Monday, 25 October 2010

Final Project Post

Screenshots of prototype:

The home page offers the simple search box, along with alternative languages (English and Welsh are given prominence), a choice of skins, links to "classic catalogues", Login, and a filter to limit searches by institution.

Search results, showing facets and multi-institution holdings.

Title results, including tagging, citation, export, favourites, "similar items", and holdings from multiple institutions (the use of tabs for holdings is not yet live).

"My Account" - items on loan. Where a user has borrowed items from more than one institution, all loans will be shown.

Description of prototype:

iFind Discover is a new online catalogue providing access to the library resources of Swansea University, Swansea Metropolitan University and the Camarthen campus of the University of Wales Trinity St.David (formerly Trinity University College).

iFind Discover provides an easy-to-use Web 2.0 interface, with a simple, Google-like, search box but also advanced searching options for more complex queries. When a title is found, holdings are listed for all three institutions, along with availability and options to place requests (not fully implemented on all sites yet). Search results include filters to limit searches more precisely, and links to other related material.

Users can tag records, leave comments, add to favourites, check their library accounts, renew items, and link through to iFind Research for searching electronic resources.

End User of Prototype:

The end users for iFind Discover are students and staff at the three participating institutions. In addition to having a more advanced catalogue to search their library, iFind Discover provides them with a single point of access to resources across all the South West Wales academic libraries from which they are entitled to borrow under a reciprocal borrowing agreement.

Link to working prototype:

iFind Discover is in "live Beta", and can be seen at

Link to end-user documentation:

A full user guide is here.
Swansea University brief user guide is here.

Link to code respository:

The standard code for VuFind is at

The enhancements made under this project are presently in a separate branch, but may become include in the main version in the near future. The project's branch is at

Link to technical documentation:

VuFind Multi System document
Multi-system driver document (on the VuFind website)

Date prototype was launched:

iFind Discover went into "live beta" in September 2010. Minor enhancements have taken place since, and will continue to be implemented on a monthly upgrade schedule.

Project team names:

The project team consisted of:

Mark Hughes,, Head of Collections at Swansea University

Paul Johnson,, Virtual Academic Library project manager, South West Wales Higher Education Partnership

Luke O’Sullivan,, Virtual Academic Library systems officers, South West Wales Higher Education Partnership

Project websites:

The project blog is at

The iFind Discover project was also reported on the main SWWHEP website at :

PIMS Entry:

Project posts:

General, and Planning

Welcome to SWWHEP Search!
Project background
Aims, objectives and final output
Benefits, to us and the wider community
Risk analysis and success plan
Intellectual property rights
Why and what is SWWHEPSRCH? A brief pitch
Who are we, anyway?
The best laid plans of mice and men ...

Development and Implementation

Establishing requirements
Open-source solutions - 20 minutes
How do you solve a problem like ...
3-in-1 : Merging bibliographic data

Sharing with the wider community

Sharing VuFind / Jangle with the University of Sussex
VuFinding (Across the Universe)
VuFind 2.0 conference : was a multi-LMS implementation of interest?
JISC LMS programme meeting at ECDL 2010

User interaction

iFind Discover training
iFind Discover in "live beta"
The Consultation process
Beta feedback
Feedback summary


Lessons learned
Where do we go next?

Feedback summary

The feedback received through iFind Discover's on-line form was collated and sorted into categories according to operation responsibility.

Requests for Change (SWWHEP remit)

This category included requests for change which fell within the confines of VuFind developments carried out by the project team


Is it possible to view your loaned items in order of due date, as before?

Requests for Change (Core)

This category included requests for change which would require to the VuFind Project Core


Please can we have the facility back that enabled us to print/email the 'bookbag' or favourites list. This was REALLY useful. I've just spent half-an-hour writing out book titles, authors and call numbers so that I can go to the library and get some relevant books out!


This category included comments related to usability issues, particularly those regarding the display of information to three catalogues rather than one


I really couldn't care less what's held at Trinity or at Swansea Met, I just want to be able to come into the LIS or the SWML and find the stuff I want quickly

Performance and System Errors

This category included comments related to system performance and reliability


Loading of 'items on loan' seems to take for ever

Importing Errors

This category included comments related to feedback which arose through marc record load errors


It’s not recognising any of the books I'm searching for, several of which I have in front of me


This category included positive comments which had no developmental implications


This new system is a big improvement upon the old, particularly the suggestions of other related items and item categories [facets]

Where do we go next?

