VuFind, the open source discovery interface initially developed by Falvey Memorial Library at Villanova University has been widely adopted, seeing use in hundreds of libraries throughout the world. A few of its major implementations include the catalog for the National Library of Australia, the CARLI Consortium in Illinois, the University of Georgia Libraries, the public libraries in BiblioRedes network in Chile, the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado, the Upper Hudson Library System, the University of Leipzig, and many others. Many libraries have implemented VuFind as replacements to the online catalog modules delivered with the integrated library systems; some have integrated other types of content in addition to their traditional collections. VuFind has proven itself as a very flexible and powerful library discovery interface.
VuFind provides a modern search interface with key features such as relevancy-ranked search results and faceted navigation. It relies on open source infrastructure components such as Apache SOLR, the MySQL relational database, and the YAZ 39.50 toolkit from Index Data. It uses PHP as its development language. As open source software, VuFind software is available for libraries to download, make modifications, and use without licensing costs.
The initial development of VuFind was led at Villanova University by Andrew Nagy under the leadership of University Librarian Joseph P. Lucia. Nagy left Villanova University in 2009 for Serials Solutions to help market and develop its Summon discovery service. Although Villanova continues to coordinate the development of the software, programmers from other libraries also make contributions.
The initial beta version of the software was released in July 2007. Following a long beta period, which included some production implementations, Version 1.0 was released in July 2010. This version included enhancements such as support for record formats other than MARC, an interface for mobile devices, a recommendations feature, and integration with the Summon index. Version 1.1, released in March 2010, introduced such new features as auto-suggestion, highlighting of keywords in search results, ability to browse headings, and improved capabilities for patrons to manage lists, as well as bug fixes and increased support for the integration of content through APIs. VuFind 1.3 was released in January 2012 with incremental enhancements and technical improvements.
The development team at Villanova University, led by Demian Katz, has been working on a major new release of the software that brings substantial improvements to the product, both in features and in technical architecture. The redevelopment was also needed to remove some components that have since become deprecated. The new version of VuFind has been built upon the Zend Framework 2.0 (framework.zend.com), in which developers create PHP applications using object-oriented coding conventions. This new architecture is expected to make VuFind easier to install, maintain, and extend. VuFind is not the only option for libraries interested in an open source discovery interface. Blacklight, originally developed at the University of Virginia, provides an alternative based on the Ruby on Rails development environment. Like VuFind, Blacklight relies on the Apache SOLR for search and retrieval. In addition to its use at the University of Virginia, Blacklight has been implemented by other academic libraries, including Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University.
VuFind has been a very successful open source project in the library arena. It arose at a time when many libraries were anxious to replace stodgy online catalogs with new interfaces more consistent with modern expectations for search and presentation of information resources. Proprietary products, such as AquaBrowser, also aim to fill the same niche of providing a new discovery interface for an integrated library system. Many libraries also populate these discovery interfaces with metadata from other collections not managed by their ILS.
The key challenge for VuFind lies in the major trend toward the adoption of discovery services based on managed indexes pre-populated to search a library's subscriptions to electronic resources in addition to their physical collections. These Web-scale discovery services are seeing increased adoption, especially in academic libraries that make large investments in electronic content. Some libraries, including Villanova University, use VuFind as the primary search interface in conjunction with results delivered through one of the Web-scale discovery services, such as Serials Solutions Summon. This approach allows the library to create a customized search environment, though it does not necessarily result in financial savings.
For more information on VuFind development, see http://vufind.org/wiki/vufind2:start.