Recent Developments at the University of Virginia

We are pleased to share some news coming from the University of Virginia (UVA). UVA is currently developing several new features for Avalon as part of their plan to implement the software at their institution. The new functionality will be shared with the entire Avalon community since UVA’s contributions will be integrated into the Avalon core code.


UVA developers and the Avalon team members are currently working together to determine goals and coordinate their efforts. Mike Durbin, Senior Software & Systems Engineer at the University of Virginia Libraries, recently visited Indiana University to join forces with the Avalon developers. The productive week at IU was also a welcome opportunity to catch up with his former IU Libraries Technologies co-workers.


Brian (IU), Chris (IU), and Mike (UVA) discussing Avalon at Indiana University


I asked Mike to share some details about UVA's plans for the Avalon Media System.


What types of collections does Avalon help provide access to at UVA? What types of collections will be made available in the future? 


Currently Avalon provides access to several collections falling into three broad categories.  One consists of licensed streaming content which is accessible both to UVA and a Virginia consortium of libraries, VIVA.  Another category is local digitized rare and unique materials from our Special Collections library.  And finally, locally produced content such as concert recordings and lecture series are made available to the widest audience allowed by the materials rights encumbrance.  Besides expanding the use of content in these categories, we are considering adding electronic reserves material to support classroom instruction in the future.


How did the relationship between the University of Virginia and the Avalon team begin? What will their collaboration look like?


Initially conversations between UVA and the Avalon team about Avalon began on the Avalon IRC channel (#projectvov).  As it became clear that we at UVA would have the time and the need to make modifications to the Avalon codebase, it seemed best to coordinate any efforts with the project team.  In-person conversations and the focus of taking time to work exclusively on this effort made changes and the planning of future work easier.


What are some of the new features that the UVA team will share?


We have improved support for iPhones for the default streaming server. We did this by implementing a fix to the generation routines for IOS-specific streaming assets for users of Red5.  While it is not definite that other institutions use the open source Red5 streaming server in their implementations, these changes ensure broader compatibility.

We also developed a working example that allows users from multiple institutions to sign in to Avalon using their familiar institutional single-sign-on page.  To do this, we generalized our Omniauth-Shibboleth Ruby gem that allows easy integration of Shibboleth authentication with Avalon.  This allows us to add permissions to resources based on a user’s affiliation (the institution from which they authenticate) to support our current use-case of providing access just to "Virtual Library of Virginia" (VIVA) member institutions.   This will also allow us to grant access on a per-item basis to scholars at any of nearly 400 institutions that make up the InCommon federation.  That work is available for reuse at:



Soon after visiting Indiana University, Mike presented “The Avalon Media System at the University of Virginia” as part of the “Avalon Media System: Implementation and Community” session at the 2014 Digital Library Federation (DLF) Forum on October 28, 2014. Check out the slides from his presentation below: