Speaker: Marshall Breeding
[You can find the slides from this presentation on the Library Technology Guides website.]
OCLC study in 2005 indicated that only 2% of college students begin their research with a library website or catalog, as opposed to 89% using a search engine like Google. The 2007 report indicates that library website use is down 10%. (These are surprising statistics given the data from the studies presented yesterday that indicated that students would go to a library website first. I have to wonder if the study looked at library catalogs specifically. Also, wondering if OCLC has another motive for making it seem like library catalogs are horrible — Worldcat Local, anyone?)
Okay, back to Breeding’s talk.
Library catalogs do need to be something more than a computerized version of the card catalog. OPACs suck. We have a disjointed approach to information and service delivery with the different interfaces for finding books, articles, databases, etc., and we need to do something better.
What do we call it besides OPAC? We need to re-define it, but we don’t have a name for this new thing yet. It needs powerful search engines and a clean interface with a comprehensive body of information available to our users, down to the article level. The system needs to favor electronic resources as much as our current systems favor print resources, and both should be in the same interface.
We need to be able to do deep searching of article-level items within our own interface by harvesting the data much like the Open Archives Initiative. (Publishers will be resistant to this, and in particular, aggregators that spend a lot of time and money on R&D for their search interfaces. There are a few libraries experimenting with this, but I think we need some turnkey technologies before more libraries adopt this approach.)
Web 2.0 tools can provide some options for tweaking interfaces and bringing them together, but it needs to be seamless and not cobbled together like what we have now.
Interface features that Breeding wants: simple point of entry, relevancy ranked results (users expect that the “good stuff” will be listed first), facets for narrowing and navigation (let users drill down through the results set, incrementally narrowing the field, rather than using boolean or “advance search”), query enhancement (validated spell check, automatic inclusion of authorized and related terms, etc.), suggested related results (make the query and the response to it better than the query provided), navigational bread crumbs (select/deselect facets), and a few more that I didn’t type fast enough to get. You want to make it so easy that users aren’t thinking about the interface but rather are thinking about the content.
We need appropriate organizational structures, such as faceted applications of subject terminology, discipline-specific thesauri or ontologies, and tags. We need enriched content like book jacket images (Syndetic Solutions, Amazon Web Services, Google Book Search API, etc.), rating scores, and an as-yet-unavailable open content solution. We need a personalized user experience with a single sign-on that is persistent throughout the session. We are entering the post-metadata search era with full-text searching of books becoming more available, in conjunction with the already available full-text searching of journals, so metadata searching is less and less necessary, thus making the strict rules for cataloging and indexing less necessary, allowing us to focus on other aspects of cataloging. We need to move beyond the discovery of content to the delivery of content. We need library-specific features such as appropriate relevance factors (keyword rankings + library weightings, circulation frequency, other library holdings, scholarly content, etc.), results grouping (FRBR), and collection focused.
Take your content and services to where the users are. Wed library-specific requirements and expectations with the content-delivery sophistication of e-commerce tools.
Can the library community bear the cost of this new OPAC? Can we afford to not do it or do it so slowly that we become irrelevant? We don’t have another 3-5 years to get to where we should have been five years ago.
A few interfaces we have today: Endeca, AquaBrowser Library, Ex Libris Primo, Innovative Interfaces Encore, OCLC Worldcat Local, The Library Corporation’s Indigo, LibraryThing for Libraries as an add-on, Scriblio (WordPress based), vuFind, eXtensible Catalog, and a various ILS with next-gen features (Polaris, Koha, Evergreen).