Frequently Asked Questions about the Project
FAQ for the General Public

The Florida Center for Library Automation (FCLA) is currently developing a new library OPAC user interface for the 11 State University Libraries of Florida (SUL) using commercial software from Endeca Technologies, Inc.; this is the same software that was used by the North Carolina State University Libraries (NCSU) to provide its revolutionary OPAC introduced in January 2006. While there are similarities with the NCSU implementation, there are also significant differences.

This FAQ is about the FCLA Endeca project rather than an FAQ about using/searching the FCLA Endeca OPAC itself. More questions/answers will be added to this project FAQ as the project moves forward. It is generally recommended that you read the entire FAQ (all are on this one page) to understand the overall project; the links below can then be used to refer back to particular sections if desired.

  1. Is Endeca a library system?
  2. What are the primary purposes for FCLA purchasing and developing the Endeca OPACS?
  3. What other advantages are there?
  4. Will the SUL Aleph OPACS be eliminated?
  5. What is the basic relationship between FCLA Endeca and the FCLA Aleph catalog databases? 
  6. Are all records from all SUL Aleph OPACS included in the FCLA Endeca OPACS?
  7. How were the records in the FCLA Endeca OPACS selected/developed? 
  8. What records in SUL Aleph OPACS are not yet in the FCLA Endeca OPACS?
  9. How current is the circulation status (and other item level) information that displays in the FCLA Endeca OPACS?
  10. How does the FCLA Endeca OPAC Project differ from the North Carolina State University OPAC Project?
  11. How has the initial FCLA Endeca OPAC user interface been developed? How have indexing and other setup decisions been made?
  12. How will the user interface for FCLA Endeca OPACS evolve?
  13. When will the FCLA Endeca OPACS be made available to library users? 
  14. How can I connect to the FCLA Endeca OPACS?
  15. Where can I see other Endeca OPACS? 
  16. What else will I want to know about searching the FCLA Endeca OPAC?
  17. Is there other useful information about Endeca?
  18. Where can SUL staff track progress on the FCLA Endeca OPAC project?

Is Endeca a library system?

Endeca is not an integrated library management system (ILS) like the Ex Libris Aleph system we use; for example, Endeca has no modules for acquisitions, cataloging, serials control, or circulation.

Endeca is software that is purchased by many businesses and other large organizations to organize and present data available on their Web sites. As indicated on the Endeca Technologies Inc. home page at http://endeca.com/, “Endeca's unique information access platform helps people find, analyze and understand information in ways never before possible.”

In January 2006 North Carolina State University (NCSU) introduced its revolutionary new Library public catalog (OPAC) that uses the Endeca software. FCLA has purchased this software to provide an improved user interface for the library OPACS in the State University Libraries of Florida (SUL) as well.

What are the primary purposes for FCLA purchasing and developing the Endeca OPACS?

The intent is to provide library users with a more helpful searching experience by providing more guidance to them -- especially in narrowing initial searches that are too broad.  Endeca exposes terms that have been entered in library catalog records in ways that are much more prominent than in traditional OPACS; these terms can be easily clicked to "drill down" to view records having the most interest to a user.  

When they introduced their Endeca OPAC, the NCSU Library indicated “Leveraging the advanced search and Guided Navigation® capabilities of the Endeca ProFind™ platform the new catalog provides the speed and flexibility of popular online search engines while capitalizing on existing catalog records. As a result, students, faculty, and researchers can now search and browse the NCSU Libraries' collection as quickly and easily as searching and browsing the Web, while taking advantage of rich content and cutting-edge capabilities that no Web search engine can match.”

Several key enhancements we get from Endeca are really valuable to the vast majority of end-users.

The first key enhancement is better ranking. Integrated library systems are not known for their ability to rank results. Users expect good results; they don't care about how many, but they do expect good results on the first page. This is a reasonable expectation: the user is not broken. For the vast majority of requests, Endeca improves results significantly.

