MnPALS Plus FAQ
Last Updated: May 2013
What is MnPALS Plus?
MnPALS Plus is an open source "discovery tool" based on VuFind. A “discovery tool” is an application or group of applications working together in a “presentation” layer between end users (students, faculty, public) and the integrated library system (ILS; in our case, Aleph). MnPALS Plus extracts the bibliographic data from the ILS (usually daily is sufficient), reformats it to optimize performance, and stores it in its own database.
Linking or Implementing MnPALS Plus
What setup work do I have to do at my Library to implement MnPALS Plus?
- You can link to https://mplus.mnpals.net
- Use the following URL to bring up the search screen with a particular library selected. The url is:
https://mplus.mnpals.net/?mylocn=XXX where XXX is the 3 letter ADM code. Your 3 letter code must be uppercase.
- You can include a search box on your web site that links directly to MnPALS Plus.
Replace the XXX with your 3 letter ADM code (Uppercase only).
If you just want an "all" search you can make the "type" field hidden with a value of "all".
The form for this box is:
<form method="GET" action="https://mplus.mnpals.net/vufind/Search/Results" name="searchForm"> <input type="text" name="lookfor" size="30" value=""> <select name="type">
<option value="AllFields" selected>All Fields</option> <option value="Title">Title</option> <option value="Author">Author</option> <option value="Subject">Subject</option> <option value="CallNumber">Call Number</option> <option value="ISN">ISBN/ISSN</option> <option value="tag">Tag</option>
</select> <input type="hidden" name="mylocn" value="XXX"> <input type="submit" name="submit" value="Find"> </form>
You can force the search in MPlus to use the Mobile interface:
where XXX is the 3 letter ADM code. Your 3 letter code must be upper case.
REMINDER: Your library will also have to update its proxy server links to MnPALS Plus.
Questions of Interest to Library Users (Functionality)
What are the features that make MnPALS Plus better than the regular library catalog?
Some of the features include:
- Search with faceted results. The system allows the user to search from a basic search box and then to be able to narrow the results by clicking on the various facets (format, author, topic, language, genre, era, region) of the results.
- Search is "Googlized."
- The individual record displays the live circulation status.
- When viewing a record, the user will be offered suggestions of resources that are similar to the current resource (“Similar Items" resource suggestions).
- Users can save the resources from both the search results page and from the record view page to their own customizable lists.
- Users can browse the catalog allowing them to explore what the library has rather than only being able to see a very narrow set of results.
- Author Biographies are provided by Wikipedia. The user can learn more about the author by clicking on the author’s name, as well as see all of the books by that author in the library.
- Stem searches on subject headings; e.g. Novelists, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
- Automatic searching of word stems; e.g. tree and trees; clown, clowns, clowned, clowning
- Web 2.0 features; e.g. tagging, ability to add comments/reviews to a record, RSS feeds.
- Creation of citations.
What browser does MnPALS Plus work best in?
Although it will work fine in most browsers, most of the testing has been done with the latest versions of Firefox and very recently, Internet Explorer 10. There have been some formatting quirks reported with versions of Internet Explorer 9 and earlier, but the major functionality seems to work just fine. (Updated May 2013)
Where can I go to learn more about MnPALS Plus?
MnPALS Plus FAQ (this document)
Can I link to individual records within MnPALS Plus? i.e. does an individual record have a persistent URL?
Yes. MnPALS Plus supports persistent URLs (permalinks). This allows the user to bookmark their queries or records to allow access to a page they were once on.
Do the hot links for searches (i.e. Subject Headings, Authors, Call numbers) work in MnPALS Plus?
Hot link occurs within the bib record for subject headings, authors, titles, series, tags.
How do I put a hold on a record in MnPALS Plus?
A button to place a HOLD is available on the individual record screen.
How do I access my account information in MnPALS Plus?
Just logon using your Aleph logon (library barcode and password).
Can we search by logical bases in MnPALS Plus?
You can limit searches to your library and then use the facets to further limit the searches.
Can we limit to format in the basic search?
Yes, using the facets.
How do I log in to My Account?
Click on the "My Account" link from the upper right corner of any MnPALS Plus screen, and type in your library barcode (usually the 14 digit number from your ID card) and your password (usually your last name).
What can I do in My Account?
You can do a lot of things in My Account. All of the following options are listed on the My Account page after you have logged in. Besides seeing what items you have checked out and renewing them if desired, you can view your Favorites, Tagged Items, and Items on Hold. You can also view any fines you may have accrued, and you can manage your Interlibrary Loan requests in My Account.
How do I renew an item in My Account?
Click on the "Checked Out Items" tab on the My Account page. From the list that appears, click on the "Renew Item" links for the items you want to renew.
