The Future of the OPAC or The Decline and Fall of the OPAC or Why Your OPAC Sucks
Fall From Grace • 1980’s: Top of the World, Ma! 80% favorable rating for OPAC* • Today, when college students start information search 89% Search Engine (62% Google) 2% Library website** • At FIU BBC Library 2005-2007 3-5% of reference computers in use display OPAC or library database *Karen Markey. The Online Catalog: Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained?, D-Lib Magazine, J/F 2007 **OCLC. Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. 2005
Why Your OPAC Sucks • Difficult to use • Irrelevancy • Access and delivery • Information all over the place • Solitary experience • Thoroughly unpleasant to use
Difficult to use • Complicated • Not intuitive • Not consistent with user needs or behaviors • http://youtube.com/watch?v=tKvR0OC4nYc
Irrelevancy • Results not ranked by relevance • Catalog works if you know what you want: Author, Title Subject Heading (hah!) • Keyword searching tacked on • OPAC a bastardized inventory tool
Information all over the place • Catalog, library databases a false dichotomy • Users expect all-in-one • FIU 350 databases / 50 interfaces • Over 85% of Users prefer a metasearch (federated) • Over 60% of librarians think a federated search is not a proper starting point* *LITA National Forum. Adventures in Federated Metasearch Technology, 2005
Access and (Non-) Delivery • Tied to print • Not one-stop shopping • Not like the web • Not what users expect • Chasm between searching and getting Please, Sir, I want some more full-text articles.
Solitary experience • Web 2.0:the Internet gets social Interactive Collaborative Content creation User plays active role • But not the OPAC No interaction User alone Take what you get User passive Unless he’s on the OPAC…
Thoroughly unpleasant to use • Jargon filled • Merciless (spelling) • Do it our way • OPAC as librarian cliché Authoritative Unfriendly Unapproachable No talking, laughing, or fun allowed
How it Happened • Librarians were adapting to one paradigm shift; got blindsided by another Just getting automation down, when the WWW arrived • Nature of information changed creation access organization
How information changed Scarce; expensive to gather Large repositories Institutionally oriented Mainly print Location (Catalogs, indexes) Abundant and cheap Access anywhere, anytime Personally oriented Multimedia Discovery (Google, Amazon) Industrial Age, 1833-1992 Information Age, 1993-
1.0 Catalog in a 2.0 World • Essentially an inventory tool • Designed to locate known items • Finds things in a given, local location • Separate databases for articles, books • Steep learning curve • Obsolete, eventually disregarded and forgotten by users
Tech services: Business as usual • MARC 1960’s technology • Hierarchy of knowledge Not understood Not used • Descriptive, local cataloging Slow Expensive Underutilized Not sustainable No, no, meeting names go in the 711 field!
Reference: Fix the User • Web meant people could find information on their own • Gave up on OPAC as complicated • Reference Librarians had a choice Fix the OPAC, or Teach people to use it (Information Literacy) • We guessed wrong • Turns out they don’t need it, and don’t want to bother • The user isn’t broke; we are Boolaboola, boolaboola, boolaboola, Boolean!
So, what to do? • Ironically, users told us what they wanted in the 1980’s Simpler subject searching Spell checking Relevance ranking Add searchable content (articles, tables of contents, etc) Make classification system easier to use
OPAC of the near future • 2-3 years • Radical changes for OPAC 1. Easy to use 2. Interactive & fun 3. One Stop Shopping
Easy to use as Amazon • If it isn’t, you have a problem • Single, ubiquitous search box • Spell checking • Relevancy ranking • Faceting • Simple, clear, no classes needed
Relevance Out of 911 hits for rich people, Relevant results are at the top Welcome to Post-Boolean searching!
Interactive and fun • Library 2.0 • Tags • Reviews • Readers also liked… • Embedded ask-a-librarian • Forums • Book covers • RSS feeds • Texting call numbers • Things you can’t imagine, but your users can
Tags Danbury Public Library, with tags from Librarything.com
Reviews Pierce County Library System, using Polaris
Readers also liked… Part of Amazon’s sophisticated Reader’s Advisory
Interactive and fun (cont.) • Tapping enormous pool of talent and goodwill • Catalog as a social animal • It’s how the Web works Decentralized Collaborative Best example of pure, political anarchy • If a website isn’t easy and fun, we go to another one
One stop shopping • Integration of article databases with catalog • Users see no distinctions between catalog, article databases, and websites • Neither should we • One simple interface for everything • Maybe can’t get all databases in catalog, but must get some with full-text
Articles and Books Together! Ex Libris’ Primo, Vanderbilt University The OPAC can have full-text articles!
In the year, 2525… • if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find… • The library is not the center of the information universe • The user is! Geocentric/ Aristotelian view: The local catalog is the sun Heliocentric/ Copernican view: The local catalog is a planet (Karen Calhoun, Being a Librarian 2006)
OPAC of the Far Future (2013?) • OPAC a staff tool for local holdings- again • Users get to library from discovery tools like Google, Amazon, WorldCat • Library pushes metadata outward into those tools • Libraries focus on local, unique content
Search globally, get it locally Search in WorldCat Where it is
Future of the OPAC “Within the next five years, a large number of libraries will no longer have local OPACS. Instead, we will have entered a new age of data consolidation (either shared catalogs or catalogs that are integrated into discovery tools), both of our catalogs and our collections. The ERM system and the ILS will be one and discovery will be outsourced.” Taiga Forum Provocative Statements March 10, 2006
Finally, Don’t Panic • The formats of today will soon be obsolete • ‘You are not a format. You are a service”.* • Librarians have skills, training and minds peculiarly fitted to the Information Age • Enjoy the change! Robotic Librarians? Probably not. For awhile, anyway. *The User is Not Broken, K. G. Schneider, 2006