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Evaluation evolution

Tricia Patterson, the National Digital Stewardship Resident at MIT Libraries is helping evaluate Avalon for MIT's Lewis Music Library. Learn about the team's process and the requirements they have established for media management systems.



Originally posted on SIPs, DIPs, & bytes: NDSR Boston's Digital Preservation Test Kitchen:


As I referenced in my post about World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, MIT’s Lewis Music Library is really looking forward to not only preserving the audio content that we are digitizing, but also finally expanding access to it and awareness of it. For this, we need to identify a suitable access platform – no small feat, I have discovered! Large feat, in fact. Size 11s, at least. Since hearing about the myriad of considerations that inform a software evaluation during one of my MSLIS courses, I’ve actually been harboring a desire to be a part of one – and I haven’t been disappointed! So I thought I would share some of our evaluation process so far.


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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:



Sprint 62 – October 31, 2014

At the very beginning of the sprint, IU's general Avalon instance successfully moved to production. We have started enhancing the metadata by providing a repeatable field to hold other system identifiers such as bib numbers, and we provided a way to facet and display using creation date (if available) not just publication date. We fixed a problem with ID specification for LTI access. We designed how bulk access control editing will work, and we reviewed the Hydra Works proposal. We participated in the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Forum, having discussions with many institutions about Avalon.


For this sprint demo, the audio didn't work, so we aren't posting a video of the demo. However, if you'd like to see any of the functionality, please contact us. Learn the details of each story below:

  • VOV-2754 – I want to be able to add classes using friendly ID even if no one has logged in via LTI yet
  • VOV-2946 – I want a place (for both batch and interactive) to put an ID from another system (BIB, OCLC, etc)
  • VOV-3034 – I want to see the creation date
  • VOV-3098 – I want to know if the proposed Hydra Works model might work well for Avalon Story
  • VOV-3104 – I want to know how bulk editing Access Control settings should look and behave


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Sprint 61 – October 17, 2014

This sprint was an uncharacteristic 4 weeks in length, due to the presence of much of the team at Hydra Connect 2 during the sprint. The main work completed is the ability for staff to select multiple items and then publish, unpublish or delete them, or to assign them to a different collection. In addition, we decided on and implemented new default transcoding profile for video. We cut the bitrates in half, which should help with performance on slow wireless networks while still preserving good quality for the high quality derivative. Institutions can change these if they want to use lower or higher bitrates. Other sprint work included preparing for IU's move to production, enhancing NU's production system, and finishing the visual cleanup necessitated by the move to Hydra 7.


Learn the details of each story and view our Sprint Demo recording below:


Sprint 61 - October 17, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2692 – I want to bulk-publish/unpublish items via the web interface
  • VOV-2762 – I want to bulk delete a number of items from Avalon
  • VOV-2940 – I want to move selected items from one (or many) collection(s) to another
  • VOV-2951 – [IU prod] I want to be confident that I am using a production-quality system
  • VOV-3054 – [NU [prod] I want some UI changes and analytics
  • VOV-3004 – I want to watch Avalon videos on a connection with a less than ideal bandwidth
  • VOV-3058 – I want to finalize UI for Hydra 7 update

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Ho Ho Ho, Merry World Day for Audiovisual Heritage!

Tricia Patterson, the National Digital Stewardship Resident at MIT Libraries wrote a great blog post on the collections in MIT's Lewis Music Library in honor of World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. She is helping test MIT's digitization workflow using the Herb Pomeroy collection. She and a team are also "evaluating Avalon Media System as a dissemination platform, so people everywhere can enjoy it once it is digitized."



Originally posted on SIPs, DIPs, & bytes: NDSR Boston's Digital Preservation Test Kitchen:


The 27th of October, while being the very special Fourth Day Before Halloween, was also proclaimed World Day for Audiovisual Heritage by UNESCO as of 2005. This year’s theme for the day is “Archives at Risk: Much More To Do” – something you don’t have to tell us digital stewards twice!


