I recently had the opportunity to explain the difference between publication dates and coverage dates in the catalog to someone who mistook the former for the latter. It made me think about how the catalog’s information is presented to users and how it can be improved.
There are many possibilities for displaying catalog information, and there are always improvements that can be made to catalogs. Currently, our search results display very little holdings information for serials, and no coverage information. There are often multiple locations for a single record (e.g. current periodicals, microfilm, offsite storage, etc.) which causes a Title has multiple holdings message instead of listing the locations. Our e-resources’ coverage is listed in the bib record instead of the item record, where it appears for the print/microfilm versions (we have a separate record for e-resources).
In both cases, patrons have to select a record (often from several options) to view the holdings. It would be great to include the holdings dates (if not the URL, too) in this initial “menu” of search results, allowing patrons to compare resources side-by-side. It would bring an element of our A-to-Z list to the catalog. With periodicals especially, patrons are often more interested in what access the library has than how long the journal has been in publication. Still, the converse is true, and sometimes patrons need to see that there’s more available than in the library’s holdings (here’s a great place to link to WorldCat). Why not include both? I’m already daydreaming about a new interface design…
Update 6/28/07: Here’s the design I’m thinking about.