Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Next-generation catalogs

Bravo! I'll add my voice to the hubub surrounding the announcement that NCSU has launched a new library catalog, representing a new model for user interaction. I'm a huge fan of the "narrow by" menus on the left-hand side. (I should be--we did this in a digital library system a few years ago: here's an example and a paper describing the project.) I believe some of the options presented here are more useful than others, but different options would be useful in different situations and picking the right default is tricky.

I also love the idea of browsing the collection in the OPAC. Long have librarians extolled the virtues of the serendipity of shelf browsing. Our catalogs can and should try to replicate this experience online, and allow other sorts of browsing our shelves don't provide.

Despite the increased functionality of the NCSU catalog, the results within any given set, regardless of the sort option chosen, are the same sort of jumble we see in more traditional OPACs. I'm thrilled to see that FRBR-like grouping is on the list for the next release.

It's too bad that NCSU had to go to a third party (and presumably shell out some big bucks) in order to provide this innovative service. I hope this demonstration will push more of us to relentlessly push our OPAC vendors for similar improvements, and put our money where our mouths are.


Anonymous said...

I like browsing a collection from the OPAC too, which is why I think Dewey Browser is great, especially if we remember that so many of our bib records have Dewey numbers embedded in them. Imagine incorporating Dewey Browser or something like it into an ILS. I think browsing could improve if we also add to bib records as many class numbers (not necessarily call numbers) as there subjects (think classified catalog) to take advantage of things like Dewey Browser. I think this would complement alphabetical subject headings. Classification is more than a just shelf location device, as the NCSU catalog and Dewey Browser show us. Let's also open up the author, title, and subject indexes so that one can browse a collection instantly without having to necessarily type anything in a search box. One can browse the Encyclopedia Britannica that way, why not a catalog?

Bryan Campbell

Anonymous said...

I think library catalogs can learn from Amazon. I love the way Amazon gives reading suggestions and 9 times out of 10 they are pretty good.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Amazon does a great job. I think there's a lot of number crunching going on behind the scenes to get it right. I'd like to see a blog plugin that does a similar thing.