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Social Media Enhances Next-Gen Catalogs–SOPACs

Track B on Tuesday was all about next-gen library catalogs. The morning explored the steps to a social library—moving from OPAC to SOPAC. Phil Green, CTO of Inmagic, Inc. set the stage for the day by clearly defining what a SOPAC is and what it tries to achieve. There are 2 sides of a SOPAC – It’s where “top-down” vetted content is enhanced by “bottom-up” social information from the community. People can search, rate, comment, blog, and tag the content in a social library OPAC. The goal is to help people find quality information in the OPAC and use it productively.

Green says that Amazon is a very good example of a SOPAC – it has both great vetted data (look inside, where to buy, prices, publishers notes, related media) and community data (reviews, ratings, discussions, what others bought). The key is to make the distinction clear so that people know exactly where each piece of data comes from. The content is integrated carefully but it’s easy to see what’s what.

Another example is OpenFields (www.openfields.org.uk/), a public food/farming site that uses Inmagic Presto. A SOPAC is not a library OPAC with a blog on the side – that doesn’t improve the content. The SOPAC is founded on collaboration and knowledge creation. It serves to enhance the user experience, break down information silos, and improve productivity.

Green says that estimates indicate that 80% of what a company knows is inside employees’ minds (thus only 20% is in repositories) – and in the next few years, how many of those folks will leave/retire – maybe 50%?… If you make the OPAC attractive, people will want to contribute.

He did say that moderation is very important in a SOPAC – it’s not just the Wild West type of free for all. You need to control how things are socialized – you control the social volume knob. Not everyone will contribute and that’s ok.

Then, Mark Patrick, managing librarian for the Revs Institute for Automotive Research, talked about the organization’s use of Inmagic Presto. “Our experience with Presto has been fantastic…Information discovery is synaptic (non-linear), digital, and social.”

John Blyberg of the Darien Library, discussed their implementation of SOPAC 2.1, the social OPAC that he wrote built on the Drupal content management system. “We wanted it to be open source and merge with our catalog.” The goal was to develop a cohesive online digital strategy for the library. Three libraries are currently running SOPAC and two more will be coming on soon.

Users conduct all activities through SOPAC – they never directly interact with the ILS itself. SOPAC is user-experience (UX) driven. It’s for end users, not librarians. It has to look good so it appeals to people. When a user tags an item, it becomes part of the index – their input literally changes the ability for others to find things. The staff also uses tagging feature. “Meet us on Main Street” is a weekly program that meets physically in the library and discusses books – this has now become a tag to highlight those items discussed.

Blyberg says it’s important to make a connection between the digital and physical library. They have screens posted in their physical Main Street area of the library. One LCD screen lists the titles that have just been returned. Another lists most popular fiction. These are drawn from pre-baked searches in the SOPAC.

“Drupal is a wonderful content management system – we’re very excited about the current version and the plans for the future.” Plans include Twitter integration—announce new reviews, updates, events, etc. They also want to listen to what people are tweeting and implement mobile versions for cell phones. Check out SOPAC 2.1 at http://thesocialopac.net

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.
Editor, NewsBreaks

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