Inspired by a thread on this list yesterday, I started playing with the
Open Library API. In order to query through the API, you must pass a
query as a JSON serialized object. That's good, and it could be great,
given that for Java and PHP (at least) there already exists the ability
to serialize a native data type into and out of JSON. The problem that
I'm noticing is that at least the querying process, the naming
conventions used by the API complicate this.

For instance, in order to do a pattern search of the "key" field, one
must pass the identifier of that field with a tilde (~) appended to that
field, so that a query would read like this:

    "key~": "\/about\/*"

The problem is that for the two programming languages I use, Java and
PHP the variable name key~ and $key~ is illegal, and I believe that is
the case for most programming languages. Thus, in this PHP class (an its
Java analog) would fail at compile / parse time:

class OpenLibraryQuery {
        public $key~;

        __construct ($keyValue) {
                $this->key~ = $keyValue;

This is a problem, because ideally, I would like to be able to do
essentially this:

$query = json_encode(new OpenLibraryQuery('\/about\/*');

which, if the above class did parse, would automatically assign $query a
valid JSON string, similar to what is above. Instead, I either have to
rename my variable, or use string manipulation to make the string work.
Note that

$query = json_encode(array('key~'=>'\/about\/*'));

will not be parsed through the API, and results in an error message.

This leaves me with three questions:

1. Is there an easy way around this, other than string manipulation,
that I am missing? Does the solution work for most or all programming

2. Does this strike readers as a significant enough issue to raise with
the API developers?

3. Given that Open Library runs on Infogami and has other dependencies,
does this strike readers as something that can be remedied?

- David

David Cloutman <[log in to unmask]>
Electronic Services Librarian
Marin County Free Library

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