Catalogs, the reinvention part 2

WoePAC to WowPAC part 2

Cindi Trainor – Are We There Yet? Next Generation Library Catalog Enhancements: An Assessment

Some of the new options highlighted by others at this conference are interesting and good, “but how do they match up if we aim really, really high?”

Major web developments from recent iterations of design: Complex content, like audio and video. Community building, as demonstrated by LibraryThing. Interactivity, finding and using information the way that works best for the user. Interoperability, moving data from source A to display B and back again.

Where can you find all four elements on the current web? Flickr, Amason, Pandora, Wikipedia. All good examples of advanced content, community capabilities, interactivity, and interoperability. “One thing about Flickr is that you never run into a dead end – there’s always something to look at or do.”

The $64 question is “Where are the next gen catalog enhancements?” How do they fall into these four categories? Cindi made up her own scoring system just to examine the question.

  • Encore: 10 out of 32
  • LibraryFind: 12 out of 32
  • Scriblio: 14 out of 32
  • WorldCat Local: 16 out of 32

Compare to

  • Amazon, 26 out of 32
  • Flickr, 26 out of 32
  • Pandora, 20 out of 32
  • Wikipedia, 21 out of 32

Clearly, we still have a long way to go. But! When you think about what a legacy OPAC looks like to the average user… They see “blah blah blah blah”. They recognize a keyword search, a search box, help screens (though they don’t care what they are) and Boolean might as well be Russian. So, isn’t 10 out of 32 better than the 2 out of 32 that Voyager gets if we use the same rubric?

John Blyberg

The System Redressed: Containers vs Content

Blyberg is a Big Thoughts guy, challenging us all to think more before we do, and to think not just about what to do, but how we do it. Here are a few snippets.

“When we talk about opacs, we tend to fetishize them. The WowPAC does not exist. The fact that we cannot put together a quality opac is not because we can’t do that, it’s more systemic. It lies in what we put behind the opac.”

“We’ve moved so far from a willingness to tear down and rebuild the system” that we’ve doomed ourselves to living with what we have. This manifests itself in our relationships with vendors, in our bureaucracies, and in our “jaundiced opacs”, and it’s our users who suffer from all of that.

Consider: the OPAC is a reflection of the health of the system. But we’re containing it in a pot that’s too small for its roots. It should be spilling out onto the rest of our web presence – be fully integrated into our other relevant library web venues, whatever and wherever they are.

“The title Systems Librarian should become irrelevant soon, because we all should be Systems Librarians” in that we all should have a holistic understanding of the library and its technology and its services and how it functions.

“In today’s information ecology there is no destination, the user is just there to experience information. Therefore the opac is an artificial destination that’s just in the user’s way.”

“It is possible for librarians not to be five or ten years behind the crest of the wave – we have all the tools to be better.” The transportation industry has the best cataloging system ever – when Blyberg’s son opens a container intended to contain Thomas the Tank, he has confident it won’t be ginzu knives instead. And they succeed at this, in a huge scale, because they have made it an enterprise goal to do so. Why haven’t we done the same? Blyberg suggests that in libraries, you have to invite “The little succubus called a committee” along, but in industry, there’s a CIO who makes decisions… and they get things done.

“The 21st century library remains largely undesigned, and as we move forward, we’ll see it take shape.” What will it be, though, we wonder communally…

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