Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally subscribe to be notified of new titles that match

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Patrons should be able to save a search query, and optionally subscribe to be notified of new titles that match.

  1. A "Save this Search" button should be added to the results header bar on the PAC search results page. Upon clicking it, a user should be prompted to name the search and indicate whether or not they wish to be notified of new search results. If the user is not logged in they should be prompted to log in first.
  2. A "Saved Searches" tab should be added to the account tabs, just after "My Lists". From this tab the user should be able to run, edit, or delete their saved searches. Editable fields should include the search query and filters, the subscription flag, and the search name. ("Running" a saved search would simply bring you to the search results page.)
  3. If a user subscribes to a saved search they should receive an email at the end of each day for which new records matching their search have been added. This email should include a brief citation for each matching record added that day, with a link to the catalog record, and a link to the Saved Searches tab where they can change their saved searches.
Status: 
Under review

Comments

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

Love this. It's along the lines of an idea I submitted a while ago (http://masslnc.cwmars.org/node/2669), which seemed like it would be complicated to implement. But I still think it would be reallty useful for patrons since it's the kind of functionality they're used to using on many other sites.

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

Love this. It's along the lines of an idea I submitted a while ago (http://masslnc.cwmars.org/node/2669), which seemed like it would be complicated to implement. But I still think it would be reallty useful for patrons since it's the kind of functionality they're used to using on many other sites.

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

I'm moving this idea to planned development as a result of the December 15, 2016 vote on the MassLNC Development Committee. MassLNC will begin writing up requirements for this project so that the project can be issued for quotes from potential developers. Moving this idea to the planned section does not mean we will definitely fund the project. The final decision will be based on the quotes we receive and the funds we have available for projects.

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

Preliminary requirements for this project are available at http://masslnc.org/node/3305. Mockups are still forthcoming. Let me know if you have any feedback!

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Req 1-2: We ought to clarify that users will have to be logged in to use this feature.

Req 3.1: The SMS option should only be present if SMS is enabled for the library.

Req 4. "An option should be available for the alert to run indefinitely" - I think this needs to be a library setting to determine whether or not patrons have this option or not.

 

I think it will need to have a "last run" date stamp for each of the searches. This could be displayed to the patrons as an FYI, but more importantly, when the daily/weekly/monthly script runs, it should just check for new items added since the last time it ran. I don't think it should send out a notice unless there are actually new items because if the patron receives a notice every day saying there are 0 new items, they'll soon get annoyed and stop paying attention to it.

 

The notice that goes to the patron could even include two links - one to show just the new search results, and one to show all search results.

 

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

Thanks Terran.

For 1-2 then, I just want to clarify that the save search link can appear for any user (logged in or logged out), but that they have to log in to save the search. As such, it would work the way holds work. You don't need to log in to see that you can place a hold, but you're prompted to log in once you try to perform the action. Also, it will send the alert to the e-mail address on the patron record. 

3.1 and 4 - Yes, I'll add those.

Yes, I should clarify that the alert should only send for new items that have been added the last time the search was checked and should not send a notification for empty results. I consider the timestamp to be an implementation detail that will support this - yes, the developer will probably determine a timestamp is needed, but the important thing is that they fulfill the requested functionality to only show new records added since the last check. 

However, if you all do want to display the last time the search was checked, please let me know because I'll need to add that.

I was envisioning that the notification would include a list of the records that had matched. Do you want a link that shows just the new results? If so, I definitely need to include that detail because it will need to add another search parameter that we don't have now. 

A couple of other things that came out of a meeting that we had with Equinox today, we may not want to include a frequency above weekly due to concerns about the impact this functionality could have on a large system. For the same reason, we should probably build something into the requirements to not allow notifications of saved searches for results sets that are too large (e.g. a saved search for a keyword search for 'history'). We want to ensure that saved searches are deleted when a patron account is deleted. We also want users to confirm their e-mail address / text number in order to enabled the subscription. We also want the notification to have an easy unsubscribe option that does not require them to log into the catalog.

I will work on adding all of those to the requirements over the next few days.

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

>>However, if you all do want to display the last time the search was checked, please let me know because I'll need to add that.<<

That is something I would want to see if I were a user of the feature.

>>I was envisioning that the notification would include a list of the records that had matched. Do you want a link that shows just the new results? If so, I definitely need to include that detail because it will need to add another search parameter that we don't have now. <<

An actual list of new records might get unwieldy because there could potentially be hundreds of results for a system like ours if the search were broad. And, for the SMS notices, limiting the amount of text is even more important. I like the idea of including a link that just shows new items (for people who actually read all their emails) and another link that shows all the matching items.