The second key enhancement is spell-check. In a study conducted in 2002, a spell-checker significantly improved retrieval in a catalog. People spell things wrong for a variety of reasons-knowledge, language skills, error, physical ability-and a spell-checker helps a user across what one usability specialist called "the gulf of execution"- the distance between the user and the accomplishment of the task. ILS vendors don't provide spell-check in their products, but layering a product such as Endeca over our system can fill that need.

The faceting that Endeca provides (the categories in the left-hand margin) has excellent potential for assisting users, with several caveats. One is that we need to be very selective about what facets we choose to display. Another is that we are ultimately limited by the shortcomings of our own metadata. Endeca can't make Library of Congress subheadings more intelligible for typical users, nor can it compensate for the limitations of searching metadata (versus full text) to begin with.

Some other bells and whistles appeal as well, such as the ability to subscribe to any search as an RSS feed, but believe it or not, the first two features are worth the price of admission.

What other advantages are there?

The way library catalog data is captured and stored to create the individual SUL FCLA Endeca OPACS also enables the creation of a Union Catalog for the SUL (which does not currently exist for its 11 Aleph catalogs). One "master" record serves as the basis for all local OPACS and the Union OPAC view. NOTE: This sentence was amended on 5/11/07 to make clear that there is only one "master" record stored in Endeca that is used in all of the OPACS.

It is also expected that Endeca will be able to incorporate data from FCLA’s separate Ex Libris Digitool product so that metadata from Digitool can be combined with that from Aleph to present users with a more complete catalog without library staff throughout the SUL constantly copying Digitool metadata into Aleph or vice versa.

Another major improvement is that due date information for most items appears right on the Results List (as was the case in the SUL's old WebLUIS OPAC); for most items it will no longer be necessary to go to a different screen to see this important information.

It is expected that Endeca will provide a platform allowing more flexibility for future user interface development.

Will the SUL Aleph OPACS be eliminated?

FCLA's goal is to eliminate as much dependence on the SUL Aleph OPACS as possible, eventually reaching close to 100% elimination.

As FCLA moves toward this goal, it is important to understand that the Endeca software can integrate data from other services so that information seen on FCLA Endeca OPAC screens will sometimes be coming from information that is actually stored in Endeca itself, while other data will actually be coming from the Aleph system dynamically.

What is the basic relationship between FCLA Endeca and the FCLA Aleph catalog databases?

Answering a December 6, 2006 question on LIBOPAC-L, FCLA staff responded as follows:

“Our Endeca application is a mix of several pieces.  There is a Java Server Pages (JSP) web application, where we develop and adjust the web interface.  The web application contains calls to the Endeca Navigation Engine.   The navigation engine returns the set of records and information for any given request and the JSP code arranges it for display to the browser.  The JSP code is our code to maintain and change in whatever way we can figure out that will improve the application.

The relationship to Aleph can be viewed at two levels.  It is possible for us to connect from the JSP code to the Aleph OPAC, something we have mostly avoided.  We don't want our Endeca application to be dependent on the Aleph OPAC presence, or subject to changes in the Aleph web servers.  The 2nd level is where the JSP code makes calls directly to the Aleph Oracle data for the information our application needs, such as the current circulation status of an item.   This is our preferred arrangement, which tends to require more up front programming, but gives us more control and independence from the Aleph OPAC.

The search features of the navigation engine are what we get from Endeca.  We do have some control by altering the fields of bibliographic data we extract and load into Endeca.  Endeca also has parameters for controlling options in the navigation engine.  We modeled our bibliographic field extraction and Endeca options on the NCSU model (as well as the look of the web application).   In the case of the Endeca options we literally loaded a copy of their settings that they shared with us.

As we move forward .. we expect to diverge from the NCSU model because of preference or necessity or both.  Hope this helps explain the picture. “

December 7, 2006 Follow-up Question and FCLA Response

QUESTION: "I am still unclear on the searching function.  Does Endeca take the user's search terms to create a query directly into Oracle data – no Aleph OPAC in between?  Can we theoretically build whatever search functionality that can be created by queries into Oracle?"

