VuFind: The Library OPAC Meets Web 2.0 — Access 2008

Andrew Nagy
VuFind Developer


What is a “next generation catalog”? The term is not Andrew’s favorite — he wants to get away from the word “catalog” and start talking about “resource discovery.” A different approach between librarians and users: we view things as known-item searches, users have no idea, generally speaking. We need a tool to facilitate browsing, sharing, and organizing resources.
Users go to Amazon, Google, and Delicious to find and discover, and then look in the catalog. Libraries should be in that discovery role. Definition of “catalog” should include things that your users have access to (as through consortial borrowing or online access).
Villanova decided to turn product into an open source one because they wanted broader development base and broader help for making it better. It took about 2 months to get university approval to open source the software. Over next two years, development continued at VU and elsewhere.
Many institutions are in process of adopting VuFind — alpha, beta, and live. VU’s catalog is tightly integrated with the web site.
Browsing is important, along with functions that exist in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, elsewhere — both online and in physical stores. Bring in demographics — show sophomores, for example, what other sophomores have looked at in a given topic search. Ability to save and share searches is also important.
Villanova found that, in the physical library, students were confused by multiple service points (reference, information, circulation, etc.). They’ve combined the physical desks into one — and feel very strongly that students would do better with a single point of service via the web. Catalog, web, digital collections, search — should all be integrated.
Tool must integrate directly with the ILS — LDAP & SIP2 authentication, bring in live circulation status, display holdings data, and — most importantly — interoperate with major ILS systems.
Data migration — VuFind community built SolorMARC to import MARC data into SOLR. You specify the mappings of MARC records into SOLR, the way you want. Investigating OAI Import and (possibly) Z39.50 import.

Search and Browse

A VuFind search (see the VuFind demo) for a phrase like world war two (no quotes) does an “and” search first, and then an “or”, so it searches for all the words, then any of the words. For phrase searching, use quotes. You can narrow results using the facets VuFind returns. Author facet for a general search is not particularly helpful — for a broad search, some authors always show up (Shakespeare shows up in the world war two example, and they clearly were not writing about World War II. Nagy is thinking of ways to have facets display in a different order depending on the kind of search being done. Suggests removing author from “very large” systems (those with millions of records).
An author search in the demo brings up a list of matching authors before the search results — so users can disambiguate. Clicking on an author’s name from this list pulls up the Wikipedia entry for that author, so that users can verify which of the similarly-named authors they meant.
There’s a experimental browse tool that lets you navigate through the catalog, iTunes-style, without typing a keystroke, to get to a collection of books on a topic. This tool only shows top 50 results in the last panel — so it leaves out a lot of things, even in a smallish catalog like the test catalog (with 850,000 records).


Q: What are weighting systems in the search process?
A: In general, the all fields search gives more weight to title, exact matches, author, call number, subject headings. It’s not currently configurable, but it’s in the code and you can play with it there.
Q: Where is VuFind in development process for bringing in non-catalog materials?
A: Villanova has a lot of digital library material. But haven’t brought in non-MARC records. Want search results to show thumbnail of digitized object. A record display would include different types of data. This is probably the next step. VuFind 1.0 is next step. Bringing in other content through OAI and/or federated search is likely the next step.
Q: How frequently is bibliographic content?
A: Villanova updates/adds/edits/deletes about 150 records a day, on average — they update nightly. It can be done more often, if wanted/needed. Their Voyager ILS does a nightly update of the previous day’s changed records. Deletes and suppressed records are separately output and removed from VuFind nightly.
Q: Have there been any III libraries?
A: None public, but quite a few are in development. Holdings are currently available only through screen scraping. Sirsi-Dynix is also under development.
Q: Internationalization?
A: Yes — the whole interface has been translated into about 10 languages.

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