VIAF Autocomplete Widget

During the OCLC Developer House held in Dublin, Ohio in  February 2014, experienced library developers worked with OCLC staff to create new services based on OCLC APIs. The projects are archived at GitHub - OCLC Developer House.

We would like to introduce one of the projects which focused on the Virtual International Authority File API. Sara Amato, Joe Atzberger and Bobbi Fox worked with OCLC researcher Ralph LeVan and software engineer George Campbell to create a VIAF Autocomplete Widget.

We created a Github repository and then Sara, Joe and Bobbi started exploring the VIAF API to see what it could do. We soon brought in the API's author, Ralph LeVan to help. Once the team was comfortable with what the API could do (and after asking Ralph to add some features, such as returning some data in JSON instead of XML format), they set to work on the javascript. The group divided the work into javascript and html, and a test form soon emerged, which was further refined into a working demo. At the conclusion of the week, the autocomplete widget was presented to all of the Developer House attendees for critique, and further work by the team continued after the conference was over. It was fun to develop with complete strangers, and watch the work flow develop - group programming offers a lot of challenges and benefits.

So what does the widget do? We need to begin with what an Authority Control File is in library science terms. An Authority Control File is a list of topic names with an associated unique identifying ID. Each topic name is used consistently throughout the catalog database to make finding subject matter easier for users. The Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) creates master records that link to member nation's authority file records, thus allowing research to extend beyond one nation's catalog in a uniform way.

The widget accesses the VIAF API with a partial word as the user types, and displays the results in a pull down. The plugin could be used in library software such as Dspace to assist the user in searching with valid terms.

The open source project is available on GitHub - jQuery VIAF Autocomplete, with a simple jQuery example offered.

  • George Campbell

    George Campbell

    Senior Software Engineer

    O: 614-764-6227