IMPROVING OPAC USAGE
I recently attended a presentation on OPAC usage by patrons and library staff and what each group would like to see in an online library catalog. One of the speakers, Karen Calhoun from OCLC, summarized results of a survey of both patrons and library staff regarding what mattered most in an online catalog. You can read the full report online at the OCLC website.
According to the survey, patrons want more searchable information in OPACs. They want more tables of contents, detailed summaries, cover graphics, tags, ratings, greater linking functionality to Internet resources within bibliographic records, reviews and other information normally not included in a traditional catalog record presentation. They want access to be quick and easy and want holdings status to be available within the record. They prefer an easier keyword search over subject headings, but they do want an advanced search option providing faceted or refined search options.
Librarians also want more but come from a different angle, honing in on correcting typos, the need for more hierarchical subject headings, the elimination of duplicate records, expanding information within short bibliographic records and including tables of contents.
In a time of shrinking budgets and increasing information resources, the value of an OPAC weighed against cost and use can come under close scrutiny. The inclusion of more in-depth bibliographic information entered into the catalog in a timely manner with a search interface winnowing out less pertinent hits in the find display can greatly improve the “find” quality of an OPAC.
The use of vendors in providing cover graphics and tables of contents in bibliographic records was mentioned in the presentation, as was the expense in providing these added features. Another important issue was cataloging staff time spent on maintaining the catalog to the degree that they have in past years—for example, extensive support of AACR2 rules and standards changes or time spent on reviewing catalog copy records received en masse from vendors.
Calhoun emphasized the need to devote more time and effort into expediting the entry of current, pertinent bibliographic records into the catalog. She also encouraged those present to concentrate on adding detailed access within online catalogs (as well as other access tools) to material that is specific to your community and collection. If your library has an extensive local history collection, spend more time expanding access to that collection within your OPAC and/or via a web listing, index or search engine.
Calhoun made three important points at the end of her presentation for library staff regarding OPAC cataloging records:
—Let go of the small stuff (and figure out first what the small stuff is)
—Let go of the “perfect record” for the greater good of up-to-date, good (but not perfect) records
—REMEMBER that “fast and convenient availability” is important!
Cataloging and Kansas Documents Librarian