Open Folklore Website Launched at Annual Meeting of American Folklore Society

Open Folklore logoEarlier this week, Jason Baird Jackson announced that the new website for the Open Folklore project would be launched at the first day of the American Folklore Society‘s Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.   I know I’m one of many who were eagerly anticipating this announcement, so I was very happy to see that the site went live yesterday.

Open Folklore Screenshot
The new Open Folklore website provides access to a wide variety of open access folklore materials. Image Source:

Open Folklore is a collaborative project between the  American Folklore Society, the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, and the Indiana University Digital Library Program.  The project’s goal is “to make available a greater number and variety of useful resources, both published and unpublished, for the field of folklore studies and for the many communities with which folklore scholars partner.”

And the new website does just that.  The site’s redesign organizes folklore studies content into categories of materials: books, websites, gray literature, and journals.  It also provides an overview of the project, information on the projects partners, and news feeds about the project.

But most importantly, the new site provides an aggregated search tool for a wide variety of open access folklore materials on the internet:

The project has also pointed to materials in the Hathi Trust Digital Library and in, but those materials don’t seem to appear in the Open Folklore search results.

The Open Folklore Search Platform

The Indiana University press release provided a nice summary of the integrated search:

The Open Folklore portal offers users integrated search of, as well as access to, a growing range of open access journals in folklore studies, including Indian Folklife, Folklore Forum, New Directions in Folklore, Museum Anthropology Review and the Indian Folklore Research Journal. The project has also worked with copyright holders to make an expanding number of important journals freely available to all through the HathiTrust Digital Library. Such titles include The Folklore Historian and Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review.

IU’s participation in the Internet Archive’s “Archive-It” service allows users of the Open Folklore portal to consult permanently archived versions of selected Web sites important for folklore studies. The first three of these to be included are those of the AFS, the Western Folklife Center and the Community Arts Network. The Open Folklore site also provides free access to a range of other important scholarly materials, from course syllabi to public policy working papers.

All of the content made discoverable and accessible through the Open Folklore site is freely available to users.

Open Folklore's search engine uses Apache Solr to index and search thousands of open access folklore materials

Essentially, the Open Folklore website harvests content from a variety of online repositories and websites and provides a stand-alone search bar.  This is currently comprised of a Google-esque keyword search bar powered by Apache Solr.  Solr is a powerful and highly scalable full-text search and indexing platform that has features like faceted search, dynamic clustering, hit highlighting, database integration, and rich document (e.g., Word, PDF) handling.  It powers the search and navigation features of many of the world’s largest websites, and is the kind of open source back-end tool that is really making projects like Open Folklore possible.

Solr is “blazing fast” and it gives Open Folklore some nifty features you might be accustomed to if you’re a regular user of subscription-based academic journal databases.  For example, when you start typing a term in the search bar, you’ll be prompted with a drop-down set of suggested searches:

OFSearchRealTimeThe drop down list also includes the number of hits for each suggested search term.  If you pick one, you’ll get a set of results with the option to filter by type or publisher:

OFSearchFiltersIf you click on one of the results, you’ll find a complete description of the resource and a URL to the source if it’s available:

The description also contains links to “More Like This” and links to export the citation to EndNote, XML, or BibTex (the export feature is powered using the Drupal Bibliography Module).  It’s fantastic to see a resource for folklore research with so much open access content.  And it’s even better to see that it is well-designed and easy to use.  My only complaint would be that the metadata included in the search results needs to be formatted better.  Currently, the initial results just string together the various fields of information:

OFSearchResults1It would be nice to see some of that information either go away, or be better formatted.  Even adding colons after the field descriptors would help break it up a bit.  And the number of search results should appear somewhere prominently.  But these are minor issues.  Really, the search tool is very impressive.

Open Folklore and Interoperability

Open Folklore seems to really get what it means to be open.  The project uses open source tools like Solr and Drupal.  It encourages open access publishing.  And it even advocates for and promotes the tools needed to make more folklore studies materials freely available online.   At the end of the list of harvested content, the project writes:

It is important to note that these collections are available for aggregated search here because they have been made available online using software tools and interoperability standards that allow for the “harvesting” of associated bibliographic data (i.e. metadata). A great many important open access publications have been made available online using software systems that do not provide interoperable and harvestable metadata. Journals of this type are enumerated on the Open Folklore Journals page, from which users can link to them directly. For those who are publishing folklore journals or building folklore studies digital archives, it is useful to note that repository and journal publishing software systems such as Open Journal Systems, DigitalCommons, Fedora, DSpace, E-Prints, and Connexions work in such a way as to allow projects like Open Folklore to harvest and aggregate metadata so as make the kind of unified search provided by the Open Folklore search tool possible. Consult the Open Archives Initiative for additional information on these questions.

Hopefully, Open Folklore will provide the open access publications that are not using interoperable and harvestable software systems some incentive to switch to something like Open Journal Systems.  Developing some resources that would help publishers make this switch seems like it would be a worthwhile effort.

Open Folklore is on Twitter and Facebook.  And the Twitter hashtag for Open Folklore is #openfolklore.   It sounds like the launch has already generated lots of enthusiasm at the AFS meeting.   Hopefully that will continue as the project adds more resources to its website.

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