What do you find when you turn on one of the computers in Bass Library? As of this semester, not Orbis, but Yufind.
Yufind — an experimental alternative to the Orbis library catalog — is now displayed on the Library Web site and as the default home page for some computers in Bass Library, and the third beta version is expected to launch as early as this week.
Part of a larger library effort to evaluate Orbis, the new search engine is intended to be more intuitive than Orbis, which library administrators said delivers precise results but is also less user-friendly. In the future, Yufind will include enhancements like increased filtering abilities and searches in non-Latin alphabets, such as Hindi and simple Chinese characters.
“One of the main problems we found people having [with Orbis] was getting zero results on their searches,” Scott Matheson, the Library’s Web manager, said. “That’s not a good thing when we have 12 million items to be looking through.”
In contrast with Orbis — which was introduced in its current form in 2002 and only delivers results that match the exact phrasing of the query — Yufind is more flexible with queries and is more forgiving of user error. It gives people more results, Matheson said, providing users with what former project manager Daniel Lovins called a “Google-like experience.”
Still, the new search engine relies on the Orbis database, said Lovins, because Yufind is written in a different programming language. Once the query has been entered, the Yufind software pulls the results from Orbis and displays them in a different format for users to view.
But eventually, if enough users begin using Yufind, the Library will repackage the data in the Orbis database and combine it with data from the Law Library’s search engine so that Yufind can search within its own database.
“There are no plans for the two services replacing one another,” said Scott Matheson, the Library’s Web manager.
Part of Yufind’s appeal is the inclusion of many tools that Orbis lacks, among them the ability to filter results by subject, topic, author and language; the display of cover art; and the inclusion of relevant links to Wikipedia, Amazon and Google Books.
Other long-term improvements for the service will include allowing users to search and get results in both simple and traditional Chinese characters. The Library has received a research grant from the Arcadia Foundation to develop an open-source code for this kind of search, though closed-source software already exists, Lovins said.
Lovins said he hopes people unaffiliated with Yufind will use its open-source code for other projects and collaborations..
“Here at Yale there’s not a traditional relationship between the computer science department and the library like at some other universities,” he said. “A really good outcome would be that students work with the project for a class or just as a hobby.”
Still, of seven students interviewed, only two were aware of Yufind and none said they used it regularly.
Emmanuel Quartey ’12 said he has seen Yufind on the Library home page but has never actually used it.
Yufind was first launched in August 2008 and is based on Vufind, an open-source software portal for cataloguing library resources developed by Villanova University. The second version of Yufind was released in August 2009, featuring faster search speeds and other improvements.