Library Gazette

New implementation of VuFind (VuFind 1.1)

Friday, May 6, 2011 4:45 pm

The technology department has implemented the latest version of VuFind (VuFind 1.1) which is an upgraded version of our current VuFind (VuFind 1.0RC2). Although there were important back-end enhancements to VuFind 1.1, this blog post is going to discuss some of the new improvements that impact the front-end of the application. The new features include alphabetic browse, better advanced search, and enhanced RSS functionality.

The link to the alphabetic browse page (Alpha Browse) will be found on the new VuFind home page under “Catalog Options” at the bottom of the page . This module provides a traditional alphabetical heading browse capability allowing users to see all of the authors, subjects and titles in our collection. The browsing result page lists results in alphabetical order including the number of records found under each result.

The link to the advanced search page (Advanced Search) will also be found on the new VuFind home page under “Catalog Options” at the bottom of the page. This feature has been improved to allow users to specify their search to a specific combination of fields. By clicking on “Add Search Field”, the user is provided with an additional search field allowing him/her to add further search specifications. A reference librarian tested the advanced search feature today and said: “I always used to teach students in BI sessions how to do complex, multi-concept searches both in the online catalog as well as in databases (with the standard 3-concept search template). It was a constraint when I could no longer do that in VuFind, and instead had to do multiple permutations of search terms. I tried the following in the new Advanced Search: diar* or correspondence AND women AND civil war. 19 results. This is great. The flexibility will be so useful for more complex searching needs”.

The RSS feeds are more efficient in VuFind 1.1 due to a new back-end functionality called Record Change Tracking. With this functionality, RSS dates are based on the date items are added to our collection instead of publication dates. Now RSS feeds are sorted by index dates and display index dates within the feed. This will allow users to track searches in order to be notified of new additions within their chosen areas of interest (like new videos).

We would like to move this new version of VuFind into production on Thursday May 12, 2011 to replace our current VuFind instance. We would need your help to make this transition so please try out the new implementation and provide us with feedback. The information collected will help us polish the product before moving it into production.

Finding ways to combine cloud computing and open source software

Thursday, November 4, 2010 6:13 am

A few days ago Omeka, an open source digital content publishing system, introduced a cloud-based hosting solution for users. The solution features a tiered service level (from Free to $999 per year) and provides users with a point and click solution for launching digital collections.

This model has been used by other organizations such as wordpress.com to provide users with options for using open source software in a Software-as-a-service (SAAS) environment. The introduction of the service by Omeka is not even the first in the library world but is notable in that it provides free and low cost options for individuals seeking digital publishing services.

The work being done by Omeka addresses a key challenge to implementing open source software in cloud environments. Often, open source platforms require administration skills that are not typically held by people who need the services. As a result, projects are often faced with choosing proprietary or vendor provided systems to support their needs.

The Omeka model is one of a number of options. For example, the tech team recently published a publicly-available server image running Vufind on Amazon EC2. The image is accompanied by documentation and a quick tutorial for launching the server and running vufind. While more technically complex than the Omeka solution, this approach enables libraries to try Vufind in a near-production environment with minimal technical knowledge or configuration overhead.

(Video tutorial on launching vufind in Amazon EC2)

There are also projects such as Archivists Toolkit that are positioned to leverage community-supported cloud platforms. AT uses a java client connecting to a remote MySQL database. This means that the only network or server-level IT resources required is a MySQL database connection. While perhaps prohibitively complex for many smaller organizations, this sort of service is being offered by a number of cloud providers including Amazon via RDS (Relational Database Service). With minimal overhead, an organization could launch and administer a dedicated MySQL instance with automatic replication, backups and a service level agreement.

At the Vufind 2.0 Conference, Joe Lucia commented on the challenge facing open source software communities as cloud computing becomes an important part of institutional computing. This can be a significant issue as open source software often comes with the caveat of ‘free as a free kitten.’ By finding ways to use cloud computing to make implementing and managing open source software easier, organizations like Omeka are helping bridge this gap. Kudos need to go to Omeka for finding a way to turn this challenge into an opportunity to help the library community build on the work done in the open source community!