Either way, the link to all matching items should probably be sorted with newest items first (regardless of how the initial search query was saved) - otherwise, the user won't have any idea which of the search results are the new ones.

>>we may not want to include a frequency above weekly due to concerns about the impact this functionality could have on a large system.<<

I'm concerned about the frequency as well. I'd be inclined to lean towards having a single library setting for frequency rather than having the users control it search by search.

>>For the same reason, we should probably build something into the requirements to not allow notifications of saved searches for results sets that are too large (e.g. a saved search for a keyword search for 'history').<<

I disagree with that. I think it would be too difficult to explain to users, and there are legitimately situations where users would want to see every new item in a broad category.

>>We want to ensure that saved searches are deleted when a patron account is deleted.<<

Yes

>>We also want users to confirm their e-mail address / text number in order to enabled the subscription. <<

That seems unnecessarily burdensome on the user, especially if they have to do it every time they save a subscription. We're already restricting it to people who are logged in, and we're using the email address and SMS info in their account information, and we already receive bounce-back messages from invalid email addresses.

 

>>We also want the notification to have an easy unsubscribe option that does not require them to log into the catalog.<<

Yes

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

Thanks Terran. 

For the frequency, I don't think it will be too much of a problem to make it user selected as long as there is a maximum frequency (weekly) put into the place. The nice thing about weekly is that it's a cron job that could possibly run early Sunday morning after other crons have run and when the system is less busy. Or it could be split up into smaller jobs run over the course of a week. 

As far as limiting the subscriptions based on the search results, I do need to meet with the technical team before sending these requirements to potential vendors. I would like to hear their thoughts on limitations. There are some concerns that the cron job that would be required for this feature to work, could cause problems on systems, particularly large ones like C/W MARS or PINES. If we keep the ability to limit, I will definitely include something that there must be a setting where no limits are applied. In this case, a site might want to try to launch the new feature without the limit, but have it available as a backup measure if they find that this feature does indeed cause issues when the cron job is run.

I would also like to work some other pieces into the requirements to try to optimize the performance of this feature so that those limits won't be necessary. For example, one idea raised was to ensure the searches run in parallel, which will allow the system to complete them more quickly than if they were run one at a time. 

I would like to hear what others think of the idea to have users confirm the subscription before it becomes active. There are many sites that require e-mail confirmation, and, even when they don't require the act of confirming something, they do send an e-mail reminding the user of what they just signed up for. But the e-mail confirmation could also be useful for users who have an old e-mail address on their account that has not been shut down, but is never checked; or for the possibility of somebody walking up to a computer where the user is already logged in and signing up that user for a bunch of search alerts.

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

I don't necessarily think we need to have the user respond to a confirmation message sent to their e-mail before enabling the alert, despite what I may have said before.  (I think I forgot that it was using the e-mail in their record.)

I am concerned about limiting the frequency to no more than weekly based on concerns about system load that may never be an issue.  We let staff users set up reports to run daily, and I imagine that could be an option for some systems as well.  I'd rather have the software support daily, and then let us decide what to offer to our users, either by setting or by removing editing the template so daily doesn't appear on as an option.

 

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

Thanks! A couple of questions, then:

- We never explicitly state that we want to use the e-mail address already on the account. I just want to verify that this is indeed what we want to do. I'm not arguing against; I just want to make sure we're all on the same page.

- Do we want to ensure there is an initial e-mail sent reminding the user of the alert they just set up even if they aren't confirming the alert? This type of e-mail seems pretty typical in today's world.

I can make daily an option with a Library Setting allowing sites to configure a maximum frequency. 

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

>>We never explicitly state that we want to use the e-mail address already on the account. I just want to verify that this is indeed what we want to do. I'm not arguing against; I just want to make sure we're all on the same page.<<

I agree we should use whatever is on the account.

 

>>Do we want to ensure there is an initial e-mail sent reminding the user of the alert they just set up even if they aren't confirming the alert? This type of e-mail seems pretty typical in today's world.<<

I think that's a good idea. If it's controlled through action triggers, then a library system that wants to disable those initial email confirmations could easily disable it.

 

>>I can make daily an option with a Library Setting allowing sites to configure a maximum frequency.<<

Perfect.

 

Re: Allow patrons to save a search query, and optionally ...

Moderator

I'm moving this idea back in the Sandbox. Because the cost of development for this project is expected to be large, the development committee decided to hold off on this project in favor of getting a larger number of smaller projects done with this year's funding. The requirements will be available if we decide to pick up this project in the future.