Library Catalog 2.2 “Tell me what I want, and I’ll tell you what I think.”

Apple Sliced

In recent post the Shifted Librarian, Jenny Levine, commented on innovative library catalogs utilizing user created comments within the item record. The library mentioned in particular was the Hennepin County library and the wonderful work of Glenn Peterson. As Jenny points out the prepub edition of the next Harry Potter book already has 60 comments attached to it. The most interesting point was that the comments were “FRBRized” so that the comments could remain attached to the “book” no matter what the edition or copy.


I once proposed the concept to a colleague for a catalog that would incorporate all the things we are seeing come true. For one I wanted to give the user a place to store their items for future reference and for future checkout. Call it a library wish list if you will, but the ability to save records for your own reference could vastly increase your means of conducting research. In essence this wish list could inform you when a book’s status changed from “checked out” to “available”.

Along those same lines the ability for the catalog to “learn” about the user could be something quite useful. Most everyone has used, or at least seen, how a system like Amazon.com works. Based on your previous purchases and searching habits, the system begins to offer possible other items of interest. In a library of many thousands of items, this type of service could help the user collocate material of similar scope in a serendipitous manner.

The ability to tag items, both for your personal use and for public perusal, could assist the system in connecting materials. To this end, I wagered that in order to provide some sort of hierarchical scale to the comments and/or tags left by users, the level of user would be communicated in some way. One could perhaps denote faculty users with a blue color or particular symbol. Students could use green, and librarians could use red. Whatever the schema the person looking at the created content could easily see how much interest they should take in that particular opinion.

So how do we know it’s you? In a secure system the level of user could be created first by allowing the user to create their own unique login and password. Linking this data to their patron record in the management system, keeps their personal information from being shared outside of the highest level of library administrative access. Once this profile is created, the user could then enhance this profile in whatever manner they chose. In the long run, this “library space” could be a new means of connecting through the social networking ether. Imagine allowing your wishlist to “talk” to another library catalog and find books there as well.

Then the question needs to be asked, will users actually take the time to tag or even feel these features are necessary?

I feel the most interesting aspect of this so far is the use of FRBR concepts to keep user thoughts centralized. If someone doesn’t realize the benefit of such a methodology, just envision how hard it is to talk intelligently about something if you aren’t even sure you are talking about the same thing.

For more innovative library catalogs take a look at the list compiled on the Library Garden blog.

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