VuFind Addon for ILLiad

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 7:49 am

We upgraded to ILLiad 8 several months ago. ILLiad 8 boasts potential and possibilities for add-ons that can make ILL operations easier, such as searching the online catalog directly from the ILLiad client.

When I realized that the default Voyager add-on that ILLiad created does not search the Vufind catalog and it does key word search instead of the title search that we ILLers normally use, I went to the person I knew who could help.

The LUA script is not something Kevin was familiar with. But that didn’t stop him. After a few days of fiddling with it, not only did he give me the Vufind add-on, it would bring up the title search result and import the call number and the location into ILLiad. This is pure magic! When I demonstrated this for our colleagues from UNCG and at the NC ILL Users Group Meeting, it got quite a bit of oohs and aahs. Can’t thank Kevin enough.

The VuFind OPAC Search Addon can be found in the Atlas Systems ILLiad Addon Directory.

Vufind RC2, Amazon EC2 Rocks(2)

Friday, February 19, 2010 1:31 pm

Today Christina, JP, Erik, Carol C., Heather and Elise gathered to test the new Vufind RC2 on Amazon EC2 (go cloud!). The system performed admirably & included some nice new features that were not in RC1. For example, in RC2 you have the ability to let your facet limits persist across multiple searches. Searching was better (although not perfect :)) and the alphabetic sorting of facets make repeated use of the system a bit easier.

We did find that the Voyager connection did not always return the data we were expecting and that sometimes the search algorithm found things we did not expect but the overall consensus was that this Vufind was better than our current implementation.

The system is still out there for testing & based on the results we have seen so far we are going to forge ahead with our plan to cut over during spring break. If you have questions/comments keep ‘em coming.

Vufind status update – October 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 7:13 am

Vufind has been live for just about 2 months now. In that time we have gotten 118 feedback emails detailing bug reports, enhancement requests, and personal opinions about the new system. It has been a busy fall for the systems staff and we are just now finishing up the fixes on a few of our big Vufind issues. One of our biggest problems has been consistent record updates. I am glad to report that we are now running daily loads into Vufind. We will shortly be introducing daily deletes as well. Full index regens still take 20 hours and we have yet to figure out exactly how frequently we need to do that. The full index regen time depends more on our record export, modification, and transfer from our Voyager system at the moment (Vufind takes about 3 hours to index the 1.6M records).

Our other major issue has been system stability. I appreciate how patient everyone has been while we iron out the issues that cause Vufind to go down so frequently. We are still working on this but hopefully have allocated enough RAM to the server and enabled the system to ‘clean-up’ after itself so that Vufind can remain responsive even during moderate load (fingers crossed – we have not had any downtime since the last modifications a week ago – many thanks to Jeremy Kindy for helping us work through this!). An interesting thing that IS found recently was that Google was responsible for 1/3 of our vufind traffic (we have now blocked their robot) :).

The Vufind community as recently created a new administrative organization and is working towards fixing many of the bugs that we have listed. When the community releases the official 1.0 release we will upgrade! In the mean time we will continue to work on our end and contribute back to the community where it is valuable. The list of enhancement requests, bugs, and fixed issues below represent all of the feedback that we have gotten so far. They are broken down into three categories, unresolved enhancement requests, unresolved bug reports, and resolved enhancement requests/bug reports.

