Sunday, December 7, 2008

COinS integrated to support Zotero, other reference management software

We have pushed a change to the BHL Portal user interface to enhance usability of our books. The new page is available at:

Our goal with the improvement was to make the page more visually informative and, at the same time, easier to understand. We also took this opportunity to add in code that makes BHL more readily indexed by Zotero and other reference management applications. We've embedded COinS (ContextObject in Span) into the page above, as well as the pageturning view, at:

COinS are snippets of bibliographic metadata embedded in a page using a span tag (hence the name). Reference management software, especially Zotero, use these snippets to automatically populate an entry, so that BHL users can be building reference lists within their citation managers as they're using our site. Here's what COinS look like:

<span class="Z3988" title="ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004 &amp;rft_id=info%3aoclcnum%2f1903126 &amp; &amp;rft_val_fmt=info%3aofi%2ffmt%3akev%3amtx%3abook
&amp;rft.genre=book &amp;rft.btitle=At+last%3a+a+Christmas+in+the+West+Indies.+ &amp; &amp; &amp;rft.aufirst=Charles &amp;rft.aulast=Kingsley &amp;
&amp;rft.pages=1-352 &amp;rft.tpages=352"></span>

Unfortunately there is a known issue in Zotero using COinS to describe journals themselves, so users get an error when trying to add a page like the following to Zotero:

The workaround invalidates the COinS standard, based on OpenURL, so we decided to err on the side of good metadata and standards compliance and publish the COinS correctly. There are other ways of making Zotero work for journals, which we will implement in the next UI release.

Please comment below with suggestions for improvement or issues concerning these updates.

Chris Freeland


  1. whoohoo great thanks. 10 points and a gold star to BHL. One slight issue - the URL's in the blog post all point to a missouri exchange server. I got around it by copying the text on the page.

  2. How about adding unAPI support?

  3. Kehan - Thanks for pointing that out. I've changed the URLs, and next time will remember to proofread my own text before making others do it!

  4. Anonymous - We discussed unAPI, but went with COinS for a 'quick fix.' Is there something specific unAPI will give you? I know there are considerable differences between the two, so am looking for specifics, if you care to share. Everything is possible, as long as it helps solve a problem for users.

  5. unAPI and MODS XML brings more complete metadata & auto-downloads of file attachments.