Falvey honored for search software

Julie Balzarini

The University recently received the Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The award, which carries with it a $50,000 prize, was given in recognition of Falvey Memorial Library’s Project VuFind search software.

“We developed it because we were really unhappy with all of the available commercial software,” said Joseph Lucia, University librarian and director. “One of the many reasons it is so special is that it includes faceted search and browse, which allows you to narrow down your search without typing additional search words.”

Sites such as Amazon and eBay use similar software.

“We are using this software and applying it to the library search world,” Lucia said.

Based on the items users search ofor, the software will suggest similar resources.

The user can save these resources in a simple, customizable list that can be retrieved at any time. Users can also access author biographies.

“You can comment on something and view reviews of it,” Lucia said. “There is also a cite feature. You can click on a book and view the citation and the software can compile all your sources and manage a bibliography for you.”

VuFind also includes a feature that allows students to have easier access to citations.

“You can have a text message of the citation sent to your phone, so if you need to go to the stacks to find a book you don’t have to write it down,” Lucia said.

Another feature is that the search results page displays the live status of a record by accessing the catalog at that exact moment.

The software is free and is completely modular, so it can be modified by participating institutions.

The VuFind team accepted the $50,000 award on Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C., at the Coalition for Networked Information Task Force meeting.

The team included Lucia, Andrew Nagy, former library technology development specialist and Christopher Barr, interface and design specialist.

The awards are given to non-profit developers of open source software aimed at advancing scholarship in the arts and humanities.

Nominations are selected by the public and recipients are chosen by the MATC committee.

“The award money is specifically granted to develop and refine the software,” Lucia said. “We want to use it to promote awareness, sustain and grow the program”

Other recipients were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois, the Appalachian College Association, Carnegie-Mellon University, Ecotrust, the Foothill College, George Mason University, King’s College London, the University of Waikato and the University of Washington.

“We are in really good company,” Lucia said.