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Indiana University Goes Live with the Avalon Media System

The Avalon Media System is now in production at Indiana University. With this achievement, the development team members, based at both Indiana University and Northwestern University, are celebrating the successful implementation of Avalon at both project partner institutions. At Indiana University, Avalon is presented as Media Collections Online, integrating the signature Indiana Univeristy colors and branding bars. Media Collections Online currently offers publicly accessible content from several repositories across campus, including the Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive, and the Archive of African American Music & Culture. The production instance also includes video and audio playback improvements. New low, medium, and high quality playback options are available to users based on our testing of bitrates in a variety of bandwidth scenarios. We will be sharing these improvements in our upcoming release, 3.2.


Check out Media Collections Online for a peak at the wealth of digital library and archival media resources that Indiana University has to offer. Please also visit Avalon | Kelley School of Business, an Avalon implementation exclusively for the educational media produced by the renowned Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.



Open Access Publishing and Media at Indiana University

This week, Indiana University joins the international academic and research community in celebrating Open Access Week. All year round, IUScholarWorks raises awareness of open access publishing and enables Indiana University scholars to preserve and make their works freely available through this model. Maximizing the exposure of information supports the advancement of scholarship and enhances educational opportunities for students and the public. We asked Shayna Pekala, Open Access Publishing Manager, to discuss the solutions she has found for providing access to audio and video content and future steps for open access publishing and streaming media at Indiana University.


The IUScholarWorks Repository allows scholars to preserve and provide access to their research and data. What challenges have you have encountered with media content?


The IUScholarWorks Repository is built on DSpace open source software, which unfortunately does not have a mechanism for streaming video. While it is possible to store a video file in a DSpace record, the user would then have to download that file and view it with their own media player. Another issue is that users can only submit files up to 250MB, and many video files are larger than that. 


Currently, adding video to the Repository is a three-step process that involves:

  • creating a descriptive item record in DSpace,
  • uploading the video file to the Libraries’ legacy video system, the Video Streaming Server (VSS), where it can be streamed, and finally,
  • editing the DSpace record to include a link to the video file


When the Avalon Media System ultimately replaces the VSS, we will modify this practice by putting the video file in Avalon instead. In fact, we have already begun to do this with some videos from the Black Film/Center Archive (check out their collection in the Repository: It would be great if we could come up with a way for users to upload video to Avalon while they are creating a record in DSpace, but that’s something we haven’t explored yet.


You also support the Indiana University community in publishing open access journals and conference proceedings. How has Avalon supported this work?


IUScholarWorks Journals is based on the Open Journals Systems (OJS) publishing platform. Streaming video in OJS is only possible through the use of an embedded media player, which is where Avalon comes in. Our first example of an OJS site with embedded video  is the Proceedings for Collaboration, Advocacy, and Recruitment: Area and International Studies Librarianship Workshop. In the case of these workshop proceedings, we were able to store videos of the speakers, screencasts, and PDF transcripts in a single “article,” which provides a better experience for the user by allowing them to view all of these parts in one place.


What are your thoughts on the future relationship of streaming media and open access publishing at Indiana University?


The ability to integrate media is a growing request in all areas of open access publishing, especially for journals and conference proceedings. IUScholarWorks is keen on exploring new forms of digital publishing, and incorporating Avalon video lays a great foundation for what we might accomplish in the future.


To learn more about open access publishing and ways to support and take advantage of this model at Indiana University, consider attending the Open Access Week events hosted by the IU Office of Scholarly Publishing and the IU Libraries' Scholars' Commons.


We would love to hear your comments. How are you celebrating Open Access Week? What kinds of challenges and opportunities regarding open access publishing have you encountered?  Any thoughts on the future of media and open access publishing? 



Sprint 60 – September 19, 2014

The main goals of this sprint were to fix user interface issues and get our institutional production systems in place and ready for use. We completed the user interface issues that were a result of the recent upgrades to Hydra, Blacklight and Bootstrap. You may see a few differences in styling with version 3.2 because we made some decisions to stay closer to defaults than we had in previous releases. Our own institutions are ramping up production use of Avalon. Northwestern made a few quick changes to improve notifications and workflow issues for our staff. Indiana is busy spinning up three separate Avalon production instances to serve campus needs. An additional chunk of work we did this sprint was to test and improve our default transcoding profiles for people who are using Avalon with lower connection speeds.