FCLA RESPONSE: “The Endeca search engine does not access Oracle data as part of the search.  We extract Aleph Oracle bibliographic data and load it into Endeca as a set of records with fields and values.   Endeca calls this process a baseline update.  Once the data is loaded into Endeca all the search and navigation requests are handled by the Endeca Navigation Engine.

I don't think we can add search functionality, but we could possibly add fields to be included with the records for a baseline update.  Then those new fields would be available for the Endeca search engine to search and use in navigation refinements.

We have been considering ways to provide a headings browse, possibly inside the Endeca search engine or maybe outside the search engine, but  so far do not have definite plan and have been working on other issues first.”

Are all records from all SUL Aleph OPACS included in the FCLA Endeca OPACS?

Except for very recent additions to the local Aleph catalogs, all books, etc. having a record in each local Aleph catalog should be in the FCLA Endeca OPACS as well.

However, to minimize the total number of records needing to be stored and searched in Endeca, when records having the same OCLC number exist in different SUL catalogs, a “master” record has been created for use in Endeca (thereby eliminating as much duplication as possible). Local Aleph holdings have then been associated with that master record. NOTE (May 11, 2007): The "master" records in FCLA Endeca result from the merging process described below. The same record is used in both the Endeca Union OPAC and in the local Endeca OPACS. The separate Full Records from each of the SUL Aleph databases are not stored in Endeca.

There were over 13,850,000 total records in all of the separate SUL Aleph OPAC's when the data was first extracted for Endeca; as of December 1, 2006 there were 6,788,481 records in Endeca, so more than half the total SUL records have OCLC numbers that match and had not been duplicated in Endeca. UPDATE: As of January 16, 2007, there were  6,806,461 records in FCLA Endeca; as of March 12, 2007 there were 6,940,316; as of April 22, 2007 there were 7,033,645.

How were the records in the FCLA Endeca OPACS selected/developed?  

What records in SUL Aleph OPACS are not yet in the FCLA Endeca OPACS?

At this time, daily updates reflecting any record changes made in local SUL Aleph OPACS are not set up to run. As of April 23, 2007, the plan is for baseline updates are occur weekly; this has generally been happening..

How current is the circulation status (and other item level) information that displays in the FCLA Endeca OPACS?

This is retrieved dynamically from the underlying Aleph system data (Oracle); it is always up to date.

How does the FCLA Endeca OPAC Project differ from the North Carolina State University OPAC Project?

NCSU needed to include data only from its own catalog.

FCLA has gathered data from 11 separate SUL catalog databases and de-duped records when the OCLC number matched. This data will be used to provide both a Union Catalog and the separate institutional OPACS.

As of December 1, 2006 the NCSU Endeca OPAC had 1,116,688 records; FCLA’s Union Catalog had 6,788,481.
UPDATE: As of January 16, 2007, there were  6,806,461 records in FCLA Endeca; as of March 12, 2007 there are 6,940,316; as of April 22, 2007 there were 7,033,645.
Relationship to the Integrated Library System (ILS): NCSU’s initial Endeca is very closely integrated with its SIRSI system OPAC. Sometimes a user is seeing Endeca screens; other times they are seeing SIRSI screens. FCLA’s Endeca is displaying results data only from bibliographic records exported from Aleph and stored in Endeca; Aleph OPAC screens are not seen. NOTE: At present, some functionality that can be done in Aleph cannot be done in FCLA Endeca.

The NCSU Endeca OPAC Full Record display is actually its SIRSI OPAC record; the FCLA Endeca Full Record is displaying data stored in Endeca.

Due date and other item information displayed on FCLA Endeca screens is being dynamically generated from invisible links to the underlying Oracle data from the Aleph system. Due date information appearing on NCSU Endeca results screens is updated daily, but not dynamically; so there may be different availability information showing on the NCSU Endeca results and the real-time SIRSI full record.

FCLA has also developed the ability for users to renew and request holds on checked out items through the Endeca OPAC interfaces for the individual institutional catalogs (but not the Union Catalog); this is also accomplished by dynamically connecting to Aleph data from within the Endeca interface.

Search Functionality Because of the close integration of NCSU’s Endeca and SIRSI interfaces, the search and headings browse  functionality from the SIRSI system that dislays allows for more traditional library search options that are still being developed in the FCLA Endeca OPAC.

