Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2007-03-27

I'm Sorry, OPAC

I came to the stunning realization that I may not hate the OPAC after all.

I read Peter's post at Library Garden about the OPAC, and saw my response was more about the content of the OPAC, not the OPAC itself. And then I saw this OPAC Survey that asked questions about what your OPAC has and doesn't have, what you would want in an OPAC and not want.

And I realized... I may not hate the OPAC after all. That my issues are with the content of the records in the OPAC.

It's like this: imagine if I kept saying "I hate TV" and was thinking about game shows or other programs, and all the "I hate TV" posts were about high definition TV, better clickers, TiVo, and new ways to adjust the volume so that the background music isn't louder than the dialogue.

In other words -- all the solutions were about the actual television set. When what I'd really been saying is "these shows that are on TV, they aren't good, they could be better." And the question is more about the quality of the TV shows being shown. A new clicker doesn't change that the TV shows are the same old, same old.

So that's what I want: not a better techie OPAC (tho dude, that would be cool!) but better content in existing OPACs.

Better cataloging; more terms being used that are user friendly; more information about items (how sad is a book whose record is solely "women--fiction"). I realized that the OPACs I like are the ones that via tagging and comments allow users (staff and patrons) to work around existing cataloging. Seriously, why should we wait for users to tag entries "manga" instead of "graphic novels -- Japanese"?

And I'm not saying getting rid of Dewey or LOC; in part because I think a core group of defined words and subjects is important. If anything, I'm saying we should have more catalogers, and catalogers who know how patrons think. But these can be used better than they are being used now; and can be combined with more customer-friendly tags and full descriptions of text. The content of the record should be such that when an average user puts in a search, they find what they are looking for because the item has been catalogued (and tagged etc.). In other words, they find what they want because the content is there to be found.

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