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5 Thoughts about the Applecart: #4 – Discovery Tools

June 16, 2010 1 comment

[For previous posts in this series, go here, here, and here.]

Frustrated.

That about sums it up. I look at the discovery tools we provide our library users to explore the resources available to them, and I can’t help but think: We can do better. Yes, I am thinking primarily about our library catalog, but, really, anywhere that we offer a search box.

Thought #4: What do we have to do to make our discovery tools more robust and attractive to users?

In sharing thoughts related to my library that have weighed heavy on my mind over the past school year, this has been the most persistent theme. Understand that I am extremely thankful that we even have tools to search and sort through the various collections of resources. I mean, imagine life without them. Good luck finding that one needle in the proverbial haystack that is the library’s book collection without a catalog. My frustration lies in the experience that users have during the discovery process with these tools. I sometimes find myself–a librarian, mind you–drifting over to Google Books or Amazon to learn more about a book before going back to the library catalog to get the call number. The typical library user doesn’t want to bounce around like this. Honestly, neither do I.

Yes, the library community and vendors have made significant strides in the enhancement of discovery interfaces. Commercial and open source solutions have surfaced in the form things such as “bolt on” library catalog discovery layers and federated searching products. Talented people are working hard to transform library discovery tools into things with features and functionality that draw users to other online discovery tools like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Walmart.com and keep them coming back. I just wish we didn’t have to work so hard to find creative ways of “bolting” features on the basic search tool.

The discovery tools for my applecart need some serious attention. Perhaps there are other libraries out there that find themselves currently grappling with the same issue. You are not alone. Let’s tackle this issue and find ways to develop more robust, interactive, and attractive discovery experiences for our users. I don’t want my library users to simply tolerate having to use our library catalog. I want them to be drawn to it because of its ease of use and rich content–because they enjoy using it.

To our library users: Know that this issue is on our radar. In fact, we would love to hear any feedback that you have to offer. What features would you like to see in our library catalog?

Pic credit: kiwa25 (via stock.xchng)

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Web 2.what?

March 9, 2010 Comments off

A friend from the library world brought to my attention the following YouTube video that is making the rounds. For people who have grown up surrounded by digital technology, there really is no concept of web 2.0.

This is also a great reminder to anyone trying to communicate with the uninitiated. Buzzwords, jargon, etc. — while they can be useful when communicating within inner circles — often carry very little (if any) meaning for the masses.

Now I want to try this on my campus and see the responses.

What about you — digital native or not — how would you respond if you were in the video with these students and were asked, “What is Web 2.0?”

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