4px 15px;
-moz-border-radius: 4px 15px 4px 15px;
border-radius: 4px 15px 4px 15px;

The values are applied clockwise starting with the upper left-hand corner.

Background Gradients

The other primary aspect of the buttons are their background colors. Previously we used a transparent image to give the button background a gradient. With CSS3 we can specify the gradient values right in our CSS. The easiest way to accomplish this is using the Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator.

A web-based tool for designing CSS gradients

With the CSS Gradient Generator you can use the visual tools for creating a gradient and the CSS will be generated for you. It generates CSS declarations specific to several major browser versions including Internet Explorer. There is even an option to upload a gradient image and have the Generator automatically match the colors.

Here’s the gradient CSS for the Cart button:

#cartmenulink {
background: #98CB58; /* Old browsers */
background: url("../../images/cart.gif"),-moz-linear-gradient(top, #d5eaba 0%, #b7db8a 50%, #98cb59 100%); /* FF3.6+ */
background: url("../../images/cart.gif"),-webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, color-stop(0%,#d5eaba), color-stop(50%,#b7db8a), color-stop(100%,#98cb59)); /* Chrome,Safari4+ */
background: url("../../images/cart.gif"),-webkit-linear-gradient(top, #d5eaba 0%,#b7db8a 50%,#98cb59 100%); /* Chrome10+,Safari5.1+ */
background: url("../../images/cart.gif"),-o-linear-gradient(top, #d5eaba 0%,#b7db8a 50%,#98cb59 100%); /* Opera 11.10+ */
background: url("../../images/cart.gif"),-ms-linear-gradient(top, #d5eaba 0%,#b7db8a 50%,#98cb59 100%); /* IE10+ */
background: url("../../images/cart.gif"),linear-gradient(top, #d5eaba 0%,#b7db8a 50%,#98cb59 100%); /* W3C */
filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient( startColorstr='#d5eaba', endColorstr='#98cb59',GradientType=0 ); /* IE6-9 */


Eight lines of CSS each doing the same thing for different browsers, starting with a solid background color for browsers which don’t support CSS3. This is the same kind of code which will be generated by the CSS Gradient Generator with one exception: The OPAC CSS also includes a background image for the Cart button in order to display the little cart icon.

There’s more to the styling of the buttons than rounded corners and background-gradients, but nothing which we haven’t seen before. Fire up Firebug (or your favorite browser’s DOM inspection tool) and inspect the buttons for more information.

What have we gained?

Just looking at the HTML markup it would seem we’ve gained a lot of efficiency over the <span>-heavy buttons in the older version. But the multiple lines of CSS more than make up for it. What advantages does the new design offer? Importantly, flexibility. We don’t have to create custom-colored 24-bit transparent images when changing the background color of the search bar. We can make all our changes, including changes to the Cart icon, right in the CSS. Border color, border radius, background-color (or gradient), it’s now 100% CSS and can be affected by a custom stylesheet or by changes to the OPACUserCSS system preference.

This change is going to require some revisions if your library has existing CSS customizations to these areas of the OPAC, but I think going forward these changes are going to prove to be beneficial to those seeking to customize their OPAC’s appearance.

Proposed feature: A recent comments view in the OPAC

Koha’s OPAC has a feature which lets logged-in users leave comments about records in your catalog. This feature was originally branded as “Reviews,” but was changed to “Comments” in order to align it with the familiar feature allowing users to comment on content in blogs, on YouTube, etc. If you haven’t seen it before, here’s what it looks like to a logged-in user:

A catalog record with comments

If you visit the Athens County Public Library catalog you’ll find that comments are enabled, but few users have taken advantage of the feature. I’ve often wondered what we could do to encourage people to add their comments, and one of the ideas I had was to feature recent comments–perhaps on the OPAC or library web site home page.

I’m not an experienced Perl programmer. Most of the changes I make to Koha’s Perl code are minor or cut-and-paste. Adding a feature as unformed as a recent comments view was a little daunting, but I think it turned out well, and I hope I did it right! I’m quite pleased with the result:

Recent comments

The page shows the latest comments added to any title in the catalog in descending order by date. The page also offers an RSS feed of recent comments. This offers two benefits: First, patron can subscribe to recent comments if they want to find out what others are talking about; and second, the library can use that feed to pull content into their own web site. If my library site’s content management system can process an RSS feed, I can add those recent comments on my library’s web site too.

Of course it’s too late in the development cycle for this feature to make it into 3.2, but I hope it will arrive with 3.4.

A collaborative process

There’s one more thing I wanted to share about the development of this little feature: When I was creating the RSS feed I was testing it with the W3C’s feed validator to make sure I had constructed the markup for the feed correctly. The only error I didn’t know how to fix was one with date-formatting. The validator told me I needed to  format my date according to RFC 822, but Koha didn’t include a way to format dates that way. I put out a plea on the Koha IRC channel which was answered by Chris Nighswonger. He very generously added the code I needed and I was able to include a valid RSS feed.

This anecdote shows the very best kind of interaction possible when you work with an open community of developers. I’m not suggesting that in the Koha world all one has to do is ask and free code will be provided. But sometimes you catch someone at the right moment, or the challenge appeals to them, and they pitch in. Many thanks to Chris for doing so when I needed help.

Enlittling the OPAC’s login form

Seems like lots of people hate the login form on Koha’s OPAC.  I understand many have a problem with it because their users look at and think they must log in to use the catalog. There’s no switch to flip to turn off display of the login form on the main page, but you can use a little custom CSS to hide it.

