Silversky Solutions Portfolio: OpenVRef

Project Overview

OpenVRef question list

The OpenVRef project began as a rewrite of Ask a Question, a service that allows Albertans to e-mail questions at any time and receive an answer from their local librarian. We tried to find an open source tool for this service and we could not find one. So we decided to build our own.

made with java(wicket, spring, hibernate), mysql, xhtml, css, jquery

The Challange

User profile

Feature Assessment: We needed to figure out the most important features and prioritize them. We had to take into account the existing system (which is over 10 years old) without letting it impact our decisions.

Easy-to-use Interface: The existing interface for answering questions was very difficult to use (and had lots of bugs). The new OpenVRef had to be easy to learn and use so that librarians could get on with the important task of answering questions without extensive training.

Audience: There were many different kinds of users (seasoned librarians, library students, the questioning public, administrators). We had to be aware of all these audiences and their needs.

The Process

Java code


The Outcome

Answering interface

OpenVRef was released under a gpl license and is hosted on We had very good feedback during the beta-testing phase, including:


Try the demo (login: staff, staff)