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A Python package for getting basic data from a server

Project description


Topi ("TIND Object Python Interface") is a Python package for getting basic data from a TIND server.

License Latest release DOI Python PyPI

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TIND is an integrated library system. The Caltech Library uses a hosted solution by TIND for its library catalog. Recent versions of TIND provide a REST API for getting a subset of information using network calls. To make writing interfaces and automation scripts in Python easier, the Caltech Library Digital Library Development team developed Topi ("TIND Object Python Interface"), a Python package that provides an object-oriented interface to data in a TIND catalog.

Topi is not a complete API for interacting with TIND instances. At this time, it provides an interface for retrieving only two kinds of objects: bibliographic records, and items/holdings associated with those records.

A "topi" is also a species of antelope found in Africa. The topi is currently classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to threats that include human development, hunting and droughts.


The instructions below assume you have a Python interpreter installed on your computer; if that's not the case, please first install Python version 3 and familiarize yourself with running Python programs on your system.

On Linux, macOS, and Windows operating systems, you should be able to install topi with pip. To install topi from the Python package repository (PyPI), run the following command:

python3 -m pip install topi

As an alternative to getting it from PyPI, you can use pip to install topi directly from GitHub, like this:

python3 -m pip install git+


Topi is a application programming interface (API) library; it does not offer a command-line interface. There are three main option classes in Topi: Tind, TindRecord, and TindItem. The rest of this section describes these classes and how to use them.

Object classes


An object of the Tind class serves as the main point of interaction with a TIND server. The constructor for Tind takes only one argument: the base network URL for the server. Using it is very simple:

from topi import Tind

tind = Tind('')

An instance of the Tind class offers just two methods: record, to create TindRecord objects, and item, to create TindItem objects. These object classes are described below.


This object class represents a bibliographic record in a TIND database. The fields of the record are derived from the MARC representation of the bibliographic record in TIND. The following are the fields in a record object in Topi:

Field name Type Description
tind_id string The TIND record identifier
tind_url string The URL to the online record page in TIND
title string The title (derived from MARC data field 245)
subtitle string The subtitle (derived from MARC data field 245)
author string The author(s) (derived from MARC data field 245 or 100)
edition string The edition (derived from MARC data field 250)
publisher string The publisher's name (extracted from MARC control field 260)
year string The year (extracted from MARC control field 008)
isbn_issn list ISBN or ISSN numbers (from MARC data field 020)
description string A description, concatenated from MARC data field 300
bib_note string The value of MARC data field 504, subfield "a"
thumbnail_url string The URL of the cover image in TIND (if any)
items list A list of TindItem objects

A TindRecord object can be obtained using the factory method record(...) on the Tind interface object. This method takes one of two mutually-exclusive keyword arguments: either a TIND record identifier, or a MARC XML string obtained from a TIND server for a TIND bibliographic record. Here is an example:

from topi import Tind

tind = Tind('')
rec  = tind.record(tind_id = 680311)

Note the use of the keyword argument. Below is an example of how to create a record from an existing MARC XML file obtained from a TIND server some other way – let's assume it is stored a file named downloaded-marc.xml:

from topi import Tind

with open('downloaded_marc.xml', 'r') as xf:
    xml_string =

tind = Tind('')
rec  = tind.record(marc_xml = xml_string)

The thumbnail_url field is lazily evaluated: its value is only obtained from the TIND server the first time the field is accessed by a calling program. This is more efficient for situations where the thumbnail is never needed by an application, but it does mean that there is a delay the first time the field is accessed.


Conceptually, in TIND an "item" is a specific copy of a work; this copy has a barcode and other item-specific information such as a location. Each item is associated with a TIND record (represented by a TindRecord in Topi, described above). The following are the fields in an item object in Topi:

Field name Type Description
parent TindRecord The parent record for this item
barcode string The item's barcode
type string The type of item this is (e.g., "book")
volume string The volume
call_number string The call number
description string A description of the specific item (e.g., "copy 1")
library string The library where the item is located
location string The location of the item in the library
status string Status of the item listed in TIND

With Topi, a TindItem object can be obtained using the factory method item(...) on the Tind interface object. This method takes a single argument: a barcode. Here is an example:

from topi import Tind

tind = Tind('')
item = tind.item(35047018228114)

Item records have parent pointers to the corresponding bibliographic record, in the form of a TindRecord. Thus, given an item object, it's possible to look up the rest of the bibliographic record simply by dereferencing the .parent field:

from topi import Tind

tind = Tind('')
item = tind.item(35047018228114)

Calling the item method on Tind will return an empty TindItem object.

Additional notes

Topi fills out the thumbnail_url field of a TindRecord object by using TIND's API for the purpose. This only retrieves what a given TIND database contains for the cover image of a work. Other sources such as the Open Library Covers API may have cover images that a TIND database lacks, but it is outside the scope of Topi to provide an interface for looking outside the TIND database.

Known issues and limitations

Currently, the coverage of the fields in TindRecord is limited. Not all fields of a MARC XML record are mapped to fields in TindRecord at this time. (Code contributions are welcome!)

Getting help

If you find an issue, please submit it in the GitHub issue tracker for this repository.


We would be happy to receive your help and participation with enhancing Topi! Please visit the guidelines for contributing for some tips on getting started.


Software produced by the Caltech Library is Copyright (C) 2021, Caltech. This software is freely distributed under a BSD/MIT type license. Please see the LICENSE file for more information.


This work was funded by the California Institute of Technology Library.

The vector artwork of an antelope, used as the icon for this repository, was created by parkjisun for the Noun Project. It is licensed under the Creative Commons CC-BY 3.0 license.

Topi makes use of numerous open-source packages, without which Topi could not have been developed. I want to acknowledge this debt. In alphabetical order, the packages are:

  • commonpy – a collection of commonly-useful Python functions
  • cssselectlxml add-on to parse CSS3 selectors
  • ipdb – the IPython debugger
  • lxml – an XML parsing library for Python
  • setuptools – library for
  • sidetrack – simple debug logging/tracing package

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