The University of Chicago Library needed a new catalog, which is the main way students find books and other items for their research. On this project I collaborated with a team of front and back-end developers, database experts, and librarians to implement this complex system using many different technologies. The main system is driven by an open source PHP / Zend Framework product called VuFind. VuFind depends on interactions with various MySQL databases and an Apache Solr index. My roll on the project consisted of design, front-end and back-end development.
In the initial design phase of the project, I was responsible for coming up with the general look and feel of the site, using the university style guide and color palette. After the general design was approved, I was able to design the individual screens. Since we were operating under an abbreviated timeline and needed to gain approval from many stakeholders across the diverse university community, much of the design was done iteratively, “in code”. This allowed us to get feedback quickly and respond, while still moving forward with functional development goals.
Front-end development happened in tandem with the programming of various features. Major pieces of functionality that I contributed included, the writing of the main functions in a driver responsible for querying the library management system for holdings and item information. This essentially amounted to writing PHP code to query a MySQL database to get information such as item location, availability, and call numbers etc. Other things I wrote included a configurable system for parsing a MARC record and displaying bibliographic data about the items and code for the conditional display of links to services based on item availability, location, and other conditions. For this project I also wrote an independent restful API service for adding catalog record data to other library tools and services.