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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Online Catalog

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 22, 2008

 

The majority of people using our library catalog are doing the searching from their home computer.

 

The days of people clustered around the oak card catalog drawers flipping through trays of card to find a book have passed.

 

Now, library users do their homework first, and come to the library to collect the results of their home computer work.

 

You can still use the online catalog in the library, and you can still communicate with a real person at the library desk; it's whatever works for your needs.

 

In the past three months, we have been surveying the users of the library catalog through an online survey posted on the catalog.

 

We were surprised that over 1,400 people answered the survey!

 

90 percent stated that their search was successful in finding the information or materials that they were searching.

 

There was a place for individual comments, and they were mostly positive.

 

There were a lot of great ideas to improve the online catalog.

 

Some of the requests were for more diversified ability to search, and separate searches into more categories.

 

Other suggestions were for additional searching features that already exist, but could be better highlighted.

 

These upgrades will be implemented shortly, by improving the language and layout of the online library catalog.

 

We are looking at 3rd party enhancement products that will improve the searching capabilities of the system.

 

The one specific request that appeared over and over was the need to separate items in the catalog by format.

 

People want to define their search by book, DVD, and book on CD.

 

That can be done now, except the separation by book format.

 

That seems odd, until you realize that books were the basic format of the library collection, and everything else was unique.

 

Library computer programmers began separating those "different" items, but let the basic book alone as the primary format of a library.

 

Basically, all searching on the Internet today is compared to a "Google search," or a check on "Amazon.com"

 

Mixed in with the process of library collection searching is the fact that today we look at the holdings of many libraries.

 

In days past, that old oak card catalog searched only the building in which you are standing.

 

Today, our system searches 73 libraries in one catalog with loaning contracts with all libraries in that system.

 

The future will bring linking of those systems for broader searching.