Both NCSU and FCLA have also included an Advanced Keyword Search form (including a separate Boolean search form) for searching its Endeca data.

FCLA has developed an initial Browse Headings functionality for Title, Author, Subject, and Series Title (available only in the institutiional catalogs initially). NCSU's browse options are using SIRSI functionality.
This traditional access using structured headings will evolve and be featured more in FCLA Endeca with more use and investigation.

Headings in
FCLA Endeca Full Records are clickable to redirect a search. These redirects in the NCSU OPAC are in SIRSI.

FCLA is adding the ability to search its Endeca data by various numbers (e.g. OCLC number).
Classification Browse Options:

NCSU developed an LC classification breakdown for browsing search results. FCLA also uses this and has added classification breakdowns for NLM and SuDoc; it is working on a Dewey option as well.

FCLA Endeca offers the option to "Hide" or "Show" the classification browse details.

Results Processing Options FCLA has developed the Add to List, View List and Check All <on this page> functions available on its Endeca OPAC Results List, as well as the related Email and Print and Send to RefWorks functions. NCSU's OPAC has similar functionality available on the Full Record (which is from its SIRSI system).

An RSS feed being is tested. The idea is that whenever new items are loaded into Endeca, and you are subscribed to the feed that includes the item, brief information and a link to the record will appear in your RSS feed reader. For any search or combination of facet navigation done, there is a corresponding RSS feed that will work with Web-based feed readers.
SFX Links Included: The FCLA Endeca OPAC results list includes an SFX link for all records having an ISSN. This is generally working, but some SUL use link resolver products other than SFX and it's not yet clear whether those separate products can be accommodated. It may be a local decision whether or not there is value to including the SFX links.

How has the initial FCLA Endeca OPAC user interface been developed? How have indexing and other setup decisions been made?

In order to help FCLA make progress on this initiative as quickly as possible, NCSU generously shared many of their Endeca setup and configuration files. Significant similarity in screen layout can currently be seen in the NCSU and FCLA Endeca search entry and Results List screens. FCLA staff have modified or added presentation code as needed; for example they have needed to add a display for the Full Record (since NCSU Endeca displays it's SIRSI record rather than Endeca data). Some aspects of the existing FCLA Aleph OPACS as well as the old WebLUIS OPAC presentation have also been used as a guide for aspects of the initial FCLA Endeca user interface.

NCSU had also made many decisions about what fields of bibliographic, holdings and circulation data to pass over to its Endeca and even more decisions about how Endeca should index these fields; many of these decisions were used by FCLA so rapid progress could be made in developing it's Endeca prototype. The decisions made regarding SUL-wide indexes and local indexes in advance of migration to Ex Libris Aleph in recent years have not been applied to the FCLA Endeca OPACS.

How will the user interface for FCLA Endeca OPACS evolve?

FCLA staff members now have some experience in setting up Endeca and making it work with SUL data, but there is still much to learn about how to control Endeca and what all the Endeca options may be.

The SUL PSPC OPAC Subcommittee (and it's LIBOPAC-L listserv that is open to all SUL staff who wish to participate in OPAC development discussions) will play a significant role in the development; various other SUL committees and subcommittees will also be consulted as appropriate. As committees reach consensus on issues, FCLA will modify the initial prototype.

When will the FCLA Endeca OPACS be made available to library users?

May 27, 2007 Update:
Each of the State University Libraries will decide when the new catalog is ready to be featured as its primary library catalog.
As the result of a library system upgrade, the current library catalogs will be changing in each of the libraries over the next few months (some in July 2007, and others in August, September, and October - see schedule in the next FAQ below). It is hoped that the new catalog will be considered ready in time to prevent needing to learn and use the changed version of the old catalog.

