Why use Hydra?

We thought that it might be a good idea to ask some of Hydra’s founding institutions and some of the newer partners just why they chose to get involved and use Hydra.  Here are a few responses:


Why Hydra at Stanford?

Stanford helped found the Hydra Project for three reasons:

1.) We recognized the need for a suite of digital asset management solutions that transcended what any contemporary “institutional repository” system offered. We have needs ranging from ETD submission and approval to image management; from digitization workflow to digital preservation. Fedora fit our architecture and offered the flexibility and extensibility to serve as a common layer in our digital library infrastructure, but by itself didn’t offer a total solution. When combined with what grew into Hydra, it did–giving us a “one body, many heads” solution that meets the full scope of our requirements.

2.) We knew we couldn’t afford to go it alone. With plenty of experience in building one-off, local solutions, we know how challenging these can be to extend and how expensive they are to maintain. Recognizing our repository needed to be both feature rich and sustainable over time, shared development was a primary goal. Community-source software is a proven and successful model that can satisfy these requirements, and Hydra has been designed from its inception to fit this pattern.

3.) Working collaboratively makes us work better. Some of the best and brightest technologists in libraries are engaged in Hydra, and the community model puts them on “our team”, complementing our internal strengths. Collaborative design and development, and scrutiny of each other’s code, has also had a leavening effect on the rigor of our own work–both design and development–even for internal projects.


Why Hydra at the University of Virginia?

We would ask why not? UVa is committed to collaboration with like minded institutions in the pursuit of a sustainable open source framework for multi-function, multi-purpose, repository-powered applications providing preservation and access of library managed content and scholarly work.

By 2008, UVa had invested a decade in collaborative research and development toward building a distributed, flexible, extensible technology infrastructure toward the goal of enhancing access, manipulation, storage, distribution, and integration of information and services throughout the University. The development of Fedora stands out as the most significant achievement born from the collaborative work of UVa and Cornell. The technology developed was significant but equally was the experience and knowledge of what could be achieved through rich collaboration between institutions with a shared purpose and vision.

UVa and Hull began discussions around sharing technologies to build a work flow driven repository at OR2008. Later in the fall, Stanford joined UVa and Hull to form the Hydra Project. Over time, our community has grown and together we have created and will continue to evolve a robust framework and rich ecosystem of technologies that support our shared vision. UVa was not looking for easy, canned solutions then and that holds true today. Instead, the goal was to maximize choice within a flexible framework that would afford a sustainable solution for the preservation and access of both library managed content and scholarly work.

Forces such as innovative technology and economics are constantly challenging us to redefine our business objectives and our course of action. What we have achieved so far is supporting our ability to meet that challenge. Join us, why not?


Why Hydra at Hull?

Hull has had a pre-existing repository since 2008 containing a great deal of varied digital content from across the University.  Development of the user interface we were using unfortunately came to an end and we needed to move on.  In doing so we wanted to keep the best features of the old UI but enhance the experience given to our users.

Equally important to us was the need to adopt a solution that allowed the use of our underlying Fedora repository to expand and evolve.  Whilst we had many types of content, it was clear that more forms were coming and in ever greater quantities.

In adopting Hydra as our solution we have been able to address both these needs.  The Blacklight-based UI allows us to offer powerful search and discovery and to tailor what our users view on screen to the type(s) of content that they are working with.  Meanwhile, the creation and editing of content can also be carried out through flexible templates.  This is all facilitated by Hydra’s flexible approach to content modelling within our digital objects.  In addition, the use of Blacklight allows us to move toward search and discovery over our repository and other internal collections, including our library holdings, in a combined interface.

We greatly value the experience of working within a supportive global community and knowing that there are places to go to share both design and technical issues.


Why Hydra at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

In 2012, we opened the doors to our new Library and Archives. Our plan is to be the world’s preeminent institution for the study of rock and roll and its related genres. In preparation for this event, we developed all the necessary library services, not only for the public who will be our patrons, but also for the staff of the Museum.

Part of the Library and Archives’ mission is to digitally preserve the audiovisual materials of the Museum’s collections. This includes the Rock Hall’s video collections, containing 15 years of induction ceremony videos and public programs, as well as additional digitized content from the archival holdings and additional content donated from other institutions and individuals.