Learn the details of each story and view our Sprint Demo recording below:


Sprint 59 – September 19, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-3004 – I want to watch Avalon videos on a connection with a less than ideal bandwidth
  • VOV-2951 – [IU prod] I want to be confident that I am using a production-quality system
  • VOV-3031 – (Completed) I want to know bulk selection works as expected
  • VOV-3007 – (Completed) I want Avalon to be visually pleasing again

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Sprint 59 – September 5, 2014

Sprint 59 saw further progress towards implementing the Avalon Media System at Indiana University. During this sprint we focused infrastructure matters such as restart documentation and notifications for monitoring alerts. We also started a series of video playback tests with the goal of ensuring the best possible playback quality in low bandwidth scenarios. Testing for mobile and desktop environments will be completed using a variety of low, medium, and high bitrate options in addition to the current Avalon settings.


Bulk selection has been developed and the feature even allows users to see the number of items selected. We made use of Blacklight’s Bookmark feature and have contributed our changes back to Blacklight.


We inventoried operating systems, browser versions, available team members, and other factors relevant to testing in an effort to be even more systematic in our testing procedures. Testing on the Hydra 7.1 upgrades have now been completed. We will be investigating the few issues we encountered regarding connecting to the drop box and viewing the embedded media player in different contexts to determine whether they are full-fledged bugs.


A formal review of all of the changes to the Avalon interface after the upgrades to Hydra 7.1 and other dependencies has been completed. This review will guide the developers’ styling work in the next sprint.


Learn the details of each story and view our Sprint Demonstration recording below:


Sprint 59 – September 5, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2951 [IU prod] I want to be confident that I am using a production-quality system
  • VOV-3004  I want to watch Avalon videos on a connection with a less than ideal bandwidth
  • VOV-2818  (Completed) I want a way to bulk select a number of Avalon items for some later action         
  • VOV-2956  (Completed) I want to be confident that Avalon works as expected after the hydra 7 upgrade                   
  • VOV-3007  I want Avalon to be visually pleasing again

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Sprints 57 & 58 – August 2014

After completing Avalon’s upgrades to Hydra 7.1 and the latest versions of Blacklight, Ruby on Rails, and Bootstrap, the developers have dedicated this month to functionality and styling. As a part of this work, over 2,000 lines of code were changed to make Avalon more robust for future Blacklight upgrades. Some of the new perks include better responsive design performance and the ability to delete facet selections directly from the facet menu.


We’ve also laid the groundwork for performing bulk actions on media items. Now that we’ve designed the interface and interaction of bulk actions, we are working on bulk selection functionality using Blacklight. The next step will be adding the ability to perform actions. These will include publish, un-publish, delete, and change collection. Management actions will require authentication, though we are considering actions for public users, such as e-mailing links to selected media items.


We’ve planned new descriptive metadata fields, including physical description, a catalog record link, and a related item link. Lastly, the team saw the first mock-up of Indiana University’s production version of Avalon with Indiana University branding bars and colors.


Learn the details of each story and view our Sprint Demonstration recordings below:


Sprint 57 – August 8, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2912 – I want Avalon to work with Hydra 7

  • VOV-2913 – I want Avalon to look good with Hydra 7

  • VOV-2909 (Completed) – I want to have a robust design for bulk selection and actions to implement

  • VOV-2796 (Completed) – I want the Avalon dropbox to allow navigation to sub-directories to look for media files

  • VOV-2818 – I want a way to bulk select a number of Avalon items for some later action

  • VOV-2917 (Completed) –  I want a validated design for new descriptive metadata

  • VOV-2906  [NU Prod] I want to know why clicking on Manage Content Tab takes so long.


Sprint 58 – August 22, 2014 Demo Recording

  • VOV-2912– (Completed) I want Avalon to work with Hydra 7

  • VOV-2913– (Completed) I want Avalon to look good with Hydra 7

  • VOV-2956– I want to be confident that Avalon works as expected after the hydra 7 upgrade

  • VOV-2818– I want a way to bulk select a number of Avalon items for some later action

  • VOV-2951– [IU prod] I want to be confident that I am using a production-quality system

  • VOV-2906– (Completed) [NU Prod] I want to know why clicking on Manage Content Tab takes so long

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