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Project Blacklight: a next generation library catalog at a first generation university

Elizabeth (Bess) Sadler (University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 6 March 2009




This paper sets out to provide an overview of the open source online public access catalog (OPAC) software known as Blacklight. It includes a discussion of the reasons why the University of Virginia decided to create the Blacklight project, rationale behind design decisions, an overview of the technologies used, and some examples of interface designs and object behaviors.


Design approaches discussed include open source methodologies, model/view/controller development patterns, and strategies for efficient staff training and utilization.


The Blacklight project is not yet complete, but initial usability testing is favorable. The project shows particular promise among previously underserved populations such as music researchers, and for previously under‐used collections.

Practical implications

Libraries who are considering de‐coupling their OPAC from their Integrated Library System will find useful information about this process as undertaken by the University of Virginia, as well as more information about Blacklight, and more information about whether Blacklight might be a good fit for their library.


Blacklight is an open source OPAC system that is particularly well suited to large libraries with diverse collections. It is the only open source OPAC system with a focus on creating customized interfaces for specific populations.



Sadler, E.(B). (2009), "Project Blacklight: a next generation library catalog at a first generation university", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 57-67.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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