The Library Corp. (TLC) plans to offer a radically new interface for its library systems based on technology licensed from MediaLab Solutions in The Netherlands. Called AquaBrowser, the technology provides a new searching paradigm for the library catalog, presenting to the searcher a visual array of related search terms that can be used to refine the search or guide the session through a trail of related concepts.
When performing a search, the system not only delivers the results but also produces a visual map of the concepts represented in the results, called the cloud of associations, that can be used to guide subsequent steps in the search process. The search engine goes beyond literal representation to include fuzzy matches, concepts related to word stems, or semantic similarities. A sophisticated ranking algorithm determines the order in which results are presented.
AquaBrowser operates through several layers of technology. Data Connectors extract relevant information from the source documents, which in a library catalog would be the MARC records. A system component called Knowledge Builder analyzes the extracted data, making use of integrated dictionaries and thesauruses and generates data on statistical frequency of words, concepts, and word clusters. The heart of the system is a data engine that stores the data and creates cross-references and performs the search and retrieval functions. The context builder layer tracks the search session and produces search results, including both the ordered list of results and the cloud of associations.
The user interface also presents a graphical representation of the results. AquaBrowser will be available for all TLC's library automation systems (Library.Solution, Carl.Solution, and Carl.X) as an added-cost option. Pricing has not been announced.
Many library organizations have made use of the AquaBrowser technology from MediaLab, including the Dutch Association for Public Libraries, the Rotterdam Library, The National Library Board of Singapore, the Eindhoven Public Library, and the Utrecht Public Library.
BiblioMondo, a library automation company based in Montreal, Canada, has licensed AquaBrowser for use in its ZONES suite of portal and metasearch products.MediaLab also markets its technology to government agencies, organizations involved in electronic publishing, and others with large amounts of information.
Last June TLC announced a similar agreement with Endeca Technologies to integrate its Guided Navigation search interface with its library automation systems. The company indicates that both alternatives will be available to TLC customer libraries.