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Zotero (aka Firefox Scholar aka SmartFox)

Revision as of 13:07, 29 December 2005 by 66.246.218.107 (Talk)

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The Educated Browser: SmartFox, the Scholar's Web Browser

While many libraries and museums have put materials online, often at great expense, scholars and researchers using these institutions' online catalogs, collections, and documents currently have no easy or powerful way to use these resources, often resorting to a cobbled-together set of stand-alone applications (such as EndNote and Word) to make citations, take notes, and create personal collections and bibliographies. Few libraries and museums have had the resources to improve the user experience of their valuable resources.

The Center for History and New Media is building an open-source package of tools for libraries and museums that will work right in the web browser, where most research is now done. We are calling the project SmartFox: The Scholar's Web Browser, and it will enable the rich use of library and museum web collections with no cost—either in dollars, or probably more importantly, in secondary technical costs related to their web servers--to institutions. This set of tools will be downloadable and installable on any of the major open-source browsers related to the increasingly popular Firefox web browser: Firefox itself, Mozilla, and the latest versions of Netscape and the AOL browser (all based on the Firefox code base).

SmartFox will enable users, with a single click, to grab a citation to a book, journal article, archival document, or museum object and store it in their browser. Researchers will then be able to take notes on the reference, link that reference to others, and organize both the metadata and annotations in ways that will greatly enhance the usefulness of, and the great investment of time and money in, the electronic collections of museums and libraries. All of the information SmartFox gathers and the researcher creates will be stored on the client's computer, not the institution's server (unlike commercial products like Amazon's toolbar), and will be fully searchable. The Web browser, the premier platform for research now and in the future, will achieve the kind of functionality that the users of libraries and museums would expect in an age of exponentially increasing digitization of their holdings.

SmartFox is being developed by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


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