One of the top priorities in the field of library automation involves inventing new interfaces to provide access to library content and services to users. Dissatisfaction with current OPAC products runs rampant. The need for a new generation of interfaces more in tune with the expectations of Web-savvy library users ranks as one of the top priorities as libraries develop their online presence. Both commercial library vendors and groups within libraries themselves have launched initiatives to develop next-generation library interfaces. One of the noncommercial efforts that continues to show strong promise is the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries initiative to develop the eXtensible Catalog.
The eXtensible Catalog (XC) initiative has garnered the resources necessary to move out of the realm of conceptual planning to an actual product through new funding awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This grant of $749,000 will be supplemented by financial and in-kind contributions from the University of Rochester and a group of other institutions participating in the project. The value of the total project contributions will total $2.8 million. This level of funding brings to this initiative the level of resources necessary to create a product capable of competing with the emerging commercial offerings.
This new award follows up on a $283,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced in April 2006 to develop the requirements and conceptual framework for the eXtensible Catalog, bringing the Foundationís total investment to date in the XC to over $1 million.
The eXtensible Catalog will be created in an open source model and in many ways competes with commercial products such as Encore from Innovative Interfaces, Primo from Ex Libris, and Aquabrowser from Medialab Solutions. As one of this genre of next-generation library interfaces, XC aims to deliver access to a broad range of content managed by a library taking advantage of more current user interface conventions than were present in the earlier generation of OPAC products. XC also aims to extend the concept of the next generation interface beyond the model cast by these commercial products.
Some of the key features embraced by the eXtensible Catalog include:
- A user interface to help library users at varying levels of proficiency to gain access to diverse library collections
- Grouping of results consistent with the concepts of FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records)
- Support for multiple metadata schemas
- Integration with metasearch applications
- Integration with local ILS implementations
An important component of the vision of XC lies in putting the library in control of the way it delivers content. The default interface for XC will be based on the open source Drupal content management system. Libraries will be able to fully customize the interface, or even craft their own interface on top of the underlying XC services using another content management system or development environment. XC will embrace an architecture that lends itself to being incorporated into external environments such as learning management systems (e.g., Sakai and Blackboard) and will include tools to help libraries embed XC services.
During the initial phase of the XC initiative, project staff conducted a number of interviews and focus groups to help develop a conceptual model and the functional requirements.
Principals of the project gave a number of presentations to diverse groups which have resulted in significant interest. In February 2007 the group hosted an invitational XC Partner Meeting. Most of the organizations represented at this meeting have agreed to participate either in a material or advisory capacity as the project moves into this second phase.
Organizations partnering with the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries on the eXtensible Catalog project currently include University of Notre Dame, the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, Rochester Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Cornell University, the University of Buffalo, Ohio State University, the Georgia PINES consortium, and Yale University. Each of these partner institutions will make substantial contributions to the project, either through staff time allocated toward the development of XC or through financial support. Institutions involved in an advisory role include the Library of Congress, OCLC, North Carolina State University, and the Darien Public Library in Connecticut.
Ronald F. Dow, the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester, will lead the project. Other principals include David Lindahl, director of digital initiatives; Jennifer Bowen director of catalog and metadata management; and Nancy Fried Foster, lead anthropologist for the libraries.