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One year after COVID-19 struck, 160 University of California librarians and staff across 10 campuses launched the first-ever systemwide integrated library discovery and circulation management platform - on schedule and under budget. Funded in part by the UC Office of the President, the four-year project enhanced search functionality across all UC libraries.

The aggregate numbers across the University of California’s 10 campus libraries, two regional library facilities and the Oakland-based California Digital Library are staggering: 41 million print volumes, 10 million eBooks and 49 million digitized items spanning more than 100 library locations, serving more than 300,000 users.

On July 27, 2021, however, the consortium coalesced around its most important number to date: One.

That date marked the introduction of UC Library Search(opens in a new tab), the first-ever systemwide integrated library discovery and circulation management platform. For the UCLA scholarly community and peers from Davis to San Diego, this means faster and easier access to the materials they seek.

A project nearly four years in the making, UC Library Search’s implementation phase began in April 2020, concurrent to the abrupt transition to remote instruction across the state, necessitated by COVID-19. The challenge of 160 colleagues across 10 institutions working together in an exclusively-remote environment – plus many more locally at each campus – may actually have been an advantage, according to Todd Grappone, UCLA’s Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology, as well as a key member of the systemwide cohort responsible for implementing UC Library Search.

“The project was a welcome, and challenging, endeavor that allowed us to collectively rally around a singular coordinated goal. We were working together to do something new and impactful during a time of great stress on the system, the state and the world,” he said.

Replacing individual campus library catalogs and Melvyl – which since 1981 had served as a complex-but-patchwork system to connect these databases – UC Library Search has even more benefits than its name implies. There’s a more seamless interlibrary loan experience, with the ability to request and pick up materials from any UC campus, while users can find and borrow items from outside the UC system through the embedded link to WorldCat.

“The really innovative thing is that it provides broad search functionality across all UC libraries. UCLA users will be now able to think about the entire University of California Library as their campus library,” said Grappone.

A series of outreach initiatives prepared Bruins for UC Library Search’s launch and how to optimize its use. An introduction to its features(opens in a new tab) lives on the Library website, while fall quarter 2021 workshops were held for both individuals and entire classes whose work would be reliant on Library research. In addition, the Library-embedded, student-led WI+RE (Writing Instruction + Research Education) team produced an engaging video tutorial called Navigating UC Library Search(opens in a new tab).

One Bruin who dove head-first into the platform was fourth-year English major Mursal Sidiqi.

“UC Library Search is easy to use, both because it’s embedded directly on the Library homepage and because it helps me find sources quickly. It’s great for looking broadly into a topic or checking to see what relevant books are available, then navigating the website further to research more thoroughly,” she said.

Supporting a world-class public university ecosystem in a constant state of research, discovery and growth means UC Library Search must evolve as well. With a motto of “The Future is Shared,” the infrastructure is in place to optimize functionality and introduce new UC Library Search features for years to come.

“One truly transformative outcome is having access to robust analytics about the use of UC collections,” said Grappone. “Gaining an understanding of how users search and consume information will help the UCLA Library better allocate resources and serve our campus.”