Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 6: Case Studies

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 6: Case Studies

Article excerpt


The case studies in this chapter illustrate what pushed each library to implement an NGC, the steps involved, and the outcomes of the solution. Interviews are with Lynn Sutton, Library Dean, and Erik Mitchell, Assistant Director for Technology Services from Wake Forest University; Anne Prestamo, Associate Dean for Collection and Technology Services, from Oklahoma State University; Greg Raschke, Associate Director for Collections and Scholarly Communication from North Carolina State University; Allison Sharp Bolorizadeh, Assistant Professor and Instructional Services Librarian from University of Tennessee Knoxville; and Joseph Lucia, University Librarian and Library Director from Villanova University.

Wake Forest University

* Interviewees: Library Dean Lynn Sutton and Assistant Director for Technology Services Erik Mitchell

* Product: VuFind

* Launch Date: July 2009

During the summer of 2009, Wake Forest University (WFU), a university of over 7,000 enrolled students, launched an NGC at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library. I spoke with Library Dean Lynn Sutton and Assistant Director for Technology Services Erik Mitchell about their implementation of VuFind to learn more about why they chose the product and what impact it has had on the library.

Prior to the implementation, the staff at WFU had a general dissatisfaction with the OPAC that was in place. They wanted to be able to provide an experience to their users that the users would be familiar with as well as free themselves from "vendor lock-in." In addition, they had a lack of confidence in the ability of the vendor that they had been working with to provide a solution that would meet both their needs and their patrons' needs. There were a few institutions that were beginning to make some noise around the discoverability of collections in the library industry. North Carolina State University (NCSU) launched a homegrown catalog built on top of a commercial search engine, Endeca. This platform allowed the developers at NCSU Libraries to build a web application that brought together the intuitiveness of a Google search, the power of faceted searching, and the highly customized look and feel that libraries have been wanting in one tool. Shortly thereafter, Villanova University launched VuFind as an open source solution. Sutton had known Joseph Lucia, University Librarian at Villanova University, and began to have conversations with him. After briefly evaluating the few commercial products that had recently come to market, they mutually agreed that the open source products available provided more attractive cost and features than the commercial products. This, mixed with a general lack of trust in the vendors, made it a clear path forward. It was then that Mitchell and Sutton decided to move forward with an implementation of VuFind as a new platform for their patrons.

As with all product evaluations, the open source solutions were not all peaches and cream. Sutton did have some hesitations. "I was worried about the days of Notus and VTLS when ILS systems were developed at a library and then became commercial products," said Sutton, talking about the concern of relying on an open source solution that was developed by a library. She went on to say that after a conversation with Lucia, he comforted her by saying that they were in a whole new ballgame.

VuFind at WFU quickly became a success for the technology team at the library. They were able to prove that an open source solution could perform at the levels that their librarians and users demand. VuFind became a "quick win" and opened the doors for more open source solutions. One of the most beneficial traits of open source software is the ability of the team to quickly deploy new copies of the software, both for testing newer versions and for upgrading infrastructure. WFU has migrated all of its locally hosted applications in the library to a cloud-based platform, and its open source products have made that migration very easy. …

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