Previous Information

See December 21, 2006 message from FCLA's Michele Newberry to LIBOPAC-L and FCLLIST about planning for the impact of upgrading Aleph (including the Aleph OPAC) from Version 15.5 to Version 18 beginning in July 2007 and continuing into the Fall Semester. The ENDECA STATUS section indicates:

"The v.18 Aleph OPAC will not be identical to v.15.5 largely because the customized javascript FCLA did for 15.5 doesn't upgrade and FCLA is not going to re-write it. This will mean that the Aleph OPAC will change once the university is upgraded which, for some, could be near the beginning of or in the middle of Fall term. For this reason, the CSUL (Council of State University Libraries -- i.e. the Library Directors) decided to make Endeca the primary user interface. As such, this requires an implementation plan that gives library staff a relatively stable Endeca interface early enough to develop training materials. The plan:

1. The Union Catalog will be opened up to users as a "prototype" early in the Spring term to get feedback on functionality, the interface and system performance. NOTE: Not yet opened up to users as of April 22, 2007 while the SUL OPAC Subcommittee and FCLA staff work to enhance the interface, and upgrade equipment to insure stable performance.

2. Staff feedback will be collected by and prioritized by the OPAC Subcommittee which will work with FCLA to implement the needed changes.  Usability testing is being planned.

3. Individual institution catalogs will continue in development through the Spring term with the goal of having them available to users in a "soft" rollout about the beginning of Summer term.

4. By Fall 2007, Endeca should be ready to go fully live throughout the SUL as the primary user interface with the Aleph OPAC utilized as an alternative.

Original FAQ Content as of December 1, 2006
No specific date has been set.

At this time the thinking is that the first public use of Endeca will likely be to fill the need/desire for a SUL Union Catalog (since there is currently no union catalog for our Aleph OPAC data). Once there has been a determination of general system readiness,
(e.g. is response time acceptable when many users are connected), advertising it could begin.

Certainly, it is hoped that any significant problems with the system will have been identified and solved before promoting it as a production system. Ongoing discussions
(including on LIBOPAC-L) about the prototype functionality and interface elements will inform the decision about making it generally availabile for library users. Since the prototype already includes essentially all records from all the SUL catalogs, it is believed that testing response time and other "readiness" issues should enable determining basic system readiness reliably; this could lead to an earlier decision to begin promoting its use. 

Beginning use of individual SUL Endeca OPACS will also depend on a determination of general system readiness as well as on local discussions and decisions about how to feature their Endeca OPAC and their separate Aleph OPAC (i.e. until the Aleph OPAC can be eliminated).

Some SUL may also wish to wait to feature their Endeca OPAC until FCLA has put in place routines for regularly updating Endeca data so that new or changed records will be available there. Some could wish to delay significantly promoting use of their Endeca OPAC until more SUL indexing decisions have been made and applied and further refinements to the user interface have been made. Some may feel that inclusion of an Advanced Search screen to FCLA Endeca (as is available in NCSU Endeca) is critical to being able to promote it over use of their Aleph OPAC. Some SUL may decide to develop plans for effectively featuring both alternative OPACS so that the strengths of each OPAC are promoted.

How can I connect to the FCLA Endeca OPACS?

The FCLA Endeca Union OPAC view is available to all at http://catalog.fcla.edu (new window opens).

Links to individual institution OPACS are available below:

State University Libraries of Florida (SUL)
New Catalog Links

Old Catalog Upgrade Date
Target for New Catalog to be "Ready"
July 16
Aug ??
Sept ??
Oct ??
Florida A&M University


Florida Atlantic University


Florida Gulf Coast University


Florida InternationalUniversity


Florida State University


University of Central Florida

New College of Florida

University of Florida X

University of North Florida X

University of South Florida

University of West Florida X

Union Catalog - All SUL Combined

Where can I see other Endeca  OPACS?

What else will I want to know about searching the FCLA Endeca OPACS?

Is there other useful information about Endeca?

Where can SUL staff track progress on the FCLA Endeca OPAC project?

In consultation with FCLA staff, last updated May 30, 2007
Rich Bennett
Former Chair, SUL Public Services Planning Committee (PSPC) OPAC Subcommittee

Some Previous Versions of this FAQ
Replaced: 5/12/07 |
  | 3/9/07   | 1/17/07  | 1/16/07