I heard recently that the ticTOCs journal tables-of-contents service will close down in the next month or so. ticTOCs was a JISC-funded project which hasn’t been developed for several years now.
It’s effectively been superseded by the JournalTOCs service, “the largest, free collection of scholarly Tables of Contents (TOCs)”. The outgoing service has published some advice for users on transferring saved lists of TOCs between ticTOCs and JournalTOCs.
ticTOCs did have one particularly useful feature: a text file of all the TOCs it contained (at http://www.tictocs.ac.uk/text.php), which I’ve been filtering and using since 2009 to create a custom package of RSS feeds for upload to the e-journals A-to-Z at Lincoln.
While JournalTOCs doesn’t provide the same simple text list feature, it does have a fully-documented API. This is much more powerful and flexible for developers, but it’s not quite so straightforward as /text.php to create my list (a subset of all the feeds in JournalTOCs, matching only those journals to which the University has full-text access) using desktop tools and no programming.
A chance comment from a colleague at another university about Lincoln having “developers coming out of its ears“(!) inspired me to ask on the LNCD development group for help.
Dr John Murray of the Lincoln School of Computer Science responded, and very kindly supplied a Java program which I can use to identify which journals in our A-to-Z are represented in JournalTOCs, and so build a list of links to valid RSS feeds. Starting with a comma-separated list of ISSNs (which I downloaded from the A-to-Z), the program takes each ISSN in turn and makes a call to the JournalTOCs journals API. Depending on the data returned by JournalTOCs, the program records each ISSN as ‘VALID’ or ‘INVALID’ (i.e. no RSS feed available) in a new .csv file.
Thank you very much, John!
[Aside: to use John's code I had to learn how to compile and run Java programs on my laptop (running Ubuntu 11.10). For the record—and because I imagine it'll be useful again in the future—I first had to install OpenJDK 6 by going to the terminal and running the command:
sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jdk
…then, once OpenJDK had installed, using the following command to select the correct version of Java:
sudo update-alternatives --config java
…before compiling and running the program itself.]
Once all the ISSNs had been checked against the API and the validated list constructed (this took ~5hrs to run!), I used Microsoft Excel to filter out only the ‘VALID’ ISSNs matched in JournalTOCs, and used Excel’s =LOOKUP() function to pull in enough information about each journal from our managed title list (previously downloaded), to create a custom upload text file.
The updated package of journal article RSS feeds is now available to view on the A-to-Z. We’ll review and re-generate this every few months, as we do with all custom and publisher-generated e-journal packages. At the time of writing, it contains just over 10,000 journal article RSS feeds, each one corresponding to one of our full-text journals. I’ve also added an orange RSS icon and link to JournalTOCs for each one, using the A-to-Z’s public notes feature.
So: which other library APIs will accept an ISSN as an input, and what other custom packages could I create using John Murray’s code in the same way?