Presentation on theme: "Perfuming a Skunk, or, There’s More than One Way to Skin an Online Catalog Nanette Donohue Champaign Public Library Internet Librarian 2006 October 23,"— Presentation transcript:
Perfuming a Skunk, or, There’s More than One Way to Skin an Online Catalog Nanette Donohue Champaign Public Library Internet Librarian 2006 October 23, 2006
First Step: User Survey We surveyed our users to determine the following: Which features on our web site were they currently using? What types of enhancements would they like to see? (We provided a list, plus an open-ended “other” option) What did they think of the current web site in terms of usability, and how could we improve?
Survey Results Most of our patrons reported that they use the online catalog when they visit the library’s web site. Many of them only use the online catalog when they visit the library’s web site. And guess what? They find our online catalog unattractive and difficult to use.
Second Step: Goal Setting Based on the feedback we received from the survey, we decided to set a few goals: Seamlessly integrate our online catalog into our web site, a la Hennepin County PLHennepin County PL Focus on ease of use Adopt features from online retail (spotlighted items, recommendation systems, etc.) to make the catalog more exciting
Third Step: Planning Study what other libraries have done to make their online catalogs more attractive and usable. What can we learn from them? What key features would we like to offer our users? Talk to the administrators of the catalog to see what can be done on our end without affecting other libraries’ use of the catalog Investigate third-party solutions (Aquabrowser, Endeca) that other libraries have integrated into their online catalogs. What are the benefits and drawbacks?Aquabrowser Endeca
Third Step: Planning As part of the planning process, we: Considered what we liked—and didn’t like—about libraries’ “improved” online catalogs Considered the opinions of public service staff throughout the library, since they are closest to the user’s perspective of the catalog Kept in touch with our consortium’s automation staff, because they are the ones who control things in the end Prioritized features into “must have” and “can wait for phase two” since we were under significant time constraints due to LSTA budget requirements
Third Step: Planning Finally, and most importantly--we dreamed big. This could be the best possible opportunity to make our online catalog as usable as possible. We didn’t want to dismiss any enhancements without making absolutely certain that they were NOT feasible.
Fourth Step: Implementation This is where things rapidly begin to go downhill. And fast.
Implementation: Roadblocks Upcoming (major) ILS upgrades Vendor unwilling to provide API Consortial concerns Time concerns
Online Catalog 2.0: Where do we go from here? What libraries can do: Hire programmers (or grow your own) Support vendors who are willing to release the API for their software and support third-party development of enhancements—or go open source!open source Insist on features that our “power users” want— because these are the features that the average user will want two years from now
Online Catalog 2.0: Where do we go from here? What ILS vendors can do: Anticipate users’ needs, and develop innovative products Look at what libraries are doing with your products. Implement some of their innovations as standard in the next version. Understand that no company can do it all and do it well. Releasing your API and opening your software up to third-party development is a good thing.
Online Catalog 2.0: Where do we go from here? What catalogers should do: Recognize that we are competing with Google, Amazon, etc.—but that a little competition is a good thing. It can save us from complacency and inspire us to modernize our practices. Try to understand that user tagging is not the end of controlled vocabularies. As long as one of the core purposes of a library catalog is to collocate items, we will need controlled vocabularies. Provide adequate subject access for all types of materials in all formats—regardless of whether you feel that the materials have “lasting value”
Online Catalog 2.0: Where do we go from here? One thing to remember: Until we change the way materials are cataloged, any enhancements to an online catalog are tantamount to spraying perfume on a skunk.