How do I email a record?
First, click on the title link for the item you would like to email; you can email items from My Favorites or from a MnPALS Plus search results list. Then, click on the "Email This" link (looks like a little envelope) above the tile on the individual record page. Type in a To and From email address, and a message (if desired). NOTE: Add this email address to your "safe senders" list in spam or junk mail filters: MnPALS_Plus@cola.mnpals.net
How do I check the status of an ILL request?
Click on the "Interlibrary Loan Requests" tab in My Account. You can view your current list of Interlibrary Loans, as well as their status in our system, and due dates.
How do I renew or cancel an Interlibrary Loan request in MnPALS Plus?
Click on the "Interlibrary Loan Requests" tab in My Account. Then click on the "Renew ILL" or "Cancel ILL" links under "ILL Actions" (the last column) to perform those actions.
Can I link to individual records within MnPALS Plus? Does an individual record have a persistent URL?
Yes. MnPALS Plus supports persistent URLs (permalinks). You can create a link to any individual record in MnPALS Plus by using the URL of the individual record page (found in your browser's address bar). URLs for any searches you have done are also persistent links; simply copy and paste the URL or add it to your browser's favorites.
How does tagging work?
Tagging items allows users to create their own topic headings/keywords, all of which are searchable in MnPALS Plus. You can also use tags to organize items in your Favorites.
There are two ways to tag an item. From the Individual Record page click on "Add Tag" and type in your keyword(s). To tag the item AND add it to your Favorites at the same time, click on "Add to Favorites" from the results list, or from the individual record, and type in the tag. You can add as many tags as you want to an item.
Who can see my tags?
Everyone. When you tag an item your tag appears, along with everyone else's, on the record in MnPALS Plus.
Are tags reviewed?
Not at this time.
Can I edit or delete a tag for an item in my Favorites?
Yes. First, find the item with the tag you want to change or delete in your Favorites. Click on "Edit" (the pencil icon) and in the window that appears, modify or delete the tag and click Save. You can also delete a tag that you have put on an item, even if you have not added that item to your favorites.
Can I delete tags that others have created?
Can tags be searched?
Yes, they can be searched from the Basic Search screen or from My Account. Search for multi-word phrases by enclosing terms in quotes.
If I delete an item from my favorites, does it delete the tag as well?
How do I add an item to My Favorites?
From the results screen, click on the "Add to Favorites" link next to the item you want. Or, you can click on an individual title in the list and add it to your Favorites from the record page. You will be given the option to add a tag or note to the item at this point.
Can I add a group of items to my Favorites?
Not at this time.
How do I view My Favorites?
Log in to My Account (to the right of the search box) using your barcode and password. Your Favorites and tags will appear immediately below the search box.
What can I do in My Favorites?
Items in My Favorites are saved for future sessions. You can then tag them, organize them by tags, and add Notes that only you can view.
Is there a way to see only my untagged Favorites?
Not at this time.
Can I email a group of items from my Favorites?
No. You can only email one by one using the "Email This" link on the individual record page. However, you can easily create persistent links to searches using the URL of the results page; you can also copy and paste the URLs for individual records into an email.
How do I add a Note?
Click on "Add to Favorites" and you will be prompted to add a Note if you wish. You can also add a note to an item already in your Favorites by clicking on the "Edit" link next to the item.
Where do the book reviews come from?
They are pulled from customer reviews on Amazon.com's web site.
How do I add a comment to an item?
Click on the "Comments" tab on the individual record page. Type your comment in the box that appears and click "Add Your Comment". Your comment is public, and will display to anyone who visits this item.
Can MnPALS Plus create a citation for my Works Cited page for my paper?
Yes. Simply click on "Cite This" for the item you want to cite in MLA or APA style, and copy and paste the citation into your document. Please consult the current style manual you are using to check for accuracy.
Can I send a MnPALS record as a text message to my cell phone?
Yes. On the Individual Record page for your item click on "Text This" (above the title). Next, enter your 10-digit phone number and choose your cell phone service provider from the drop-down menu. Then click "Send".
How are the results in MnPALS Plus displayed?
The results in MnPALS Plus are returned in order of their relevance to your search terms. That means that the more your search term(s) appear in a record, the higher up on the results list it will be. Results can also be resorted by Date, Call Number, Author, or Title, by choosing a different sort method in the "Sort" drop-down menu (top right of the search results).
How do I use the topic, format, and other links on the left side of the results?
Broad searches can be easily narrowed by clicking on these links, which limit the number of results you have to look through. You can keep track of the links you have clicked on and can "backtrack" to a broader search by de-selecting the topic or other term (click on the red minus sign next to the link).
