Minnesota library consortium upgrades web-based search engine for patrons across state

Posted: January 20, 2009

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

Mankato, MN - A recently upgraded Web search engine will make it easier for patrons of 154 libraries in the state to find the books, periodicals and other library resources that they want.

The new search engine was announced by officials at PALS, a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities program based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The upgraded search engine resulted from newly developed software known as MnPALS PLUS. The new engine is designed to meet the expectations of today's Internet users by introducing such features as flexible search terms, social networking options including tagging and user comments, images of book covers, real-time status and location of a selected item, author biographies and a Google-like user interface.

"Initial usability studies indicate that library patrons easily learn the new searching style and are enthusiastic about the upgraded look and feel," said Stephen Elfstrand, executive director of PALS.

PALS provides technology services to libraries in the state colleges and universities system, state government agencies and private colleges in the state. The service provides access to the libraries' collections for all Minnesota residents.

MnPALS Plus is based on an open-source tool known as VuFind, which was developed by Villanova University. A committee of reference and cataloging librarians worked with PALS' library technology development team to improve the design and customize the upgraded search engine for use in the MNPALS consortium.

Besides the Web-based search engine, PALS provides automated library functions involving circulation, acquisitions, cataloging and interlibrary loan that greatly reduce costs, especially for small libraries. The automated system allows member libraries to share resources among consortium libraries and libraries across the state and country. The MnPALS database contains more than 9 million items - books, DVDs, CDs and other resources - and serves about 350,000 patrons each year.


Minnesota's 31 state community and technical colleges, and universities serve more than 430,000 students across the state.