One of our favorite features in Aspen Discovery is the seamless integration between many eContent vendors and your catalog. This means that for several vendors - Overdrive, Hoopla, Axis360, and Cloud Library - patrons can access, view, and check out all of those materials from your catalog search in Aspen. For any other vendor, we can easily provide access to patrons as well. In this blog post, we are digging into what we mean by API integration, side loads, and what this all means for your patrons!
What is an API?
Whenever we start implementations with our new partners we talk a lot about eContent and whether or not eContent vendors provide APIs. Many of you may be wondering, "A-P-what? We just want every title displayed to patrons so they can see everything they have access to" - we do too!
The reason we discuss APIs so much is because an API is a connection that allows your eContent vendors to have a conversation with your Aspen Discovery layer. API stands for Application Programming Interface which allows programs (like Aspen) to talk to one another and to share information. When an eContent vendor has APIs then we can allow that vendor to have that open conversation with Aspen. Sometimes vendors do not have APIs, and in this case, we have a work around called a sideload that we will talk about a bit later.
What eContent vendors do you currently interact with via APIs?
Aspen Discovery currently has API connections with Overdrive, Hoopla, Cloud Library, Axis360 and Cloud Library. If you do have eContent collections with any of these vendors then you have all of those titles displayed right within Aspen Discovery.
What does this mean for my patrons?
The great thing about these APIs connections is that it allows Aspen Discovery to always have the most up to date information within the catalog search results. This means that patrons will see right away if they have access to a specific title from a certain vendor and the format they have available from that vendor. You can see below that as a patron I can easily tell that I have access to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone from Hoopla and Overdrive as an eAudiobook or eBook. Furthermore, I can tell that I have access to a Kindle edition of the eBook!
If I had access to this title from Cloud Library or Axis360 I would see those vendors listed in the format searches, as well.
If the title is available to your patron from one of these eContent vendors they can choose to ‘Check Out’ from that vendor in the search results.
They will automatically see a success message and the title will be linked for them to access right away or they can go into their patron account where all physical and eContent checkouts or holds will be listed out.
You can see in the screenshot that in the patron account check outs are split out by physical items versus eContent. Patrons can easily ‘Listen Online’ or ‘Read Online’ with the title for access right from their account!
Patrons can return the title from their checkout page as well by choosing ‘Return Now’.
On the hold screen patrons can easily cancel or freeze (aka suspend) their holds from eContent vendors.
In addition, Overdrive provides previews of eBooks and eAudiobooks so we now display those right in the search results so patrons can get a sense of if they do want to check out or place a title on hold. This is especially useful for patrons that want to make sure they like a narrator before checking out an eAudiobook.
Finally, the last feature I love about this integration is that if your patrons have their reading history turned on then they get to see all of their reading history - whether it is physical items or eContent items- all in one place!
What about my other eContent vendors?
If you utilize eResources through vendors other than Overdrive, Cloud Library, Axis360 and Cloud Library and they provide you with MARC records we can use a feature called ‘sideloading’. This allows you to load marc records right into Aspen Discovery and can provide patrons with access in the catalog, as well! You can find a tutorial on setting that up here:
Once the side load setting has been created all you have to do is upload the marc file and patrons will see search results like the next picture:
Patrons will see the format of what they are accessing, where the file is coming from (like Kanopy) and will have an ‘Access Online’ button to go straight to the resource! At this point the patron will be taken out of Aspen over to that resource.
I always have to mention the stats! Now that patrons can access all of the great eContent you have for them you can see statistics on all of these resources about how much, when, and how your patrons are utilizing them. In the Aspen Administration section, each vendor - Overdrive, Cloud Library, Hoopla, and Axis360 have their own modules with a ‘dashboard’.
You can find a dashboard in your side load settings, as well, that will split the statistics out by setting (aka vendor).
We hope this helped to clarify the way that eContent integration works in Aspen Discovery. We are always looking to improve our connections and build relationships (and API connections) with other vendors to make Aspen as robust as possible! Please reach out if you have any questions.
Setting Up Hoopla
Setting Up OverDrive
Setting Up Cloud Library
Setting Up Axis360
Read more by Addie Van Salisbury