VuFind 4.0 released with new features and fixes

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, July 17, 2017 7:48 AM

Version 4.0 of VuFind, the popular open-source discovery interface, was released early July 2017.

This version brings VuFind up to date with important PHP and Solr developments while also adding several new features and offering a straightforward upgrade path from the 2.x series of releases.

Some key additions and changes:

  • New channels feature. These are similar to the canned queries we include in almost all projects we work on, no matter which system, where pre-created search parameters or groups of records are offered to users through a simple link, as a guide to interesting aspects of the collection. See a demo at https://vufind.org/demo/Channels/Home.
  • New ability to create and host static content pages. This feature is especially welcome as in previous versions, additional content (e.g. About Us, Contact Us) was most easily placed on the home page, which could make for a bit of a crowded space.
  • Improved ability to load cover images from local files. We added this ourselves as custom development in a previous VuFind project, so are happy to see it appear in the core VuFind system.
  • A new theme, called Sandals. As with several previous themes, it's based on the responsive Bootstrap framework, so it works well on mobile devices. This new theme has a somewhat more modern look to it.

Additionally, several bug fixes, new configuration options and minor improvements have been incorporated.

Although VuFind was largely developed by and for academic libraries, we've found applications for it in other organizations, including smaller specialized libraries. Our blog has details of selected projects. In general, we recommend VuFind for organizations with purely bibliographic records and little or no need for customization, a custom graphic design, integration of other features or content, etc. For organizations with those requirements, our Andornot Discovery Interface is a perfect choice.

Contact us to learn more about the VuFind discovery interface and how it might suit your organization.

ARLIS Launches Susitna Doc Finder VuFind Catalog

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, October 10, 2016 1:09 PM

Over the past couple of years, Andornot has helped the Alaska Resources Library & Information Services (ARLIS) launch, then upgrade, a VuFind-powered catalog of Alaska North Slope natural gas pipeline work from the past 40 years. 

A second VuFind catalog has recently been added to the ARLIS site: the Susitna Doc Finder

The Susitna Doc Finder is a comprehensive catalog of documents that have resulted from every phase of the historic 1980s Susitna Hydroelectric Project (SuHydro Project), as well as those documents continually being produced since 2010 under the current Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project (SuWa Project).

Records for this catalog are managed in both a MARC cataloguing ILS, as well as a local Inmagic DB/TextWorks database. Exports from both are indexed nightly by VuFind, using heavily customized import mappings and additional fields and browse indexes. 

Almost all records link to PDF reports from the project. Text is extracted from these and indexed, to complement the excellent initial metadata. 

Cover images of these PDF reports are generated during indexing and appear in search results, in several sizes, both for visual interest, and to give a glimpse of a report before clicking to download it.

The web interface uses a VuFind theme built from the ever-popular Twitter Bootstrap responsive web framework. Almost all of Andornot's web projects use this or a similar responsive framework to provide the same level of access on devices of all sizes and shapes, from full-size desktop browsers down to tablets and phones.

Results from this VuFind system are also available through Google, as Google has crawled and indexed the VuFind system.

Further information:

Contact us to discuss options for a discovery interface style of search for your catalogue or other collection, using VuFind or the Andornot Discovery Interface.

VuFind 3.0 Released

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, April 27, 2016 8:21 PM

Version 3.0 of VuFind, the popular open-source discovery interface, was released April 25, 2016.

This version brings VuFind up to date with important PHP and Solr developments while also adding several new features and offering a straightforward upgrade path from the 2.x series of releases.

Some key additions and changes:

  • Improved support for indexing multiple authors (and other types of creators).
  • New filtering options in “combined search” mode to make your "bento box" search even more flexible.
  • A database-driven record cache to improve performance and permanence when working with third-party APIs.
  • Compatibility with PHP 7 and Ubuntu 16.04.
  • Inclusion of Solr 5.5.0, which adds new indexing features and better Windows support.
  • A significantly rewritten front-end theme offering greater stability, improved ease of customization and a more consistent user experience.
  • New recommendation modules to help guide users to better search results.

Additionally, several bug fixes, new configuration options and minor improvements have been incorporated.

