or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




Neat-o Catalog Interface

   June 7th, 2007 Brian Herzog

At the open source workshop yesterday, Joshua Ferrara of LibLime showed a Koha catalog interface designed for kids - amazing.

catalog, catalogs, childrens, interface, interfaces, ipac, ipacs, koha, libraries, library, nela-its, opac, opacs, open source, public libraries, public library



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The Patron-Centric Loan Period

   May 22nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

screen capture of book recordI understand that different libraries do things differently, but I've never seen this.

While helping a patron look for a book yesterday, I ended up searching in the state-wide library catalog, the Virtual Catalog. Since it searches "all" the libraries in Massachusetts, many of which are running different computer systems, you often see some oddities in the catalog records.

In the date field towards the bottom, most books will display the date they are due, if they are checked out, or just read "Available" if they are checked in. Imagine my surprise to see when this book was due - Never!

catalog, catalogs, due date, libraries, library, library book, terry marotta, the trail of bread crumbs, union catalog, union catalogs, virtual catalog



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CIL2007 Wednesday – Catalogs/OPACs for the Future

   April 19th, 2007 Brian Herzog

On the final day of cil2007, most of the workshops I attended ending up having a common theme – tailoring library services to patrons needs, based on patron input.

The first of these sessions was called “Catalogs/OPACs for the future,” led by Roy Tennant (California Digital Library) and Tim Spalding (LibraryThing.com). Tim followed up on points he made in yesterday’s presentation with some criteria that future library search systems will need:

  • catalogs should be fun - patrons should enjoy searching for and finding books and information
  • allow linking into the records - use permalinks so links to items will never expire or break
  • link outwards - everything in the catalog should be links (titles, names, subjects, tags, keywords, etc). Participating in the wider web means our entries are not dead ends for patrons, but helps them flow through our catalog to the information they ultimately seek. Tim also encouraged linking to sites Amazon.com and Wikipedia - they offer lots of information, and our patrons use them anyway, so we should not position ourselves as a barrier
  • dress up the catalog - this goes along with “catalogs should be fun,” and what he meant was that the catalog should be as visually-appealing as possible - loads of book covers, nice design and layout, useful widgets to display new books, recent searches, and even patron data (if they so choose)

Roy followed Tim, and also had general criteria for a catalog of the future

  • do not call it an “opac” – even “catalog” is getting outdated, because they should provide access to more than just the library books we own
  • searching should be simple – a single search box, placed strategically and logically on the page, should search in all available resources
  • individual libraries could get rid of local catalogs and use Open WorldCat as a single union catalog for all libraries. This would promote comprehensive searching and resource sharing, and is also better because it includes articles and web resources indexed through WorldCat (in the Q&A session, one librarian pointed out that WorldCat has a few important shortcomings [they stand to benefit financially from this model, they do not include many small public libraries], and she got a round of applause)
  • separate the ILS from the finding tool. The ILS will be smaller and just for staff use, and the finding tool will be an efficient and comprehensive search tool that sits draws together the ILS and other resources
  • communicates well with other systems, so data can be shared freely and all available resources (books, databases, websites, etc) can be searched
  • include sophisticated features, such as results ranking, faceted/cluster browsing, preference filtering, etc.

catalog, catalogs, Catalogs/OPACs for the Future, cil 2007, cil2007, libraries, library, library thing, librarything, librarything.com, oclc, opac, opacs, open worldcat, public libraries, public library, roy tennant, tim spaulding, worldcat, worldcat.org



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Catalog Down

   December 6th, 2006 Brian Herzog

Today, my library consortium is upgrading from Sirsi/Dynix's Horizon 7.3 to 7.3.4. Which means, our catalog is unavailable to both the staff and the public. Which means, I've been brushing off my Dewey knowledge and helping people by memory rather than relying on a computer.

Whew, I've worked harder today than I have in awhile.

More about Libraries Without OPACs:
It's hard to realize how much you rely on something until it's gone. But the good news is that the library didn't come to a standstill just because the catalog is offline. People are still coming in for storytime, reserving museum passes, using the meeting rooms, using the computers, etc. It's a nice reminder that, even though they're right there on the shelves, people do a lot more here than just check out books.

More about Online Catalogs In General:
When our catalog software went down, so too did our online catalog. Which means that I can't do keyword searches unless I use a neighboring consortium's catalog (just to find the right call numbers). But what if a library's catalog records were open to the entire internet, instead of hidden away in the little boxes we call the catalog?

To that end, I would like to congratulate Casey Bisson for his work with WPopac, and for being awarded the Mellon Award for innovative search software for libraries. This effort could make days like today a thing of the past. This is one small step for libraries, and one giant leap for patrons.

More about Horizon:
As noted, we're upgrading from 7.3 to 7.3.4 - regardless of the fact that the current version of Horizon is v8. I complain about this because all we're getting from this upgrade is the ability to handle the 13-digit ISBNs. Which, granted, is important and necessary, but I would have much preferred to fix a lot of the other shortcomings with the system to make being down all day more worthwhile.[/rant]

casey bisson, catalog, catalogs, horizon, library, opac, opacs, sirsi/dynix



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