UChicago launches Kuali OLE and new Catalog

Academic librarians develop open-source software to meet faculty and student needs

The University of Chicago Library is pleased to announce its launch of the Kuali Open Library Environment (OLE) and a new Catalog based on VuFind.

An open-source, community-based library management system, Kuali OLE was created by a partnership of some of the nation’s leading university libraries, including the University of Chicago Library. Kuali OLE, which provides the Library’s technical infrastructure, is intentionally designed to function with a wide range of user interfaces chosen by various individual libraries, including Chicago’s new Catalog.

“We are especially pleased that by implementing Kuali OLE and VuFind we will be providing both a business system and a patron access module that are open source—planned, designed, governed and owned by the library community,” said James Mouw, Associate University Librarian for Collections Services at University of Chicago and Treasurer of the Kuali OLE Board. “Community ownership of key library systems affords us the ability to manage, develop, and enhance our infrastructure as new technologies emerge and the needs of our scholarly community evolve. The ability to move quickly and effectively, working in partnership with other academic research institutions with similar needs is something we have not had with commercial systems.”

Kuali OLE

Kuali OLE was founded by a partnership of research libraries that now includes University of Chicago, Indiana University (lead), SOAS—University of London, Lehigh University, Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of Florida, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. The partners pooled resources and expertise beginning in 2008 with several grants from the Mellon Foundation to develop this next-generation library system. Chicago and Lehigh University are the initial implementers. Other partners plan to adopt the new system in summer 2015.

Kuali OLE partners

Kuali OLE partners

UChicago Library staff members have played an integral role in the development of Kuali OLE since the design phase in 2008 and continue to do so by developing specifications, participating in software development, undertaking migration planning, providing subject specialist expertise, and testing new development. They hold several key leadership positions on the Kuali OLE team, and dozens more are participating in working groups supporting development activities. Development continues with the next Kuali OLE release due in summer 2015.

New University of Chicago Library Catalog

UChicago Library staff members have tailored VuFind, a library catalog originally developed at Villanova University, to meet the needs of local users. Design goals for the Catalog were drawn from an extensive series of interviews with UChicago faculty and students, conducted to ensure that the new tool meets the needs of researchers. Initial designs were refined throughout the first half of 2014, following the public beta testing of the Catalog by users beginning on February 14, 2014.

Alumna tries out the new Library Catalog

Sylva Osbourne, AB’14, tries out the new Library Catalog. (Photo by Lloyd DeGrane)

“Participating in the VuFind open-source project has allowed the Library to take advantage of commonly requested features already developed by the VuFind community while giving us the latitude to create functionality unique to UChicago needs,” said Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for Digital Services.  “The level of engagement by our faculty and students in helping us design this new Catalog has been especially gratifying.”

The new Catalog features a simple, clean visual design while retaining all of the functionality that patrons identified as valuable in the pre-existing UChicago systems. It also adds new features requested during interviews, including display of the current availability of items on the search results page, as well as easier access to ebooks and ejournals.

“The successful, coordinated launch of these two new Library systems, designed to improve discovery and management of growing collections, could not have been accomplished without the creativity and talent of University of Chicago Library staff,” said Alice Schreyer, Interim Library Director and Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections at the University of Chicago. “We are proud to collaborate with our colleagues to develop these new systems that will benefit researchers from around the world.”

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