“VuFind Rocks the House” -- Open-source initiative well received
“Andrew Nagy announced today on the code4lib list-serv the open source release of their OPAC-killer called VuFind. There is much to like about the software, including a very clean design, faceted browsing of search results, and snappy response times.” Roy Tennant of OCLC, the worldwide library cooperative, posted this favorable review on Library Journal.com just hours after the July release of the next-generation library catalog browser known as VuFind.
Smart Libraries’ Marshall Breeding notes in his recent column on VuFind, “Although in a nascent stage of development, VuFind enters the scene at a critical moment in the evolution of library technologies” (September 2007).
According to Andrew, Falvey's technology development specialist, “The release of VuFind comes at a perfect time: libraries currently recognize the need to offer their patrons a better tool to search and browse through all of their resources. Many resources—journals, e-books, digital library records—are changing to online-only access.”
In today’s library environment, patrons encounter multiple interfaces to search, and they often need to learn how to access each system and determine its content. By offering a one-stop resource that allows the patron access to all of the library’s materials from one place, the library can truly begin to leverage its resources and deliver them to its patrons more effectively. VuFind’s goal is to enable a library to offer access to all of its resources in one single search-and-browse system.
VuFind is an open-source OPAC (online public access catalog) replacement, currently the only OPAC replacement in the open-source market. Big name library software vendors, such as Ex Libris and SirsiDynix, as well as search platform Endeca, all have OPAC replacements in the commercial market. However, with these products comes a high price tag that many libraries are unable to afford. Two open-source library catalogs are available, but these require replacing more than just the OPAC; they are an integrated library system (ILS). This situation illustrates the reason why VuFind can be a great fit. A library looking to offer its patrons better service can replace its OPAC with VuFind for very little upfront cost and can continue to use its existing library catalog system.
Andrew, the software developer, and Chris Barr, the user interface designer, are excited about releasing the software into the open-source community to allow other universities and public libraries to adopt the application, providing them with the opportunity to contribute to its development. The open-source community, enthusiastic about an institution taking the leap by investing its time into such a product, immediately responded with an outpouring of positive comments and reviews after the release was announced on July 19.
VuFind is currently being tested at a variety of academic institutions, including Drexel and Lehigh Universities, who participated at the outset. The software is being tested or deployed at other major universities, such as George Mason University, Princeton University, The College of William and Mary, The College of New Jersey, Georgia Tech, the University of Illinois, Miami University and others. One expects that with success will come further development of the software by other collaborators from universities around the world.
Contributed by Andrew Nagy, Gerald Dierkes and Judy Olsen