UChicago launches new catalog and library management system

New open-source, community-based software will meet faculty and student needs

Susan Allen
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesUniversity Communications

The University of Chicago Library has launched a new online catalog and library management system designed to improve service for users and support the work of library staff.

Users will primarily interact with the new catalog, which features a simplified design and easier access to e-books and e-journals. The new library management system, called Kuali Open Library Environment, powers the catalog and provides the Library’s technical infrastructure.

The new catalog is based on software called VuFind. Both VuFind and Kuali OLE are open-source software, designed by the academic library community to meet the needs of today’s researchers and students.

Kuali OLE was created by a partnership of some of the nation’s leading university libraries, including the UChicago Library. Kuali OLE is intentionally designed to function with a wide range of user interfaces chosen by various individual libraries.

“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, 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. UChicago and Lehigh University are the initial implementers. Other partners plan to adopt the new system in summer 2015.

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 that began on Feb. 14, 2014.

“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, such as browsing by call number, title and subject headings; ranking of search results by relevance; and emailing and texting of records. 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 e-books and e-journals.

“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. “We are proud to collaborate with our colleagues to develop these new systems that will benefit researchers from around the world.”

As a center of intense intellectual inquiry, the UChicago Library shares with the rest of the University the aspiration to be the most dynamic research and learning environment in the world, supporting the University’s commitment to research and teaching in the physical sciences, social sciences, humanities and the College, using intellectual resources to help solve the world’s problems. With its 11.9 million volumes, noted collections in fields ranging from sociology to the history of science, rich selection of non-English holdings and commitment to keeping its collection on campus, the Library has become a destination for scholars and a model for other institutions worldwide.