FacBackOPAC: making Casey Durfee's code talk to Unicorn

Posted on Thu 15 March 2007 in Libraries

For the past couple of days, I've been playing with Casey Durfee's code that uses Solr and Django to offer a faceted catalogue. My challenge? Turn a dense set of code focused on Dewey and Horizon ILS into a catalogue that speaks LC and Unicorn. Additionally, I want it to serve as both a proof of several technologies (Solr for faceted searching and Django as a Web application framework) to my colleagues and as a reasonable backup catalogue for when our main catalogue fails (as it all too often does).

I emailed Casey today to tell him that I had a number of patches to contribute as a result of my experiments. It turns out that he's not really interested in pursuing this particular project much further, so he gave me his blessing to take his throwaway code and do whatever I want with it. Thus, the emergence of the FacBackOPAC project on code.google.com. If there's a grant out there for worst project name ever, this project's in the running... Anyways, I have contorted Casey's code so that it supports both Dewey and LC, and with a bit more torture it should be flexible enough to support both Horizon and Unicorn.

Right now I've twisted it all the way to meet my Unicorn needs and consequently have broken Horizon support, but it won't take much to make it support Horizon again - or any other ILS, for that matter. The main requirement is that you have to be able to get your MARC records and holdings out of your ILS. A secondary requirement is to know how to create links to detailed item views in your current catalogue, because this thing does not yet have any current awareness about item status.

There. My itch has been scratched for the time being. Go play with the FacBackOPAC project -- I even have (very) rough documentation on how to get the pieces installed andthe MARC records indexed, although you'll have to dig through the source in the Django catalog tree to overcome some hardcoded strings and URLs for the time being. Don't worry, pulling that hardcoded stuff out of the templates is high on the list of priorities.

So, a huge thank you to Casey for freeing this code and making this possible. For something he considers throwaway code, I've learned a lot from walking through it and making it start to meet my needs. I hope it helps you, too!

Update 2007-03-18:

Edited links to point to the FacBackOPAC project page, rather than the wiki (which is subject to change, and which did -- breaking the dang links in the original version of this story. Argh!)