Miskatonic University Press

Hackfest project: nlpltc


I put in a suggestion for the Hackfest before the Access 2010 conference in Winnipeg, MB:

It's possible to export from LibraryThing in custom spreadsheet formats — but what if you want a nice-looking printed catalogue for a small special library? Use OpenOffice.org or LaTeX, with a scripting language, to generate an attractive printed catalogue.

(I was wrong about the custom spreadsheet exports: they're not possible. You can get an export in comma-separated or Excel formats.)

And that's the one I worked on, with fellow librarians Ganga Dakshinamurti (University of Manitoba), Wendy Huot (Queen's University), and Rebecca Larocque (North Bay Public Library). </blockquote>

Wendy and Rebecca did slides for the Hackfest report that explain everything, and I'll link to them when I can.

Briefly, though, Wendy and Ganga spent the morning thinking about features, requirements, who might use a thing like this, what we needed to know, and so on. I got started hacking together some Ruby and LaTeX. Rebecca took the other route and started working with OpenOffice.org. She'd worked with Microsoft Office before to take data from a spreadsheet and run it through a form to do a sort of mail merge thing, and this was the same sort of idea, though OpenOffice works a bit differently.

By the afternoon I had a basic script working and started refining it. Wendy found some beautiful examples of old printed catalogues and drew up a design of what ours should look like, but my LaTeX-fu wasn't good enough. Rebecca made steady progress through the day on OpenOffice, running into this problem and then fixing it, then that unknown and figuring it out, and by the late afternoon she could generate a printed catalogue too — except each item would appear on its own page! We were using her LibraryThing collection as test data, and because she has 420 books there her printed catalogue would be 420 pages.