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Screen shot of Maps of Africa exhibit front page

The Stanford University Libraries (SUL) is pleased to announce the release of Spotlight, an innovative solution that enables libraries and other cultural heritage institutions to build online exhibits from content in their repositories to better highlight their digital collections.

Spotlight is a plugin for Blacklight, which is a popular open source solution for building library discovery environments.  Spotlight enhances Blacklight by providing a self-service forms-based user interface that allows exhibit-builders, such as librarians or faculty, to customize the search interface and homepage, and to build media-rich feature pages to better contextualize their collections. 

Stanford first announced the development of Spotlight in early February of 2014, following a months long process of design and community outreach to validate the need for such a solution in the digital library community and obtain feedback on our approach.  This was followed by a twelve-week cycle of software development that has culminated in the release of Spotlight version 0.1.0, available as open source software on Github.

This first release of Spotlight is best suited to featuring digitized still image collections.  The first production exhibit built with Spotlight was recently completed by SUL's Digital and Rare Maps Librarian, and features a spectacular set of digitized maps of Africa.  A brief video tour of this first online exhibit can be viewed on YouTube.


Spotlight enables an exhibit builder to heavily customize many elements of the user experience, and to build rich feature and about pages to give viewers a deeper understanding of the collection and its items.  This YouTube video gives a tour of Spotlight from the exhibit-builder's perspective, and demonstrates many of the available customization features.


The 0.1.0 release of Spotlight is only the beginning.  Our goal at Stanford is to work with library staff and content experts to build several more sites in the coming months as a way to user-test the software, identify bugs and enhancement opportunities, and most importantly to begin exposing more of Stanford Libraries' rich image resources.  We are also working with peer institutions to adopt and test this first version with the intention that Spotlight will grow as a community supported, open-source solution. We encourage you to download it, give it a try, and send us feedback.

And certainly the engineering work is far from complete.  There is a backlog of issues to address and several areas we have identified for future development:

  • Selection and indexing : the tools and workflow for adding new content to a Spotlight index and updating metadata as it changes in the repository. 
  • Support for more content types : Spotlight currently supports digital still image collections, and we hope to add support for audio, video, PDF, datasets, geospatial objects, web archives and more.  
  • Theming : the ability for builders to choose from multiple visual themes to apply to an exhibit or collection, and to add custom header images and branding. 
  • Repository integration : currently, a Spotlight exhibit can be built on top of any Solr index. Work has begun to more easily create new Spotlight indexes directly from digital repository systems, and to save exhibit-specific metadata and supporting content into repositories. OUr initial integration efforts are focussed on the Fedora repository system, but we hope integration with other platforms will follow.  

Spotlight is being built by an exceptionally talented group of engineers in the Digital Library Systems and Services division of SUL, with support from the software engineering firm Data Curation Experts (DCE).  The team includes Gary Geisler, Chris Beer, Jessie Keck, Jack Reed and Christopher Jesudurai (all from Stanford), and Justin Coyne from DCE.

Follow our progress, or better yet download and install the software at http://github.com/sul-dlss/spotlight.

Send us feedback at exhibits-feedback@lists.stanford.edu.

Spotlights in the Centre Ceramique, Maastricht

by Stu Snydman & Gary Geisler

The Stanford University Libraries (SUL) have a rich and diverse collection of digital content. Users can discover collections and content from the Stanford Digital Repository through the library website, library catalog (SearchWorks), and persistent citation (PURL) pages. SUL also develops robust, custom-built websites for selected  collections (see Parker on the Web and the French Revolution Digital Archive) that provide a rich discovery environment and a range of features that enable users to more effectively work with the collection items. But these sites require significant investment in time and development resources to produce and maintain, limiting the number and variety SUL can support.

Creating a last minute gift and you need that perfect photo? Search Flickr Creative Commons portal, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online, Clip Art, and stock photos sites through the University of Washington's Images libguide.

DRAFT of wire frame for ePADD program.

SUL’s Special Collections received an Innovation Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to develop a software program (ePADD) for processing and making email archives discoverable. The end goal is to produce an open-source tool that will allow repositories and individuals to interact with email archives before and after they have been transferred to a repository. It would consist of four modules, each based on a different functional activity: Processing (arrangement and description), Appraisal (collection development), Discovery (online via the web), and Delivery (access).  

The project website was launched in August 2013 and lists: project goals, work plan, team, and collaborators. A twitter feed for the project was just launched although project updates and news will primarily be posted iSpecial Collections Unbound.  

Results from browsing lexicon keywords.

Since its inception in the early 1970s, email has become a durable form of communication – one that presents a massive problem for donors, repositories, and researchers. Over 140 billion email messages are sent every day, and many, if not all have research value as part of an archival collection. Email is used for more than just communication. It is used for collaboration, planning, sharing, conducting transactions, and as an aid to memory – a self-archive. It documents relationships – personal, business, and communal. Our reliance on and daily use of email over the past 40 years has developed rich archival material with a secondary benefit of recording social networks in the header information of senders and recipients.

The Department of Special Collections at SUL proposes to address important facets of stewarding email archives that have not been tackled in previous projects. Characteristics of email such as its relatively stable format standardization as well as the inherent structure itself – header, body, attachments – make email an ideal candidate for automated tools to support archival workflows, such as appraisal and processing, as well as benefitting the user through discovery and delivery. 

Last week Stanford open sourced the code responsible for the Nearby on Shelf feature in SearchWorks as the Blacklight Browse Nearby gem.  This feature has been highly sought after by various Blacklight institutions to be contributed back to the community.  In keeping with the spirit of the vibrant open source community around Blacklight, Stanford has contributed the development effort to get this codebase available for use and contribution by other Blacklight implementers.

The release of this software was the culmination of a re-write of the SearchWorks code making it an installable package, more generalizable, and suitable in an open source context.  Due to that fact, the end product is much more generic that SearchWorks'  version (as you can see in the side-by-side screenshots below with SearchWorks being on the right) however it is infinitely more customizable.

The Stanford University Libraries recently launched a redesign of its main library website at http://library.stanford.edu.  This is a Drupal 7-based site hosted on Pantheon.

In the future we hope to document more thoroughly the technical approaches we took on several bits of the site, but for now I'll summarize a few of the features this community might be interested with a brief summary of the technical approach taken for each. In no particular order:

The International Image Interoperability Framework (http://lib.stanford.edu/iiif) is an initiative driven by several major research and national libraries to enable the rich and robust delivery of digital images through common interfaces, and to spur the development of open source and commercial software solutions in this space.

The IIIF Working Group invites comment and feedback on a proposed API for the the delivery of images via a standard http request. The full specification can be found at:

http://library.stanford.edu/iiif/image-api

The IIIF Image API specifies a web service that returns an image in response to a standard http or https request. The URL can specify the region, size, rotation, quality characteristics and format of the requested image. A URL can also be constructed to request basic technical information about the image to support client applications.