Via the OSGeo-Discuss list I learned about the release of the open source library MapQuery 0.1. Here's the official mapquery website.
Here's more on its goals: "MapQuery formally extends OpenLayers, it is similar in concept as GeoExt, but uses jQuery instead of Ext. The idea is to create a jQuery-style webmapping library which wraps around OpenLayers and extends it with functionality like layer managers, datagrids (NYI), legends etc. We try to make it easy to create a webmap-application with OpenLayers, without having to know all that OpenLayers has to offer.
We aim at jQuery developers more than on people who are already well-versed in OpenLayers. As such we will provide a few simple functions which (we think) will be enough for 90% of the use-cases. The other 10% is not actively pursued, though one could directly access OpenLayers and do some of the advanced stuff we're not providing."
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