Add this to your OpacUserCSS system preference:

#login {
display: none;

One disadvantage to this technique is that it doesn’t allow your main page content to take up the whole width of the front page. The right-hand column of the OPAC’s main page remains pretty much inflexible in terms of content.

What if you don’t want to eliminate the option of logging in from the home page but you don’t like the big login form? Recently someone posed this question on the Koha mailing list.

Any thoughts on where to look to move the “Login to Your Account” and the Username and Password blanks to the top and replace the link there for “Login to Your Account” with Username and Password?

I started jumping in with some JavaScript when I realized this could be accomplished using just CSS. Here’s the result:

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

Here’s a rundown of what’s going on in the custom CSS:

  • Styling the form container with position: absolute and placing it in the top right corner. The form overlaps and hides the default login link in the top right corner.
  • Styling all the form contents as inline instead of block.
  • Adjusting margins, padding, font-size, and width.
  • Hiding the login form’s title (“legend”).

Why did I hide the form’s title? It wasn’t for aesthetic reasons. I found that Internet Explorer 6 refused to display the title (which is a <legend> inside a <fieldset>) in line with the rest of the form. IE6 wanted to give the <legend> its own line. Some conditional comments could alleviate the problem if you wanted to deliver the title to browsers that can display it correctly.

To give the form some room there at the top of the page I added a little bit of margin to the top of the main search bar. If your OPAC design includes custom header content you might have to adjust that margin.

I’ve tested this in these browsers on Windows XP: Internet Explorer 6, Firefox 3.5, Safari 4, Opera 10, and Chrome 3. Below is the CSS in its entirety. Add it to your custom stylesheet or to your OpacUserCSS system preference.

#login {
background-color : #FFF;
position : absolute;
top : 0;
right : 0;
padding-top : 5px;
width : 22em;
#auth fieldset,
#auth fieldset.brief {
border : none;
display : inline;
margin : 0;
padding : 0;
#auth input {
font-size : 75%;
#auth legend {
display : none;
#auth label {
display : inline;
font-size : 85%;
#auth li,
#auth ol {
display : inline;
#login #userid, #login #password {
#auth fieldset.action input {
margin: 0;
padding : 0;
#auth fieldset.action {
margin-bottom : -5px;
#opac-main-search {
margin-top : 1.5em;
Any thoughts on
where to look to move the “Login to Your Account” and the Username and
Password blanks to the top and replace the link there for “Login to
Your Account” with Username and Password?

Customizing your Koha OPAC using YUI Grids

In a previous post I talked about YUI Grids and how we use them to structure Koha pages–all very abstract unless you’re interested in designing Koha pages.  But there are some opportunities to use the Grids techniques in OPAC customization.

Two OPAC system preferences, opacheader and OpacMainUserBlock, are good candidates for some Grids experiments. Both let us add our own HTML markup to the Koha OPAC design, and both are placed within the default page structure defined by the Grids framework. That should let us use our own structure of grids and units to create containers for our content.

Let’s start with opacheader, and the basic grid/unit example of two equal-width containers, or columns:

<div class="yui-g">
<div class="yui-u first">
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.</p></div>

<div class="yui-u">
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.</p>

Add that to your opacheader system pref and you’ll get this:

Click to enlarge screenshot

Click to enlarge screenshot

If that doesn’t look terribly thrilling (or even practical), think of it this way:

Click to view screenshot

Click to enlarge screenshot

Somewhat more practical, at least? And remember, you’ve got a selection of preset grids to choose from:

Quoted from the YUI Grids page

Customizing OpacMainUserBlock

OpacMainUserBlock is the place where it would be the most useful to leverage the Grids framework’s power. The main page of the OPAC is a blank slate for your library’s custom content. It would be great to be able to use the built-in grids system for laying out that content.

Let’s try the same sample markup from the previous example. Two easy and equal-width columns, right? Wrong:

Click to enlarge screenshot

Click to enlarge screenshot

What’s going on? That doesn’t make sense, does it? Well…It makes a certain amount of sense. We have to remember that when dealing with OpacMainUserBlock we’re already working within an existing grid:

The default structure of the OPAC main page, non-logged-in state

The default structure of the OPAC main page, non-logged-in state

The OPAC template for the main page defines a grid with a 75% block (“yui-u first” in the diagram above) and a 25% block (“yui-u”). That means that when we add markup to OpacMainUserBlock, we’re adding that markup within a <div class=”yui-ge first”>. The YUI Grids documentation tells us that if we want to nest grids we should do so by nesting <div class=”yui-g”> directly. Try this in OpacMainUserBlock:

<div class="yui-g first">
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.</p></div>

<div class="yui-g">
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.</p>

This is the result:

Click to enlarge screenshot

Click to enlarge screenshot

Better. Usable, anyway. But why did we get another 75%/25% split? We didn’t add a grid with the “yui-ge” class. To be honest, I’m not sure whether there is any way to avoid getting the 75%/25% split when we nest a grid here.  It seems that any time we nest a grid inside a “yui-ge” grid, we get another “yui-ge” grid. In other words, it’s turtles all the way down:

Click to view example

Click to view example

Not freedom, only some flexibility

It seems were left with very limited choices if we want to try to leverage YUI’s Grids system in the context of OpacMainUserBlock. If you’re content with a 75%/25% split, then you’re okay. Otherwise you’re on your own to define a content layout your own way.

If you want to use tables, I won’t tell.