Alexandria: Frequently-Asked Questions


Why can't I access the Custom Z39.50 Providers to add and remove my own Z39.50 libraries as providers?

You need to install Ruby/ZOOM and marc ruby libraries to enable Z39.50 support. On Debian-based systems (including Ubuntu), libzoom-ruby is the package to install for Ruby/ZOOM but there is no official package for libmarc-ruby yet. The Alexandria team has provided a libmarc-ruby package at the Alexandria PPA on Launchpad.

You can also install the Ruby gems zoom and marc (after installing the rubygems package, of course). On a Debian-based system, you can run the following commands:
sudo apt-get install rubygems
sudo gem install zoom
sudo gem install marc

In order to test if you have installed the libraries correctly, you can try to load them from irb (Ruby in interactive mode) as follows:
irb(main):001:0> require 'zoom'
=> true
irb(main):002:0> require 'marc'
=> true

Why are results never found from some Z39.50 providers?

There are lots of dialects of MARC in use, and the marc library is not able to parse all of them successfully. Even when it's one of the three formats Alexandria supports (USMARC, UNIMARC and SUTRS) there may be enough variation to cause the parsing to fail.

The marc library could be improved to handle more MARC dialects. So if you find a Z39.50 provider which Alexandria cannot find results from, let us know.

Why has Alexandria suddenly stopped finding books at my favourite provider?

Most of the providers Alexandria uses to grab book metadata from the internet actually scan through ordinary websites of book shops and libraries. If the website changes the structure of the site, or the layout of the pages, then the provider may no longer be able to parse out the required data.

If you find a provider has suddenly stopped working, first make sure you have the most recent version of Alexandria (the problem may be fixed there). After that, check on the bug tracker to see if someone else has reported the problem and if there is a workaround. Finally, if you're sure it's a new problem, report it or bring it up on the mailing-list and ask the developers.

I entered a 10-character ISBN, but now Alexandria is showing me a different number, starting with 978 and with a different last character. Why?

Your ISBN-10 has been converted to an ISBN-13 - the updated version of ISBN which all new books use. For consistency, Alexandria uses ISBN-13 on all books.

An ISBN-10 is converted to an ISBN-13 by prepending 978 and recalculating the check character using a different method, so 0-85635-533-X becomes 978-0-85635-533-2 when converted.

It is also possible to display an ISBN-13 which starts with 978 as an ISBN-10 but this is not yet implemented in Alexandria.