Last week I traveled to lovely Princeton, NJ to attend Blacklight Summit. For the second year in a row a smallish group of developers who use or work on Project Blacklight met to talk about our work and learn from each other.
Blacklight is an open source project written in Ruby on Rails that serves as a discovery interface over a Lucene Solr search index. It’s commonly used to build library catalogs, but is generally agnostic about the source and type of the data you want to search. It was even used to help reporters explore the leaked Panama Papers.
At Duke we’re using Blacklight as the public interface to our digital repository. Metadata about repository objects are indexed in Solr and we use Blacklight (with a lot of customizations) to provide access to digital collections, including images, audio, and video. Some of the collections include: Gary Monroe Photographs, J. Walter Thompson Ford Advertisements, and Duke Chapel Recordings, among many others.
Blacklight has also been selected to replace the aging Endeca based catalog that provides search across the TRLN libraries. Expect to hear more information about this project in the future.
Blacklight Summit is more of an unconference meeting than a conference, with a relatively small number of participants. It’s a great chance to learn and talk about common problems and interests with library developers from other institutions.
I’m going to give a brief overview of some of what we talked about and did during the two and a half day meeting and provides links for you explore more on your own.
First, a representative from each institution gave about a five minute overview of how they’re using Blacklight:
- Stanford – searchworks.stanford.edu, exhibits.stanford.edu
- NYU – http://geo.nyu.edu
- Alberta – https://www.library.ualberta.ca, https://era.library.ualberta.ca/
- Brown – Discovery at the Library (production) and VIVO with Blacklight (in early development)
- Boston Public – https://digitalcommonwealth.org
- Indiana – http://iucat.iu.edu
- Yale – Discovery (production) http://search.library.yale.edu; Digital Collections (production) http://findit.library.yale.edu ; Avalon (Beta) http://avalon.library.yale.edu
- William Patterson
- Princeton – Search at Princeton
- North Carolina State
- Duke (https://repository.duke.edu/dc https://github.com/duke-libraries/ )
- METRO NY – https://afternoon-shelf-4328.herokuapp.com
- Linn-Benton Community College – (http://libfind.linnbenton.edu/ / https://github.com/sandbergja/discovery_layer)
- Penn State – http://scholarsphere.psu.edu
- Columbia (http://bit.ly/2eUkTf1)
- Ex Libris
- Chemical Heritage Foundation
- Texas A&M University Libraries
- Bard Graduate Center
- UNC – Chapel Hill
The group participated in a workshop on customizing Blacklight. The organizers paired people based on experience, so the most experienced and least experienced (self-identified) were paired up, and so on. Links to the github project for the workshop: https://github.com/projectblacklight/blacklight_summit_demo
We got an update on the state of Blacklight 7. Some of the highlights of what’s coming:
- Move to Bootstrap 4 from Bootstrap 3
- Use of HTML 5 structural elements
- Better internationalization support
- Move from helpers to presenters. (What are presenters: http://nithinbekal.com/posts/rails-presenters/)
- Improved code quality
- Partial structure that makes overrides easier
A release of Blacklight 7 won’t be ready until Bootstrap 4 is released.
There were also several conversations and breakout session about Solr, the indexing tool used to power Blacklight. I won’t go into great detail here, but some topics discussed included:
- Developing a common Solr schema for library catalogs.
- Tuning the performance of Solr when the index is updated frequently. (Items that are checkout out or returned need to be indexed relatively frequently to keep availability information up to date.)
- Support for multi-lingual indexing and searching in Solr, especially Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages. Stanford has done a lot of work on this.
I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me about Blacklight on this blog, especially as we work to build a new TRLN shared catalog with it.