Focus on the catalog

Rush University has added a lot of information to their A-to-Z list, including print holdings and publisher information. A colleague showed this to my boss, who just shared it with me:

Their view of the A-to-Z list

Compare that to ours:
Our view of the A-to-Z list

Rush’s list gives patrons a complete picture of their serials holdings. The level of detail is great, too. (I wonder if the field that generates the “click publisher’s name for access” message could be customized for each title: for instance, to instruct patrons on how to access articles from sites that don’t offer automatic IP recognition.)

While this is very cool and very useful, I don’t know if it’s the best use of our time to do the same. Instead of making the A-to-Z list look like the catalog, we should focus on making the catalog better.

I’m starting to think that we should direct patrons to the catalog and leave the A-to-Z list behind. (Not total abandonment: it’s useful for patrons who know what they’re looking for, so we should keep it as an option for patrons to personalize the way they use the library website.) Patrons are looking for information, not formats; we should address their information needs first and then show them the format options.

I’ve mashed together everything I like about the A-to-Z list and the catalog. This is my idea of what an excellent OPAC search would look like:

A great OPAC would look like this … only bigger: click it!

I like how it displays the source and coverage up front. When there are multiple results (we have separate records for the electronic titles), patrons can compare their results at the search level:

A better way to compare OPAC search results

I crossed out the current display. Location? Call number? Status? Unnecessary for e-resources. The coverage is what’s important. That’s true for print, too. Pull the useful information to the top and we’ve made the catalog more user-friendly.


4 Responses to “Focus on the catalog”

  1. wsalesky Says:

    Toni, I think this design makes a lot more sense then what we have now. I’m embarrassed to admit how hard it is for me to find articles at UVM (and I’m a librarian, although, apparently not a very savvy one!). I hope this can be made a part of the website redesign discussion.

  2. Daisy Says:

    Toni, I totally agree that seeing the holdings on the list of results in Voyager would be great. I wonder if it would support a display like that. Patrons are always really confused by things like seeing the dates of publication for a journal displayed (on the far right) but not our actual holdings. Having separate records for print and electronic holdings has also made this a bit more confusing.

    As you noted in an earlier post there are many things that could be done to improve the OPAC (better error messages for example), better labeling (I saw one yesterday that labeled the MARC View as Staff View).

    Improving the OPAC doesn’t have to be part of the web redesign, it could in fact be a separate or parallel process. There’s an upgrade of Voyager coming soon and maybe the timing is right to visit some of these issues.

  3. Pamela Says:

    Toni, I really like the idea of combing the best of the A-Z list with the catalog list. I hate having to direct people to one place for one format and to another place for another format. Is your A-Z plugin doable with Voyager or is it just a wish for what you’d like to see Voyager be able to do?

  4. Toni Says:

    Hi Pamela,

    I’m pretty sure that this particular idea still only lives in my imagination, but I’ve learned of a couple solutions since I wrote about this.

    Kelly Smith from EKU (who I was happy to finally meet at ER&L) told me that they use “a script created by TAMU that lets Voyager dynamically search [their] SFX database each time a record is opened. It doesn’t even use the 856 field.” However, they’re going to implement Encore and the two don’t yet work together.

    Try it out: go to their website (, select “Find Books”, and search for the journal title Education & treatment of children. You’ll get two results. Click the first list and you’ll see the script. It searches their e-journal list and makes a link if there’s access. If you select the second result (the title ending in [electronic resource]), you’ll see the plain old 856 field with e-access information.

    Pretty cool solution! The other thing I learned was that EBSCO could provide us with MARC records for our e-resources that link to the A-to-Z list. That way, they’ll always be updated. It’s a similar idea to the script Kelly’s library uses.

    See you next week at VLC?

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