Getting started

What is Blacklight?

Blacklight is an open source OPAC (online public access catalog). That means libraries (or anyone else) can use it to allow people to search and browse their collections online. Blacklight uses Solr to index and search, and it has a highly configurable Ruby on Rails front-end. Blacklight was developed at the University of Virginia Library and is made public under an Apache 2.0 license.

How do I get Blacklight to display copy/holding/item information from my ILS?

The mechanisms for doing this are different for every ILS, and Blacklight doesn’t currently have anything built in to do this with any ILS. Out of the box, without local development, Blacklight will not currently do this. However, you can write your own code on top of Blacklight customized to your local environment — several Blacklight library users have extended their local copy of Blacklight with code to talk to their particular ILS to get this info; ask on the listserv to find such people and get more info. Blacklight is designed to be a platform for you to cleanly add local code on to, when necessary.

Is there a demo?

There sure is! You can see the Blacklight plugin as it looks out of the box at http://demo.projectblacklight.org/. You can also see a list of working instances on the sample installations page.

How do I get the software?

You can download the latest release from our download page or you can check out the very latest code from github at http://github.com/projectblacklight/blacklight. The prefered method is to run the template based installer details of which can be found http://rubydoc.info/github/projectblacklight/blacklight/master/frames

What are the software dependencies?

The best place to find all the dependencies is on the pre-requisites_and_architecture page.

How do I install Blacklight?

Blacklight is a rails engines plugin. That means you need to install it inside a ruby on rails application. Once you install the plugin into a blank rails application, you’ll have all of the default plugin behavior. You can see what this will look like at http://demo.blacklightopac.org. Then you can overload behaviors, look and feel as you like in the container application. You can see an example of a very overloaded plugin at UVA.

The easiest way to get started is to install blacklight. Follow the Installation Instructions for the 2.4 or if you already have the prerequistes installed and want to install the latest version from git, follow the instructions at http://github.com/projectblacklight/blacklight/blob/master/README.rdoc.

Can I run Blacklight on Windows?

There used to be a known dependency incompatibility that prevented Blacklight from installing on windows (specifically, the bcrypt library). This dependency has been removed, so we currently know of no reason why it could not be installed on windows. However, most of the project’s developers work on linux or OSX, and we don’t know of any successful windows installations. If you do one, please let us know!

Where can I get some sample MaRC files?

Open Library has a great collection of real marc records donated from libraries around the world. If you don’t have MaRC records from your own library to play around with, or if you just want a larger sample set, you can download some here: http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=mediatype%3A%22data%22%20MARC

What’s the relationship between Blacklight and Z39.50?

Z39.50 is a standard that “specifies a client/server-based protocol for searching and retrieving information from remote databases.” Blacklight is not a standard for data exchange, it is a front-end application designed to let a library index and search data from a variety of sources. You could conceivably use Z39.50 data sources in Blacklight, and some institutions are doing this particularly to query Integrated Library Systems for availability data.

Questions about the project

What’s the relationship between Blacklight and SolrMarc?

Blacklight uses solr as its data index. Blacklight is agnostic as to how that solr index gets populated. However, one excellent way to index lots of marc records into solr quickly is to use SolrMarc. Some of the same people are active in both projects, e.g, Bob Haschart from UVA and Naomi Dushay from Stanford University. SolrMarc is not a Blacklight-specific project, it is also used by VuFind and other projects, and is a separate project that exists in its own right.

How do I get involved with the project?

Install the software, join the mailing list, augment the wiki. Many of the developers hang out at #blacklight on irc.freenode.net. IRC logs can be found here.We are trying to create an open, welcoming community, and newcomers are welcome. If you’re new to ruby on rails or some of these other technologies, that’s okay, just jump in and we’ll do our best to help you get started. Everyone here is united by a desire to provide a better search and browse experience for library users.

Common questions for people running Blacklight

Emailing of citations doesn’t work

Check your ruby log files, in BLACKLIGHT_HOME/log/development.log or production.log depending on what environment you’re running. If you see an error message like ”Net::SMTPFatalError (550 5.0.0 Access denied” your server has mail delivery disabled. Fixing this will depend on your operating system. For Fedora Core Linux you can fix it by adding the line "sendmail: ALL" to "/etc/hosts.allow", but if you do this be sure you have a good firewall set up, and use abuse.net's tools to make sure you're not setting up a spam relay: http://www.abuse.net/relay.html