Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How OPACs Suck

From Cindy Chick at LawLibTech:

If you're a librarian, Karen Schneider's series on ALA TechSource, "How OPACs Suck", should be required reading. Certainly any vendor of library software should sit up and take notice. Library online catalogs have not adapted to the expectations of users familiar with features provided by sites such as Amazon, and that can't be good for libraries or vendors!
I remember Karen Schneider (whose blog, Free Range Librarian, is essential, by the way) from the old dark ages of the Internet in the early 1990's, when I ran the NETTRAIN listserv for those of us out on digital frontier, trying to teach people about why they get used to things like email, ftp, and Gopher.

Here's more of Cindy's summary:
In Part 1, Karen starts by discussing the lack of relevancy ranking and discusses how it could/should be applied to library catalogs. We're all used to search engines that at least TRY to provide the most relevant results at the top of the list, but library catalogs make no such effort. According to Karen, the default order in most search engines is "last in/first out, in other words, whatever was most recently cataloged will come up first....

Part 2 offers Karen's wish list of features including spell-checking, support for popular query operators, duplicate detection, and sort flexibility, just to name a few. Search logging and reports, an administrative interface that let's you tweak the search engine and "best bets" are among my favorites....

The problem, as Karen describes it in Part 3, is that the catalog is based on the obsolete CARD catalog resulting in what she calls "literalisms." ...

Karen wants a revolution, and that may be exactly what we need. "It's time to dis-integrate the catalog, weave it into the Web, and push forward to the future." That's truly a vision for the future.

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