As we began investigating how to best manage and preserve this content, it became very clear to us that many “off the shelf” solutions are expensive and inadequate when it comes to the demanding needs of video. Customizing these solutions is often limited due to the proprietary nature of their software, and more importantly, our resources are limited, so a partnered approach was the best way to get assistance from a larger community of institutions facing similar problems. This led to investigating open-source solutions where Fedora emerged as the clear choice because of its widespread use in other institutions that are mounting similar digital preservation efforts.

After we had decided to adopt Fedora as our digital repository, we needed to find a management interface. Because of the specialized nature of these interfaces, there were very few that offered us the flexibility and control that we needed. Hydra emerged as the clear choice, not only because of its flexibility but also its agile nature. Using Hydra in a Ruby/Rails environment allowed us to work relatively quickly and create basic interfaces for ingesting and cataloging content. As we continue to refine our library services, these interfaces will change dramatically. Because of the Rails framework and relying on test-driven development methods, we feel that we can respond to these changes faster than in other development environments.

Hydra is community driven, and it is important to us to ensure that it will continue to grow and thrive. Our decision to become a partner is an investment to that end. By committing to Hydra, as an adopter, advocating its use, and adding to its codebase, we hope to benefit from everyone’s shared expertise and build lasting software to preserve our collections into the future.


Why Hydra at the University of Notre Dame?

It was clear to us early on at Notre Dame that the scope of managing, preserving, and interacting with digital content is too much for any one institution to conquer by itself. We realized that we need help.

We were already fairly convinced using Fedora, Solr, and ActiveFedora were solid choices because of their strong development community and flexible robust solutions. We were also exploring Blacklight for search and browse for the same reasons. The open questions were:

    • What is the best way to put the pieces together?
    • How do you tackle the heterogenous content types and workflows without getting bogged down in each individual solution?

After connecting with folks from the Hydra project at Code4Lib it was immediately clear that we had many things in common and that Hydra was the answer:

    • The same architectural choices: Fedora, Solr, ActiveFedora, Blacklight
    • Similar design philosophies
    • A need to work together
    • Too many shared use cases to ignore

So, we jumped on board and have adopted the Hydra Framework for all of our Digital Repository efforts. Now as a full Hydra partner we are fully committed to the project’s success, the success of other Hydra partners, and the growing Hydra community. In our minds, being part of such a vibrant community is at least half as important as the quality of the tools themselves. By working together to accomplish our common goals, we will each get there faster and actually have something sustainable.


Why Hydra at Northwestern University?

The quote on the Hydra Project website’s home page really sums up our motivation to work with the community, ”If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. There are many different aspects of the Hydra project that are appealing to Northwestern. The idea of working with an open source community and like-minded partners is first and foremost. Being able to leverage and contribute to a common technology stack that is built upon an adaptable framework of modular services and configurable components is a very compelling factor.

While we have made great strides in our efforts with Fedora it is critical to our success to be able to create a sustainable and invigorating environment for our developers and stakeholders. The team here knows that getting to that point does not come without some dedication, discipline and hard work. The Hydra community is built upon cooperation, collaboration and a shared vision. All of these factors will undoubtedly lead to great results for our institutions.

We have an interest in working with the Hydra partners and the community on many of the use cases being considered on the Hydra roadmap

  • Developing rules driven workflows
  • Integration of time-based media (i.e. audio, video) content types
  • Expanded metadata editing capabilities, including authority control
  • Collection management and sharing tools
  • Annotation and other pedagogical tools
  • Integration with other library and campus systems, including unified search, an archival collection management system and identity and access management (IAM) systems

The IMLS funded Avalon Media System is enabling Northwestern and Indiana University to work with the Hydra community and other partners to build something that will be of great value to many libraries and archives and  certainly will be greater than the sum of its parts.

Why Hydra at Penn State University?

Joining the Hydra community has helped Penn State develop ScholarSphere, a new service allowing faculty, staff, and students to share, manage, publish, and preserve their research and scholarly works. Collaborating on robust community-source components with fellow Hydra adopters across institutional boundaries enabled Penn State to design, develop, test, and deploy a production repository service in little more than seven months. This is especially notable since Penn State had minimal experience in Hydra technologies (Fedora, Solr, Blacklight, Ruby, Rails) prior to our ScholarSphere work.

Our very positive experiences with Hydra resulted in our becoming Hydra partners in June of 2012, joining a list of like-minded institutions who have committed to taking a community approach to developing repository applications.