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Rolling out UMich’s “VUFind”: Introduction and New Features

For the last few months, I’ve been working on rolling out a ridiculous-modified version of Vufind, which we just launched as our primary OPAC, Mirlyn, with a slightly-different version powering, a temporary metadata search on the HathiTrust data until the OCLC takes it over at some undetermined date.

(Yeah, the HathiTrust site is a lot better looking.)

[Our Aleph-based catalog lives on at mirlyn-classic) — I’ll be interested to see how the traffic on the two differs as time goes on.]

I’m going to spend a few posts talking about how and why we essentially forked vufind, what sorts of modifications I made, and what technologies I hope to extract from our implementation that may be useful to the wider library community. And, I’m sure, a lot about why I hate Solr, why I love love love Solr, why I hate PHP, and why I love…er…no, I still hate PHP.

Credit where it’s due

And… a little credit where it’s due. I did a lot, but I didn’t do it all. I probably didn’t even do most of it. Half the effort, including all the heavy Aleph lifting — from getting the MARC out with all the filters and expansions we needed, to pulling holdings in real time, to grabbing a patron’s current checked-out items and holds, to fighting the inevitably-scarring battle with ILL — was done by Tim Prettyman. Suzanne Chapman lent her expertise to make it a lot less ugly and more usable than it once was (you can see her talents more strongly expressed at the HathiTrust catalog). And a whole horde of librarians were tapped by my boss, Jon Rothman, to try to figure out how to deal with the MARC data and facets and everything else that required a much deeper understand of our data than I possess.

Non-stock user-facing features

In the next post, I’ll start with a look at how and why we changed the backend and what I’d do differently if I were starting from scratch. But right now, a quick list of the user-facing stuff that you might find interesting.

  • Email and export searches and search results, as opposed to just individual records.
  • Working endnote and refworks export.
  • Multi-select on the advanced search (e.g., pick two languages to get English OR German).
  • Publication date-range searching (with date-added-to-catalog searching coming soon).
  • A “sticky” institution selection, so each campus can choose to default to searching just their own stuff. We sniff IPs to set a default, too.
  • A “call number starts with” search based on semantics for LC searches (e.g., searching on CA11 won’t find CA1105), with call number range searching in testing now.
  • Contracted holdings for long lists of serials (see, e.g., Nature).
  • [Coming soon] Selecting records to a temporary set, which can be manipulated en masse (sent to Refworks, etc.). I’ll be hooking this up to mTagger, our home-grown bookmarking and tagging tool, later on.

Of course, I also broke some things. I haven’t added back in Search History, but will do so when I’ve got a couple hours. “Search Within” will make a comeback soon, too, but there are usability issues to contend with. And …for the love of god, don’t do a “View Source.” It’s the ugliest HTML underpinnings I’ve been associated with since 1993 or so.

All in all, though, it’s not bad work, and I’m glad to be able to offer it to our patrons.