Enhancement requests

  • Would like to be able to see how many hold requests exist on an item in the new catalog
  • Would like the new catalog to explicitly state which series or version an item is (example Mi-5 season 1,2,3)
  • Add year into results listing
  • Add journal option to basic search
  • Add the ability to see 20, 40, 60 records per page
  • Improve serial current issues display – right now it shows item level detail but not summary holdings
  • Add ability to preserve certain facets (like library) when doing searching
  • Add grouping to locations (All physical reference locations for example)
  • Add the ability to click on call numbers for browsing
  • Reduce the number of clicks to get to information
  • Add data to the results screen including publisher information, dvd season info, pub place/date, etc
  • Implement Spell Check
  • Make subject headings work the same way that authors do – via listing at the top of the screen
  • Make subject hierarchy work more consistently – united states history is a good example
  • Add a new items feature to vufind, particularly by subject or call # range
  • Would like to be able to replicate all brief record info in vufind

Bug Reports (Partially resolved or Unresolved)

  • Location listing should be in alphabetical order, should be consolidated in certain cases (ref desk and reference for example) – still working on figuring this one out.
  • Advanced Searching does not work with more than 2 terms, truncation proves to be problematic, further advanced searching returns inconsistent or known to be incorrect results when compared to the old catalog. One suggestion would be to remove advanced search and have advanced search link to the old catalog. There has been alot of discussion about how appropriate this. ..any thoughts? please leave comments!
  • Item statuses in voyager not always reported as desired in Vufind (missing books showing up as lost), lost showing up as overdue. This is going to require some advanced item status processing in the Voyager driver and will take some time
  • Date sorting not working as desired
  • Recently received issues do not have a location? – We need some clarification on this
  • Endnote Export not working
  • “I hate vufind” – While a very real problem there is no specific bug fix for this. We may want to discuss re-introducing our “classic view” in a more prominent place to alleviate this issue
  • Vufind does not always return what I search for – We have lots of reports of this. Sometimes Vufind has the record but it is not on the initial screen. In some other cases the record is not in the system. There are a few things we are working on here, first daily data loads will address recent titles. Second, we have a list of 22K records that did not import that we need to troubleshoot. Finally – we may need to think about the default search algorithm.
  • Save to favorites, email functions do not have polished javascript/ajax interface, require scrolling, etc
  • Name authorities are not consistent, cary grant, shakespeare return different result counts from old catalog
  • ISBN searching does not work (looks like vufind is not parsing out the – during indexing and as such needs it for the search
  • Improve holds/recalls

Fixed Issues

  • Catalog slows down/crashes under ‘heavy’ use – Some lib100 classes of 15 people have seen some slow response times – We have worked with IS to try to resolve these issues. We have increased the amount of RAM allocated to the system, tuned SOLR settings, and searched the logs for memory leaks. Hopefully this has been resolved.
  • Call Number now shows at the top of every view of the record
  • Library links not always proxied appropriately – Kevin implemented a workaround for now
  • Ebooks now showing as available
  • Military Science added as location
  • Sometimes the 007 in items (item format) does not correspond to what the item actually is. These items should be reported when identified and will be fixed by cataloging
  • Known items not always showing up – We have a number of specific reports here. In some cases this is due to a lag in indexing (still working on getting the connection between our two servers opened up) but in others the items were kicked out due to record errors.
  • Call number searching should not include periods – makes it difficult – resolved
  • Resources without Item records in catalog show incorrect status of Checked Out – We have a workaround for this but it requires addressing each location specifically in the code. If you still see errors please send them to me
  • Collections not synchronized, items in old catalog not in new – daily updating is in place, working on daily delete. It currently takes 20 hours to re-index our catalog from scratch
  • Wake Forest University facet limit does not return records (It is in essence a useless facet since everything in the db has this tag) – item removed from list.

New catalog reactions and status

Thursday, September 10, 2009 11:37 am

It has been just over 2 weeks since we pulled the trigger and switched our catalog view over. We have gotten lots of great feedback and ideas for improvement and I thought I would take a moment to gather this feedback together and talk about next steps.

General Impressions

Comments from our patrons have varied from being impressed with the faceted browsing options to being frustrated with the limited information displayed on the default record page. Perhaps not surprisingly, There were some uses of the old catalog that do not work the same in Vufind (for example the display of the number of holds on a record). There has been some expectation that Vufind would go further in being more ‘Amazon’ like in how it indexes and displays records.

The list of enhancement requests, bugs, and fixed issues below represent all of the feedback that we have gotten over the last few weeks. We are working to resolve the bugs (foremost among them the speed issues and advanced searching) and will keep you posted with new news.

