University of Rochester

Library Awarded $175,000 Mellon Foundation Grant for Support of Open Source Software for Libraries

July 28, 2009

The University of Rochester River Campus Libraries has been awarded $175,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide development support for the eXtensible Catalog (XC), the library's newly developed software interface that vastly improves library searches.

The funding will provide critical software support as libraries introduce the innovative XC program to their systems. Slated for completion by January 2010, the XC software will allow users to simultaneously search dozens of online library collections and databases catalogues that today must be accessed one at a time.

"Everyone recognizes that the success of any new software platform depends upon reliable support for the software and its user community after the initial launch," explained Susan Gibbons, Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries. "This technical assistance will ensure a successful transition of the eXtensible Catalog from a grant-funded software development project to an independent, self-sustaining organization benefitting libraries across the globe."

As open-source software, the eXtensible Catalog code is available for download at no cost. Libraries are encouraged to adopt, customize, and extend the software to meet local needs. To help build a strong community, the Mellon Foundation funding provides for a full-time programmer for two years to answer users' questions, work out software glitches, incorporate new community contributions to the open-source code, and maintain a Web site (

To date, two of the planned five toolkits for the program are available at the site, with the final three scheduled for completion by the end of January 2010.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation underwrote the planning and initial development of the eXtensible Catalog with two grants, $283,000 awarded in 2006 and $749,000 in 2007. Since then, the project has attracted financial support from partner libraries, consortia, and private companies. The current total funding for the project stands at $3.2 million.

The project is a collaboration between a central software development team at the University and research or development partners at twelve institutions around the country. At the University, the project is led by David Lindahl, director of digital initiatives; Jennifer Bowen, assistant dean for information management services; and Nancy Fried Foster, director of anthropological research for River Campus Libraries.