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Progress with statistics reporting

Progress is being made when it comes to "Catholic Portal" VuFind statistics reporting.

Yesterday I broke down and re-wrote my log file import application. Instead of parsing the log, ingesting the results, and then post processing, I re-wrote the application so it does all of this in one pass. I also enhanced the program so it could take command line input. Specifically, if no arguments are supplied, then it will import yesterday's log data. Otherwise it expects two inputs: 1) a beginning date, and 2) an ending date. If given these inputs, then I can drop the entire database and re-create it almost effortlessly. The script is called, and it is now running under cron so the database gets updated daily.

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Advancing Catholic Scholarship: A Symposium at Duquesne [call for posters, details]

Dear CRRA Colleagues,

We are pleased to invite you, members of your staff, students and faculty at your institution to a symposium to be held November 9-10, 2011 at Duquesne University. Invited Catholic scholars and librarians will discuss the “state of the art” of Catholic scholarship, directions that scholarship is headed, and how libraries, archives, and member organizations support and nurture future Catholic scholars and scholarship.

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VUFind and sitemaps

In an effort to improve SEO (search engine optimization) I have done my best to implement sitemaps against the "Catholic Portal's" VUFind implementation.

Sitemaps are XML files listing all the individual files/resources of a website. The intention and structure of these files is documented at By exposing a site's content in this way Internet robots/spiders can slurp up sitemap files' URLs, go directly the resources without crawling, and index the content found there. In short, sitemaps make it easier for Internet indexers to do their job.

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VUFind, version 1.1 or so

I believe I have just finished upgrading the production version of VUFind -- the software driving the "Catholic Portal" -- to version RC3107 which is somewhere between version 1.1 and 1.2. This upgrade addresses at least a couple of usability issues, specifically:

  1. wording in regards the linking of online finding aids
  2. toggling the check box associated with filters

With this version there are also quite a number of additional records in the underlying index -- around 280,000. This is because the finding aids (EAD files) have been indexed more completely.

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How to upgrade VUFind

These are notes (to myself, mostly) on how to upgrade VUFind from a local "sandbox" version to a production version. But they are also documented here, just in case I win the lottery and start enjoying umbrella drinks on some Caribbean island.

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CRRA May/June 2011 Update

The May/June 2011 CRRA Update is now available at:

In this issue you will find news items regarding:

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This posting outlines the possibilities for ingesting PastPerfect content into the "Catholic Portal".

As membership in the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) grows, so does the number of metadata formats the "Catholic Portal" is expected to support. When the CRRA was just beginning MARC was the predominate metadata format. After the content of university archives was recognized as significant, EAD became very important. Some institutions use neither MARC nor EAD to describe their special collections but instead use systems like ContentDM. These sorts of things are often accessible via OAI-PMH, and thus, at the very least, harvestable Dublin Core is available. In order to support discovery, all of these types of metadata need to be parsed, mapped to VuFind's underlying Solr schema, and indexed.

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Harvesting metadata

It is imperative for CRRA member institutions to make their metadata available for harvesting via a Web server.

A couple of years ago, when the "Portal" was just beginning, the modus operandi for ingesting MARC and EAD metadata was to send it to Notre Dame, save it on local hard disk, and index it. That process worked then, but as we grow it becomes less and less scalable.

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"Catholic Portal" usability efforts

This page has become the home page for the usability efforts of the "Catholic Portal".

The Digital Access Committee had a conference call on Thursday, May 12. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss usability studies. The resources (time and money) required to do the studies was emphasized. Similarly, the need to have the studies done with the intended audience of the Portal -- upper-class man, graduate students, faculty, and scholars -- was also stressed.

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This is the home page for a mailing list called CRRA-Tech.

The Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) or "Catholic Portal" brings together data and metadata for the purposes of Catholic research and scholarship. This process is facilitated through a number of groups dealing with administrtive issues, collection issues, metadata issues, etc. CRRA-Tech is a mailing list intended to support and discuss the computer technology issues of the CRRA such as but not limited to the harvesting of content and metadata, the validation of content and metadata, indexing technologies, library "discovery systems", the programming languages (PHP, Java, Perl, and Javascript) used, log file analysis, casscading stylesheets, debugging tools, the role of open source software, etc. In short, CRRA-Tech provides a forum for discussing the computer infrastructure of the Portal.

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CATLA Spring Conference

On Friday, April 15 I had the honor and pleasure of giving a presentation to the Chicago Area Theological Library Association. This posting documents the experience.

