The University of Rochester's River Campus Libraries will take the lead in studying how best to develop an open-source online system that can unify access to traditional and digital library resources. With a $283,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University will begin planning and requirements analysis activities for a new system known as eXtensible Catalog (XC).
XC has the potential to allow future library users at any level of proficiency to get more out of academic library collections and to give academic libraries more control over how best to help people gather information. As envisioned, XC's simple yet powerful interface will allow users to navigate through comprehensive search results sorted into useful categories that will give them the resources they seek more easily.
As lead institution for the XC project, the University of Rochester will draw upon the combined talents and expertise of existing staff within the University's River Campus Libraries in the areas of programming, metadata, anthropology, graphic design, user-centered design, and usability testing. The principal investigator for the project is Ronald F. Dow, the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries, with co-principal investigators David Lindahl, director of digital initiatives; Jennifer Bowen, head of cataloging; and Nancy Fried Foster, lead anthropologist for the libraries. The length of the grant is May 2006 to April 2007.
The first phase of the analysis will produce a plan that will include:
- A survey of related projects that will assess the feasibility of bringing together and building upon work being done at other institutions
- An analysis of freely-available source code that could be incorporated into the development of XC
- Outreach to other academic institutions doing similar work at libraries
- Recommendations for the metadata requirements of the new system, informed by data models that focus on how metadata helps people gather and understand information
- An analysis of existing user studies and recommendations for additional studies of user practices to guide the development of XC
- An analysis of needs for the XC system within academic libraries
One end result of an XC system may be inexpensive, flexible alternatives to using off-the-shelf software to provide access to library collections.
River Campus Libraries already has a track record of successes with open-source projects, strong institutional support for collaboration and innovation, and a vision for XC's future as a collaborative project that can benefit academic libraries and their users.