Recent Events

Next Gen Library Interfaces

Marshall Breeding shared his vision of where we’re moving in providing access to library collections. He hates the word OPAC or even library catalog. He prefers to call it a library interface—and it should let users discover and then access ALL content of a library. He urged us to get out of the mode of forcing people to start searching at a specific place based on format. He’s not just satisfied with providing the functionality of our current ILSs or federated search. He has an expansive vision of a consolidated, multi-layered approach.

The “ideal scope” for the next generation library interface encompasses the following:
• Represents a unified user experience—a single point of entry into all content and services offered by the library (with the option of advanced search features)
• Print and electronic resources
• Local and remote
• Locally created content
• User-contributed content

I loved the list of features and functions he enumerated:
• Relevancy ranked results (users expect the good stuff first)
• Facets for narrowing and navigating (faceted navigation with drilldown)
• Query enhancement (“Did you mean?,” spell check, etc.)
• Suggested related results (More like this)
• Navigation “bread crumbs”
• Single sign-on and personalization options

Basically he wants the system to be so easy that users can focus on the content rather than the process. And, you never want to leave the users at a dead end. And he stressed that our systems must go beyond discovery to fulfillment. The process should be Search–>Select–>View. I guess it’s fitting that Marshall’s title at Vanderbilt is Director, Innovative Technology & Research. The ballroom was packed to overflowing for his presentation. I hope many of the library system vendors were there taking notes.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, ITI


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