Brave new catalogs

Last week our department attended a NISO webinar titled, The Future of Integrated Library Systems (pt 2): User Interaction.

In it, three next-generation library systems were discussed. As we are looking at Blacklight & VuFind for our next generation catalog discovery layer here at IU, I’ll focus not so much on each system’s technology, but more on the other information covered:

  • Jennifer Bowen from the University of Rochester presented on the eXtensible catalog. Many of the design & functionality decisions were driven by the ongoing ethnographic research being conducted on that campus (see Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester [PDF]).

    They approached the project with the perspective of thinking of the catalog in terms of “what do our users need to do.” They also have a new book, Scholarly practice, participatory design and the extensible catalog, just released by ACRL. Two examples of what they learned:

    • Users want to be able to choose between versions/formats
      Their users definitely had preferences when searching (limit to online only – avoid microforms – etc), and preferred when the catalog results showed search terms in context. They started with MARC and did a lot of transformation of the data, working with FRBR (works, expressions, manifestations, etc)
    • Researchers value scholarly networks
      One way they accomodate this in their community is by defining local metadata: for example, noting the advisor on the record for a thesis.
  •  

  • SOPAC 2, a catalog primarily aimed at public libraries, was presented by John Blyberg of the Darien Public Library. Many of the items from this part of the webinar would be of more interest to public librarians and were perhaps not quite as transferrable to our situation, but I did think their robust and creative use of tagging was quite intriguing. They used tags to create “virtual displays” or easy ways to collect items around a concept (“Staff favorites”) or even a theme (“Movies Better than the Book”). As you can see from the previous example, they were also quite open to subjective metadata, and found that it added a lot of value for users.
  • and WorldCat Local, presented by Anya N. Arnold of the Orbis Cascade Alliance (Pacific Northwest) and Allie Flanary of Portland (OR) Community College. As we are generally more familiar with this system, there were fewer lightning bolts for me in this portion, but it was easy to appreciate their emphasis on user testing and on collaborating amongst the user community to identify and implement improvements for a better user experience. One quote in particular caught my ear (I’m paraphrasing): “Saying ‘Because Google & Amazon can do it’ is a reasonable expectation for our users.”

You can see info about the webinar here: http://www.niso.org/news/events/2011/nisowebinars/userinteraction/

If you’re interested in viewing the recording, drop us a note in the comments or contact me directly!

Author- Courtney Greene McDonald

Former Head, Discovery & User Experience department. File under: librarian. See also: nerd.