Monday, December 18, 2006

I *love* this

I'm talkin' 'bout the new version of OCLC's FictionFinder. Specifically, the browse feature in FictionFinder. You heard me. Browse. In a library system. Not the LCSH browse with pages upon pages upon pages upon pages of subdivisions with no discernable grouping, but a real browse.

The best is the "genre" browse (but take out those --Young adult fiction subdivisions and move them to an audience facet). It's not a short list, but it's not too long either. It would be interesting to arrange these hierarchically and see if navigating that list made any sense to users. And "settings"! How cool to be able to locate fiction that takes place in the Pyrenees. This is what library catalogs should do for our users.

I'm also intrigued by the "character" browse. This is something I've never thought of before. My general rule for browsing facets is to only include facets that have a (relatively) small number of categories, each with a (relatively) large number of members. At first, I didn't think characters met this requirement. Then I clicked on Captain Ahab, and I realized just how many works of fiction there are about him! Great works inspire derivatives, and exploring those is a fun way to guide new reading, in my opinion. It would be interesting to have access to a browse list of all characters in some situations, and only those with a large number of works (note works here, not publications) in other situations. Exploring which situations warrant which presentation would be another interesting line of inquiry.

The next improvement I want to see is allowing users to combine these facets (and others) dynamically so I can find Psychological fiction set in the Pyrenees, then narrow it to works after 1960, then remove the Pyrenees requirement, then add in Captain Ahab to the requirements that are left.... ad nauseum. Our catalogs need to support discovery of new works, not just those we already know the author and title. Systems like this are light years (sci fi fan here!) ahead of LCSH-style "browsing". I want more!

(Note to OCLC - the link to "Known problems" is broken. I'm interested to find out what challenges you've faced when building this beta system. I have a very strange idea of fun.)

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