Sirsi Unicorn iBistro
Too much on your plate?

As described on our Website and Intranet Design page, some organizations use large commercial web software packages for their website applications. Often these packages are beyond the technical skills of the end-user staff to configure, customize and maintain. Such a package is iBistro, the online catalog component of the Unicorn Library Management System from Sirsi.

iBistro is essentially a web software system wrapped around a server (such as a Sun Microsystems SPARC machine running Solaris), the Apache web server software, and an Oracle database. While the package comes with a set of GUI configuration forms, the underlying structure and function remains a "black box" to the average library staffer charged with maintaining it, and "customizing" it for the individual library's needs is an uphill struggle.

It's not that iBistro isn't a good product: we've seen it and we're impressed. The problem is simply that is so big, so complex (not to be confused with complicated), that some of it is more than the average library can chew. Design MatriX can help! Here's how ...

iBistro Technical Components

UNIX (Solaris, Linux, etc.) OS
Apache Webserver
Oracle RDBMS
HTML pages and templates
Shell scripts
CGI Perl scripts
JavaScript and CSS
Configuration scripts
C language programs
Makefiles for compilation
cron files
The base technologies on which iBistro are built are well chosen. Kudos to Sirsi: if we were to design and build it, we would have chosen the same. But to fully master it requires some expertise in all of the components listed to the left. Most libraries, including those in the technical staff charged with customizing, configuring and maintaining it, don't have all of that expertise.

Fortunately Design MatriX just happens to have experience with each of these technologies. We've used UNIX (then Solaris and Linux) since 1980. We've actually helped develop and build commerical UNIX operating systems. Not only are we end-user experts, we know what's under the hood, including the C code. We run Solaris and Apache on our own workstations. We've written dozens of shell, Perl, CGI and JavaScript programs. (We won't mention HTML because these days everybody is a "web designer". :-))

We recently visited the main library of a sizable consortium running iBistro. The staff was intelligent, competent, and dedicated, but some of the technology was new to them. In their words, "Changing the HTML isn't the problem. The problem is gettng there and understanding the layers upon layers." So we gave them a short course in UNIX and the shell command language, identified baffling files as shell and Perl scripts and explained basically how they work, described in principle what makeall did with an overview of Makefiles, and solved a problem they were having with cron file syntax. Just learning about shell wildcards and variables, regular expressions, commands like grep and find, and how to navigate and change permissions in the file system was a help. In just a few hours we were able to clarify much of the guts of iBistro for them, because we have experience with the underlying core technologies.

iBistro GUIs

We can show you how changes made through the iBistro configuation GUIs result in changes to source files. This will clarify how the system actually works. Furthermore, we can advise when, where and how to make hard-coded changes to files, opposed to what changes you must make through the maintenance and configuration GUIs so that they are persistent, permanent and won't be overwritten by other changes accomplished via the configuration GUI programs.

Customizing the User Interface

The bookseller design paradigm isn't necessarily the right one for library patrons.
How to make some changes to the iBistro interface are not well documented, resulting in some pages getting the "default" look and feel. It is sometimes unclear when to change HTML files directly vs. changing ".env" files. We can help you customize the interfaces.

In addition to our technical expertise we have considerable background and experience with end-user design issues, with focus on usability and our design philosophy that "The system is the interface".

To get expert help for your Sirsi Unicorn iBistro system, call Design MatriX at (310) 455 3107 or