As the system approaches an acceptable level of stability, greater attention can be given to addressing the issues highlighted by users who have experienced difficulty quickly identifying the information that matters to them. To facilitate this, a final user interface theme is currently in production which it is hoped will show case the information users have requested

Longer-term, the big issue is sustainability. The SWWHEP team which has developed and implemented iFind Discover will be moving on to other things next year, and so support of the new catalogue will pass to staff at Swansea University library. First-line support has already passed to the library systems team, and discussions are now underway for IT staff to take over support of the server (Swansea has an integrated library and IT service, which makes these things much smoother than they could otherwise be!).

Lessons Learned

Procedural Improvements

In hindsight, the lack of opportunity to beta iFind Discover in a soft launch was critical as it meant that several major problems caused disruption to services. These problems only revealed themselves under heavy usage and included resource allocation issues with the Jangle software used to connect to Swansea Metropolitan Library, Open SSL and LDAP connectivity and system resource allocation. Identifying these problems at an earlier stage may also have enabled complete two missing elements to the catalogue; a stable SSL certificate and the automated update of records.

The feasibility of a Multi LMS Discovery Catalogue

Our work on VuFind has shown that it is technically possible to modify the core to allow it to operate in a multi-LMS environment. The degree to which system functionality can be replicated and improved on is very much dependant on the LMS involved and relies on the openness of data and system services.

The major issues for the implementation of Multi LMS Discovery Catalogue are system performance and the accessibility of data in the user interface. Searching more than one system has inevitable implications for search time and produces greater technical challenges such as negotiating firewalls and merging data sets. The implications of differences in ICT policy, data sharing and commitment amongst participating institutions also need to be taken into consideration. In addition, presenting multiple sets of data also requires careful planning or users will be swamped with information, unable to quickly identify the details which are important to them.

Beta feedback

The Beta version of iFind Discover went live towards the end of Summer 2010 and was intended to be functionally complete. Most of the consolation from this point resolved around the user interface and the information displayed. Training and introduction sessions were arranged all three institutions and users were encouraged to submit feedback directly via e-mail or through the inbuilt feedback form. To facilitate the collection and organisation of this feedback, a blog ( was produced in order to list project news, user suggestions for new developments, new features from the core developers, new features in development by the project staff and confirmed developments. (For a summary of the feedback received – please see below)

Throughout the feedback and consultation process, very little feedback was received users from Swansea Metropolitan University and Trinity Saint David. As a result, there may be a bias in the structure and nature of information displayed in the catalogue but without further feedback or engagement in the development process, this is unavoidable.

iFind Discover Beta became the default discovery tool for Swansea University at the beginning of the 2010/2011 academic term. A soft launch with iFind Discover Beta as an optional catalogue would have been preferable as it would have allowed us to identify the system instabilities and bugs with less core service disruptions. It could then have become the default discovery interface for Swansea University at the beginning of 2011. Unfortunately, due to the time constraints of the SWWHEP project, this was untenable.

The Consultation process

The consolation process for the development of the new catalogue was due to begin at the beginning of last term academic term of 2009/2010 and continue for the duration summer. Unfortunately, due to operational difficulties in completing the modifications required for a multi-LMS environment, consultation actually began after the end of the last academic term of 2009; as a result, the number of students and staff involved in the consultation process was dramatically reduced and less over all time was available for examining data presentation and identifying system bugs and problems.

The loss of “bulk” feedback from students was particularly troublesome as it meant that issues with system reliability under heavy usage were not uncovered until much later in the process- this in turn led to periods of system down time and service disruption.

To help offset these difficulties, an unobtrusive feedback form was added to each page of the beta catalogue to collect information from users who were not part of the official consultation process.

An extremely useful opportunity to ascertain the potential “market” for a multi-lms discovery catalogue was afforded by a trip to the VuFind 2.0 conference in Philadelphia. Though there is more scope there for implementation of VuFind in consortia which share the same LMS, sessions on the user interface revealed provided extremely useful best practice studies which the project team was eventually able to use in addressing some of the initial feedback.

One of the flaws in the consultation process was that too much focus was given to highlighting and developing the new advanced features of VuFind. The result was that not enough consideration was given to identifying services which were part of the existing catalogues such as Voyager’s Book Bag feature, which were not part of VuFind.