Although VuFind was largely developed by and for academic libraries, we've found applications for it in other organizations, including smaller specialized libraries. Our blog has details of selected projects. In general, we recommend VuFind for organizations with purely bibliographic records and little or no need for customization, a custom graphic design, integration of other features or content, etc. For organizations with those requirements, our Andornot Discovery Interface is a perfect choice.

Contact us to learn more about the VuFind discovery interface and how it might suit your organization.

Using Named Entity Recognition to Generate Searchable Metadata

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, January 05, 2016 10:53 AM

Ask any librarian and they'll tell you that good metadata makes for a positive and productive search experience for users. Trying to find resources about a historic person or place, produced in a particular time period, and especially about a specific topic, is always more easily achieved when resources have been analyzed and described by a trained professional, with metadata applied from a controlled vocabulary, a process long known as "cataloguing".

Sure, search engines do an ever better job of returning relevant search results based only on the full text of a resource, with little or no metadata, thanks to some pretty sophisticated algorithms. Google is a giant because Google works! And even the Apache Solr search engine in our Andornot Discovery Interface and VuFind is impressive in its ability to parse and return meaningful results from large amounts of non-catalogued, metadata-free text.

But good metadata, applied by a librarian, archivist, curator or other skilled person, is still an even better source of data for a search engine. However, producing it does take time and staff resources. So, many have asked, "what if a computer could help me figure out what this resource is about, who is mentioned in it it, and where and when it takes place? What if the computer could extract the full text as well as metadata from a resource?"

We're very interested in some work being done on this. While automated subject analysis is still challenging, work at Stanford University by a Natural Language Processing group has produced a Named Entity Recognition engine that shows great promise. In a nutshell, this engine does a fine job of reading a passage of text, as long as you like, and finding within it the names of people, organizations and locations. 

Here's an example of a passage of text processed by the engine, with entities identified.

The screenshot shows that the engine did a pretty good job of identifying the names of people, organizations and places. This metadata can be used for increased searching options in a search engine, or fed back into a database for review and editing (as the engine may not always be perfect, there's still a role for professional review).

We're researching the possible uses of this with some of our projects, such as those built from the Andornot Discovery Interface (AnDI). When importing the full text of documents, that text will be run through a Named Entity Recognition engine to generate name and place metadata. For unstructured data, this may provide to be a great means of populating the Names facet, for example.

Stay tuned to this blog for further results, or contact us to discuss your collections and how they could be made more accessible with AnDI and Named Entity Recognition.

Nova Scotia Barristers' Society Migrates to VuFind Discovery Interface

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, August 26, 2015 4:40 PM

Andornot was pleased to help Nova Scotia Barristers' Society Library & Information Services migrate several of their web-based library search interfaces to the VuFind discovery interface this summer. 

The NSBS Library has used Inmagic DB/TextWorks for many years to manage a variety of databases, including a library catalogue. Inmagic WebPublisher was previously used to search some of those, and remains available for a few other databases, but now a new VuFind interface provides a single search across:

  • texts, case law reporters, legislation, forms & precedents collections, and other print material;
  • online resources licensed for in-library use; and
  • continuing professional development papers in full-text.

The new catalogue is available at https://catalogue.nsbs.org

Features such as spelling corrections and search suggestions, relevancy ranked results (with more recent items boosted higher in results), and facets to narrow searches provide the features users expect in a web search application.

The design of the new VuFind site was customized to match as closely as possible the main Society website, for a seamless transition between the two. The site adapts to the user's browser, so it's just as usable on a tablet or phone as in a desktop browser.

The initial response from library users has been very positive. 

"I've spoken to quite a few library users who've tried it and are really pleased. Find it really user-friendly. We have gotten emails from lawyers who have clearly discovered an interesting sounding resource via the catalogue and want to know more (is it in-library use only or can they borrow...). Some lawyers also got on board right away with signing up for a user account so that they could use the results management tools, like sending selected results as an email list to us, asking if resources are available." – Deborah Copeman, Librarian, NSBS

The NSBS Library joins a growing number of specialized libraries adopting discovery interfaces to search their collections. While public and academic libraries have offered this more modern style of search to their users for many years, smaller libraries are now able to join them with systems such as VuFind and our own Andornot Discovery Interface.

Contact us to discuss improvements to your library information and online search applications.

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