May 18, 2022

University of Wisconsin Libraries Launches New OPAC

From a U. of Wisconsin News Release:

The UW Libraries officially launched the new library catalog on Monday, May 21, replacing the nearly 15-year-old MadCat with a catalog featuring a sleek new interface that makes it easier to find the books, journals, and other resources needed for learning, teaching, and research.

The new online catalog was built to be more intuitive and helpful for users.

To access the catalog, visit:

First conceived in 2009, the project to improve the library catalog has been an all-library effort, with staff members from across campus supplying their expertise to make it a success.

Interim Director of the General Library System Ed Van Gemert says, “The university spends many millions of dollars each year to purchase, license, and to provide access to electronic and print resources that are not available on the open Web. A talented team of library staff, using modern Web principles, optimized the discovery and accessibility of these costly resources.”

A key feature of the catalog is the ability to search the UW–Madison Libraries catalog and then to seamlessly expand a search to the entire UW System.


Curran Riley, project manager for the new catalog says, “Finding items across the UW System is much easier now,” and that this may be his favorite feature of the new system.

The catalog has also been optimized for iPads and other mobile devices, so browsing for books on the bus or within the library stacks will be much easier.

Developer Eric Larson says that the UW Libraries “realize research and discovery happens everywhere, so pursuing a mobile-first web development practice lets us ensure valuable library resources are available from any device at the time and point of need.”

The new catalog has gone through several rounds of user testing. The feedback has guided the development of the catalog and clearly established that students like the new look.

Read the Complete Announcement

See Also: Developer Eric Larson’s Web Page
Larson notes that the OPAC is a Ruby on Rails application, using a PostgreSQL / Apache Solr backend for data storage and retrieval.

Update: Eric Larson also shared some additional tech details with us.

The new UW System catalog is built upon project Blacklight, the discovery codebase primarily developed by UVA, Stanford and John Hopkins:
We integrate with our UW System Voyager installations via the VXWS web services to provide local and UW System-wide borrowing.  We also use APIs from Hathitrust (for full text), Bing (for spelling suggestions) and Freebase (for contextual information regarding authors).
About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.