Enhancement requests

  • Would like to be able to see how many hold requests exist on an item in the new catalog
  • Would like the new catalog to explicitly state which series or version an item is (example Mi-5 season 1,2,3)
  • Add year into results listing
  • Add journal option to basic search
  • Add the ability to see 20, 40, 60 records per page
  • Improve serial current issues display – right now it shows item level detail but not summary holdings
  • Add ability to preserve certain facets (like library) when doing searching
  • Add grouping to locations (All physical reference locations for example)

Bug Reports (Unresolved)

  • Catalog slows down under ‘heavy’ use – Some lib100 classes of 15 people have seen some slow response times
  • Location listing should be in alphabetical order, should be consolidated in certain cases (ref desk and reference for example)
  • Advanced Searching does not work with more than 2 terms, truncation proves to be problematic, further advanced searching returns inconsistent or known to be incorrect results when compared to the old catalog
  • Resources without Item records in catalog show incorrect status of Checked Out – We have a workaround for this but it requires addressing each location specifically in the code, further statuses in voyager not always reported as desired in Vufind (missing books showing up as lost), lost showing up as overdue
  • Date sorting not working as desired
  • Recently received issues do not have a location?
  • Wake Forest University facet limit does not return records (It is in essence a useless facet since everything in the db has this tag)
  • Call number searching should not include periods – makes it difficult
  • Endnote Export not working
  • Still working on fully automated index updating

Fixed Issues

  • Call Number now shows at the top of every view of the record
  • Library links not always proxied appropriately – Kevin implemented a workaround for now
  • Ebooks now showing as available
  • Military Science added as location
  • Sometimes the 007 in items (item format) does not correspond to what the item actually is. These items should be reported when identified and will be fixed by cataloging
  • Known items not always showing up – We have a number of specific reports here. In some cases this is due to a lag in indexing (still working on getting the connection between our two servers opened up) but in others the items were kicked out due to record errors.

New discovery interface for library resources

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 4:31 am

On Wednesday the Z. Smith Reynolds Library implemented a new discovery system for their library collections. The system, developed initially by Villanova University, employs innovative indexing and searching techniques to help patrons find and interact with library resources.

This new tool adds the ability for patrons to discover new relationships between resources through the use of faceted browsing, a technique which is commonly used on web-based stores such as Amazon. It also introduces new community-focused features such as the ability to add comments and tags to catalog records. These features allow library patrons to easily discover resources by combining several limiting criteria (such as format, location, and publication date) using dynamic links on the results page.

The system complements a suite of locally-developed and open source information systems that the library employs including the New Book/Film Walls, WakeSpace (a digital library of WFU collections), Book delivery and reserves services, and library-sponsored blogs and wikis for the university community.

Vufind poised to go live Wednesday!

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:23 am

Over the last few weeks, Kevin, Jean-Paul and I have been finalizing the release of our Vufind implementation by working through the list of issues and observations submitted by library staff in our wiki. We were able to resolve many of the issues but did choose to hide/work around certain functions that had too many problems to resolve in our current release. For full details on what was fixed, what was missed, and what we decided to leave for the next release you can hit the bottom of the page

The most recent load ran into a number of data issues related to the addition of a few pieces of information from the holdings and item records into the index, most notably 30 or so records that had invalid MARC tags which would kill our export scripts. In all, out of our 1.7 million records, only 11718 of them errored out. This represents less than .7% of our collection. We will have to address these errors before those records can be loaded.

Please take a few minutes and check out the current system. One of the neatest (in my opinion) features of the system is a broken out list of all of our libraries. We were able to generate this using our holdings data (which is included in another list). This means that we can now have a dedicated catalog for the music, and education, libraries not to mention our own popular video collection.

If you have additional feedback or bug reports – please submit them in our wiki using this link. There will be a staff presentation on Vufind on Tuesday at 3pm in room 476 during which you can find out more about the system.


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