Sometimes I find that an item shows up as Available in the results list, only to find it is actually checked out when I pull up the individual record. How come?
The Available status in the results list is updated four times per day--around 3 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM, and 5 PM; this is due to indexing limitations of the database. Always check the individual record for the most up to date availability information.
Questions of Interest to Library Staff (Behind the Scenes Stuff)
Did PALS conduct usability testing on MnPALS Plus?
A usability test was created by the MnPALS Discovery Tool Task Force. Several PALS libraries have implented usability testing of MnPALS Plus based on that test and reported the findings to the MnPALS Plus Working Group.
What data is MnPALS Plus using? The live Aleph database? Or a separate or different copy?
A separate database containing a copy of the Aleph bibliographic data. It is updated daily.
How often is the circulation data updated?
The Individual Record displays the live circulation status retrieved via an Aleph X-Services call.
How is the bibliographic data indexed?
Keyword indexing mimics the keyword indexes in the MnPALS Aleph catalog.
How does MnPALS Plus "process" a search query; that is, how does MnPALS Plus search?
It searches multiple indexes boosting the relevance for some indexes. Word stemming is applied. It returns the result sets ranked by relevance. Implied AND.
Does MnPALS Plus support RSS feeds? If so, what kinds of feeds?
Are any instructional materials, such as online tutorials, available? I would like to offer them to my faculty, students, etc.
These are being developed by member libraries.
Does my library have to use MnPALS Plus alone or can both the MnPALS Plus and OPAC interfaces be used?
They can be used alone or both can be used.
How much customization can be done to the MnPALS Plus interface for my institution?
Initally, the institution logo and the Ask A Librarian link will be customized for individual libraries.
We will also, upon request, add "logical bases" to the dropdown menu of libraries. These can be multiple collections that the libraries feel should be searched as a group. Contact PALS Support for details.
Can edits be made to include data in the default search result to fit my institution? For example, have the summary notes always appear rather than in a separate tab? Can this be done institution by institution?
There is no plan for customizable displays per institution. Suggestions for customization may be submitted to the MnPALS Plus Working Group.
Does MnPALS Plus use only the Keyword indexing? If not, what other indexing is utilized?
The Basic search interface is a keyword search. When looking at the bib record, the author, series, and subject are linked; these are exact searches.
MnPALS Plus data is extracted from the Aleph database. What data is NOT extracted and/or NOT indexed?
If a record has a STA field of ACQ-ORDERED it is included. The existence of any other STA field excludes it from the database.
How often are data extracts (bib and holding records data) done in MnPALS Plus?
Daily updates are done. Complete reloads are done as needed.
Why should my institution use MnPALS Plus versus the standard OPAC? What are the benefits and what are the drawbacks?
MnPALS Plus includes faceted searching, 'Did you mean' for spell check, similar items, faster searching, tagging, patron comments.
The Aleph OPAC includes additional search options, more robust indexing, and is better suited for searching for a very specific item.
Where do the images that go with the records come from?
Book covers come from Google.
What if the image is not the one for the record? How is this reported and corrected?
Report it to your local library. The library staff should submit a report to PALS or Google.
Are status (STA) records included in the display?
STA=ACQ-ORDERED will be included in the display as "on order." All other records with a STA field are excluded.
What if I don't want my "on order" records to display?
Libraries that don't want their ACQ-ORDERED records to display should change the STA field to something other than ACQ-ORDERED. One common status used by those libraries is ACQ-CREATED.
History of the MnPALS Plus Project
Who developed VuFind?
A team at the Falvey Memorial Library at Villanova University developed VuFind as a next generation library search interface. VuFind was released as an open source product on June 20, 2007. VuFind is licensed under the terms of the GPL (GNU General Public License) which allows others to freely download and make use of the software, as well as to participate in its development, fix bugs, and extend its features, provided those changes are also contributed as open source. 
Who is supporting VuFind?
VuFind is open ource software with approximately a dozen sites using it. A community of users is working to provide features and troubleshoot technical issues.
Why was VuFind chosen over other alternatives?
The architecture was better with more features. A larger community is working on this product than others that the PALS staff looked at.
Is PALS committed to MnPALS Plus for the long term?
PALS is committed to providing an improved user interface for the long term. MnPALS Plus is the first step in providing this. PALS will continue to improve it, and as additional functionality is suggested by library users and staff, PALS will work to implement it for all libraries as long as funding is available and the users feel it is worthwhile. It is not possible to tell at this time whether this VuFind-based tool is a long term solution or if other, better solutions will appear in the future.
Where can I report a bug or offer a suggestion?
Library users should report bugs or make suggestions to their local library staff. Library staff should send questions, bug reports to the PALS Support Center.