Monday, 27 September 2010

Why and what is SWWHEPSRCH? A brief "pitch"

At the recent JISC LMS event, we were asked to produce a one-minute pitch of our projects, so here goes for #swwhepsrch

What is swwhepsrch?

This project is a case study on the implementation of VuFind as a shared resource discovery platform for the three university libraries in the South West Wales Higher Education Partnership (SWWHEP) : Swansea University, Swansea Metropolitan University and Trinity University College, Carmarthen (now part of the University of Wales Trinity St.David).

Why a shared discovery platform?

The aim of SWWHEP is to establish greater collaboration and cooperation between the member institutions, in order to improve and expand services available to their staff and students in an efficient and cost-effective manner. For the SWWHEP library project, this involves providing users with greater and easier access to resources across the three institutions, through various means including a common RFID self-service environment, a document delivery service between institutions and full reciprocal borrowing.

To facilitate common access to resources, we need a common discovery service. To improve upon the discovery services already available, we need a next-generation interface. After examining various options, the project decided to implement the discovery interface using the Open Source VuFind product, backed up with the propriortary Metalib/SFX product for searching electronic resources.

Why VuFind and Why OpenSource?

VuFind provided most of the next-generation functionality we were looking for, and in our opinion stood up well against the commercial options. Being an open source product, there was no purchase cost, which was important given our fixed budget. More importantly, it gave us the ability to tailor it to our needs as much as we needed or desired. The most important part aspect of this was enhancing the product so that it communicates with the institutions’ three separate library management systems simultaneously, since it is the LMSs which provide live availability data and allow users to renew materials, place reservations and check their library accounts. The flexibility offered by open source also allowed us to make other changes to the interface in order to provide a library catalogue that is significantly better than any of those previously on offer.

The choice of VuFind also gave the university libraries an opporunity to try open source on a relatively small scale as a possible prelude to considering it for other applications, possibly even a full library management system.

Where next?

The new catalogue – branded iFind Discover – is now in beta test and we will be monitoring and reporting on user reaction. First-line support for the product has been transferred from the SWWHEP project to library IT staff, but there will continue to be a program of enhancements implemented on a monthly basis.

Luke O’Sullivan, who carried out most of the development work, recently attended the VuFind developer’s conference at Villanova University in the USA, and we are hopeful that some of his work, particularly regarding the multi-system connection, will become part of the main product and readily available to other library consortia across the world.

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