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Here are some highlights from day two of the NISO conference.

Day two began with a talk by OhioLINK’s Assistant Director for New Service Development, Peter Murray on Discovery Tools and the OPAC. In describing next generation functions/features of online catalogs, Murray referenced Marshall Breeding‘s article on next generation library catalogs which appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Library Technology Reports. These next generation functions/features include:

  1. Suggested search modifications (ex. Google’s “Did you mean..?”)
  2. Faceted browsing—Post-search limiting possibilities on the screen for users. One can limit or broaden their initial search without having to start the search over from scratch.
  3. Persistent URLs/Permalinks—Wouldn’t it be nice if URLs lasted a long time to items in the catalog, even to searches.
  4. Syndication feeds (RSS)—What’s out there that is new about this search? Are there comments from others?
  5. User-supplied tagging—Users apply their own vocabulary so they can get back to an item later.
  6. User-supplied annotations—Comments, reviews, edits to underlying bibliographic record. Allows users to make changes in wiki-like fashion.
  7. Book covers—Makes catalog screen look pretty.
  8. Recommendation engines—”If you like this item…” “Users who checked out this item looked at these titles as well.”
  9. Social networking tools—Users want to reflect categorization and interests post URL to get back.

He then showed several libraries’ catalogs who are utilizing next generation OPAC tools (ex. AquaBrowser, Innovative’s Encore, Ex Libris’ Primo, WorldCat Local, Blacklight, fac-back-opac, Scriblio, VuFind).

Murray is also a blogger known as the Disruptive Library Technology Jester. The catalog examples that he used in his presentation utilizing next generation OPAC tools can be seen in an entry on his blog.

After his presentation, several people were concerned with how libraries would deal with spam or objectionable comments. In opening up our catalogs, libraries are opening themselves to possible negative consequences. This adds on the responsibility of policing our system but, there are tools for underlying blog technology systems such as Akismet and Big Brother which can be applied. Dinah Sanders, a Senior Product Manager with Encore, Innovative Interfaces, commented that libraries who utilize Encore, their patrons who wish to leave comments or ratings must login into their patron record; this eliminates much of the problem because the library knows who you are.

Dinah Sanders presented on Changing Patron Expectations and the Discovery Landscape. She spoke about iterative searching (i.e. berry picking model) in catalogs. Specifically, on how catalogs should be able to remove dead ends and provide alternative paths to the precise items to which a user is interested; people come to the library to find, not to search. By utilizing features such as relevance ranking, faceted searching, tags, and regional borrowing options, catalogs can take users from discovery to delivery plus. Users have high expectations, and they want libraries to provide the same level of search success without the resources of Google. They want rich content like Amazon, faceted browsing, Web 2.0 capabilities, and the ability for community participation. She felt that community tagging of library resources in catalogs will become popular with the academic community and take off. By libraries collecting tags in their catalogs, it in essence is capturing part of the dialogue of an academic community and demonstrates the knowledge and utilization of community users. We can enrich our collections by embracing community reviews and ratings as well. As an example she indicated that for a specific title that a faculty member has on reserve, the library could request him or her to contribute a brief explanation on why this work is critical to the discipline being studied. Because these reviews are not coming from strangers on Amazon, they may be more meaningful to the community.

Ms. Sanders also commented on her recent experience at SXSW Interactive, a web technology conference. SXSW is where one goes to find out what’s happening on the leading edge of technology; its focus is not just on the how, but the why. At this year’s conference, she said strong themes emerged that were indicative of change in libraries and standards. A few of them are listed below:

  1. We are all publishers—Roll over Gutenberg, tell McLuhan the news (the name of an actual presentation at this year’s SXSW conference according to Ms. Sanders).
  2. The social web—Work and play are done collaboratively. We build networks of trust.
  3. The back channel—”The web doesn’t shut up just because you have”—a quote from Jason Fried. There is a profound culture of mentorship people look to for information (ex. Meebo, Twitter, getsatisfaction.com). Traditional hierarchal authority is not trusted, and authenticity and time are playing roles where people are putting their trust.
  4. Cultivating emotional engagement—Tools should make me happy.
  5. Pace of change—Last Web 2.0 conference is nearing.

Michael Winkler, Director of Information Technologies & Digital Development at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the development of PennTags, a community tagging application. He spoke about educational applications being built around the masses; people are contributing, not just passively consuming. PennTags allow users to not only tag items in the online catalog but to annotate resources as well.

ResearchBlogging.org, another interesting discovery tool presented, began as a means to identify individual blogspots that are valuable sources of information to researchers in the social and hard sciences. It’s a way for bloggers to find and showcase their serious posts about peer-reviewed research. The categories of psychology and biology have the most posts. All users must create an account, and when posting to the blog they must create a formal citation either manually or enter a DOI about the research to which they are referencing.

I learned much at this conference, but the one thing that stands out most in my mind is that library catalogs can be so much more than what they are. If we want to be the first place of discovery for our users, then we need to build a better catalog utilizing the new tools that are available. In “Googlizing” and “Amazoning” our catalogs, standards will need to be developed for tagging and reviewing/rating resources (i.e. What does a 1 or a 5 mean on a 1-5 scale?). In conclusion, library catalogs can be a means to enrich an academic community’s dialogue and at the same time make discovery for our users less challenging and information delivery more rewarding.