[caption id="attachment_343" align="aligncenter" width="320"]To and from Berrien Springs (MI) To and from Berrien Springs (MI)[/caption]

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April 2011 Update

The CRRA April 2011 Update is now available at:

Highlights in this issue include:

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Digital Humanities Forum -- A Travelogue

This is the briefest of travelogues -- a description of what went on at the Digital Humanities Forum, February 24, 2011.

On Thursday, February 24, the Hesburgh Libraries and the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) sponsored the Digital Humanities Forum. The purpose of the event was to raise the awareness of the digital humanities across campus just a little bit. To that end we hosted two speakers and a couple of hands-on workshops.

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CRRA All-Members Meeting: A Travelogue

Just about this time last week I was attending the CRRA All-Members Meeting in Philadelphia (March 29-30, 2011). This posting documents the experience.

slideshowThe Meeting began Tuesday afternoon, March 29, at Villanova University where attendees were treated to a number of show & tell presentations describing the digital library goings-on of the Falvey Library. Joseph Lucia began by listing a number of well-articulated reasons why open source software is akin to the values of librarianship. Most notably, he alluded to the Second Enclosure and the very real threats to the public commons. Other presentations outlined local digitization efforts using Tesseract, their institutional repository implementation, scholarly publishing with Open Journal System, and their newly released digital library software called VUDL. I am continually impressed with the work being done by the folks at Villanova. Administration has a vision, a plan, and puts the plan into practice. "We do things for the sake of scholarship... We collaborate and find partners." This approach to digital librarianship seems to me to be the best long-term strategy and ensures sustainability. It is not so much about getting more money but instead about setting priorities and allocating resources accordingly.

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Doing usability against the "Catholic Portal"

This posting describes a process for iteratively studying usability issues against the "Catholic Portal" with the expectation that it will be applied by each institutional member of the Digital Access Committee within the current calendar year. The posting is divided into the following sections:

This document is also available as a PDF document for printing, a second PDF document designed as a set of slides, and just for fun, an EPUB file for your mobile device.

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Usability results from Team Catholic Portal

This posting lists the results of a usability study done against the "Catholic Portal".

In a previous posting called "Usability testing" (dated February 14, 2011) a set of eight usability questions was outlined. Since then Team Catholic Portal here at Notre Dame facilitated six usability studies made up of five graduate students and one faculty member. These participants were scholars in philosophy and theology. We used the simple facilitator/note-taker approach. We employed usability software (Silverback), but didn't use it to evaluate our results. Using our notes as well as professional judgement, we evaluated the results and came up with the following prioritized list of things to be addressed with the Portal's interface:

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Goals for 2011/2012 draft

At our March 30 All-members meeting in Philadelphia , we will take a look at where we've been and where we are going.  The strategic draft plan:  Goals for 2011/2012 will guide our discussion.  You can have a sneak preview here:


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February 2011 Update

Please mark your calendars for the

March 30 All-Members Meeting and

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Join virtually the "CRRA/ND Digital Humanities Forum" Thursday Feb. 24

Dear CRRA members and friends,

Are you interested in learning more about Catholic digital scholarship and innovations in text mining and visualization to facilitate knowledge discovery within the Catholic portal?  Please join us virtually or in person this Thursday, Feb. 24 from 1:00 to 5:00 pm EST (noon Central, 10am Pacific).  For event details, see

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Usability testing

As we move the "Portal's" sandbox implementation into production we plan on doing some usability testing. Below are the question we will be asking:

  1. Identify the library or archive holding the papers of Dorothy Day.
  2. Find a record whose author is Graham Greene. Create an account, then add the Graham Greene record to your favorites, tagging it as "ggreene."
  3. Locate resources, including primary resources, on the Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice.
  4. Find a set of records on the topic of "Catholic social action." Choose 1-3 from the retrieved set and email them to yourself for future reference.
  5. Locate materials on the topic of sermons and the Lutheran church.
  6. Who owns "Our Sunday Visitor Records"? What telephone number would you call in order to schedule a time to visit the collection?
  7. Which library has the most French-language materials in the "Portal"?
  8. What is the most frequently used word in the pamphlet owned by Notre Dame entitled "Pastoral instruction for the application of the Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the Means of Social Communication"? (hint: see the record with the call number BV 4319).
  9. How would you describe the overall scope of the collection?

Wish us luck.