Archive for the ‘OPAC’ Category

Knowing who you are

05/08/2008 1 comment

While searching for information about new ways to log virtual reference chat sessions, I stumbled upon a new concept in user to service interactions. APML or Attention Profiling Markup Language, is a Web 2.0 driven standard meant to allow you as the user to “inform” the system you wish to use, of the types of things you would be interested in. (In theory.)

What if a library catalog supported this type of language? Imagine uploading your “profile” into the catalog search and being presented with related topics and collections of resources that you may find interesting. Yes this may rely more on the machine and preordained associations, but doesn’t the APML feel a bit like LCSH.  Maybe that is a jump, but as libraries search for ways to make their services adapt to the user while still maintaining some structure; is there a way for us to explore this new concept?


Ranting on Berry’s Rants


To get the full effect you may want to glance at this article first.

To be honest, I was hoping to see a punch line at the end of this article, so that the rather outlandish points delivered by the author could be accounted to blatant humor. Unfortunately it didn’t come and what lay before me was a piece of paranoid rhetoric that warned of the impending “end of days” for the professional librarian. True these are opinions but the knee-jerk reactions to the actions of new library leaders struggling to find a new voice for their libraries is shocking and without reason. Why wouldn’t we need to rethink our practices if the audience has changed its own vision for the library? In some libraries they constantly fight a battle to draw back their population from the migration to the “bookstore” or seclusion of the at home online experience. Even reference services are seeing a downturn in numbers, which could be a factor in their management’s decision to try something new and unexpected. What follows are my free flowing retorts to the article entitled “Blatant Berry: The Vanishing Librarians” published on, 02/15/2008.

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WorldCat Link Manager – Making it easier to get what you need…


From their News feed, OCLC announced the new and improved WorldCat Link Manager. Though there are other systems available for linking OpenURL documents to records, how could we look past a service brought forth by an organization from which most of our record authority springs.

From their site:

WorldCat Link Manager is open, interoperable link-server software that OCLC provides as a fully supported, hosted service. When your library users click a journal citation in your catalog or in your electronic databases, they are taken directly to the full content of the article in your collection.

Maybe this won’t change everyone’s mind, but with the ease of use many of the other OCLC projects have spawned, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t eagerly adopted by libraries.

For other link resolvers see:

If you know of any others that should be on the list, leave a comment and I will add them. Thanks.

LibGuides as a next-gen OPAC model


Michael over at Tame the Web, recently posted about LibGuides; a web 2.0 librarian resource creation tool.  (See the post here.) In his posting, he related work done by Mick Jacobsen (one of his students) as an example of what is possible with LibGuides.  He goes on to compare LibGuides to “NetVibes on steroids,” which is a fair summary for its appearance.  I would contend that whereas LibGuides effectively utilizes the portal based interface, the structure exists more akin to a content management system rather than a news portal.

In my recent involvement  in our library’s move to a next-gen OPAC, I came to see LibGuides as a way to introduce librarians to the “ins and outs” of CMS based OPACs. In an earlier blog post I talked about the features that could make OPACs more useful to users.

Sarah Houghton-Jan also voiced her opinions as to the usefulness of LibGuides in her posting from June 2007.

Related links

Where does the world search?

10/11/2007 1 comment


From a BBC technology report, a study from comScore relates that Google is the most dominant search provider in the world.

Users performed more than 37 billion searches via Google, more than all the other major search engines combined.

This may seem disheartening to many in the library field, as this means that users are becoming more and more reliant on Google for their information searching needs. I tend to believe that even though this may seem shocking to some, it lights a path towards where our thoughts on library search designs should progress.

I blogged in an earlier post about Firefox extensions designed to lead a search on Amazon, or any other service utilizing ISBN’s, back to your own library holdings. This helped if your library was included in the list of accessible library catalogs, but even this didn’t help connect journal articles to library holdings. There is a Firefox extension which helps bridge that gap.

The Open URL Referrer links citations in Google Scholar, Google News, or any site containing COinS. The extension allows you to set up your full text service (SFX) and then allow the search results to link themselves to your holdings.  This may seem like cheating the library, but the re-resolved link takes you into the library service point and not the direct article.  To me, if the users are already in Google looking for citations, why not give them a way to jump directly into your library?

Whether we start designing our OPAC interfaces more akin to the Google way, or if we start redirecting users back from Google, the truth is that the big G isn’t going to be going away anytime soon.  So why not make the best out of an estranged relation?

What is Web 2.0 anyhow?

05/15/2007 1 comment

Look Right

In preparation for an upcoming conference presentation, I began to focus upon what I thought Web 2.0 really means. To some it means a transformation of the web into a pseudo-platform, much like a shared desktop environment. Others see Web 2.0 as an evolution of information use behavior that allows anyone to share and to some extent customize the web to their own needs. Where I agree that each concept is in effect applicable, I tend to agree with Paul Graham in that Web 2.0 isn’t about what’s new but about doing things right.

By this statement I mean to say that the developers of new technologies are making applications and tools that the users find “right.” Some would argue that Wikipedia as a Web 2.0 tool gained popularity, not because it truly allowed users to speak but because it was free and satisficed their needs. Many other tools have been created and widely used in the same manner. You Tube! And Flickr are examples of easy to us tools that work because they address the basic needs of the users. In short I have things I want to do and this tool let’s me do it. Seems like simple logic to me.

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OPAC-O-Matic, what can we ask an online catalog to be?

04/20/2007 1 comment

Sliced Tomato

The short history of the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) has seen their early manifestations satisfy the needs of a card catalog being translated into a digital form. As the technologies surrounding cataloging, searching, accessing, and communicating with each other, have increased the OPAC has often been about 6 months behind the changes. This is to be expected, as development of new technologies takes some time, the inordinate amount of time taken for development of library technologies often leaves libraries a number of years behind.

In a recent survey on what librarians wanted from OPACS, Dave Pattern highlights some interesting comments. One of the most obvious, but not unexpected, results was the desire for efficient federated searching. Most libraries have multiple database subscriptions, numerous special collections, countless full-text services, and perhaps even a set of consortial borrowing partners. To search all these resources the user may need to have several browser windows open, be juggling how to maintain a remote connection, and figuring out whether or not they can actually obtain the complete article or not. Though there are many new systems available for executing satisfactory federated searching, there countless factors which may limit whether a library can implement them into the OPAC, let alone actually buy them.

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