Category Archives: Discovery tool platforms

Where are the kids’ catalogues?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about kids’ catalogues and how children access our collections. While many of us will point out that the primary users of our kids’ catalogues are parents or teachers looking for books and resources for their children and/or classrooms, we cannot forget that there are a number of children who are just starting to read or are beginnimg readers that use our library catalogues and borrow from our collections.

Unlike in the past, our youngest patrons are on computers all of the time and wow, a lot of them know how to use computers better than we do! But, are their information needs and ability to process all of the text on our next generation catalogues or even existing catalogues, sufficient? Are we serving these children? What about parents and teachers?

One of the unique features I have always found in kids’ catalogues is the dependency on visual cues; icons. Rather than text based catalogues, these catalogues always tend to rely on colourful images, library mascots or some other larger text and clean interface that provides intuitive navigation based on the needs of children, rather than adults. Even parents and teachers could navigate effectively. For example, in systems such as SirsiDynix’s Horizon, the Kids Information Portal (KIP) only retrieves items in the J collections; this includes boardbooks, pictures books, J fiction, J films and television shows, etc. KIP (another library example) weeds out adult and ya collections. Rather than having to sort through or limit searches in an attempt to isolate juvenile collections, parents and children are presented with the content targeted and designed to suit their needs.

For new parents, icons represent pre-structured lists created by staff that may include highlighted boardbooks, family movies and children’s music. For kids, our kids’ catalogues focussed on holiday and seasonal lists that are timely and may relate to school projects. In the end, whatever their needs, the results retrieved could always be relied upon to exclude adult and ya materials.
Three years ago, I started looking at kids’ catalogues around North America to get an idea as to what designs were popular and to gather ideas as to what makes a good catalogue for kids. This was in an attempt to discover what types of catalogues (vendors) are being used, their design, how they can be improved and if they ever realized their potential. Today, I decided to examine some of the links I collected three years ago. To my surprise, many of the libraries that had designed innovative catalogues for children no longer support a kids’ catalogue. Instead, many have migrated to next generation catalogues such as Encore, BiblioCommons and AquaBrowser , abandoning the idea of a kids’ catalogue.

However, are these new catalogues sufficient for children and parents in providing them with access to juvenile collections? Can we point to faceted navigation and spell check as a replacement for larger images, more white space and simplified interfaces? What about the targeted retrieval of specific collections? We must acknowledge that as powerful as next generation catalogues are (and may be in the future), we cannot claim they replace the need for a children’s catalogue and that they are successfully filling the need that our kids’ catalogues do or rather, did.

Will the vendors of next generation catalogues start to implement features for children? Will we be provided with alternate interfaces for our youngest patrons?

Before we throw out our kids’ catalogues, we need to understand why we implemented them in the past and, with a growing computer savvy population of children, why we are doing away with them today. Do our new catalogues, which rely heavily on text and therefore serve our most literature users really respond to the needs of children and replace the need for a kids’ catalogue?



Filed under Access Issues, Discovery tool platforms, The Library Catalogue

Online AquaBrowser Tutorial

With the implementation of AquaBrowser at my library, I was charged with creating a tutorial for staff. Rather than the usual pdf or Word document, I wanted to create something dynamic which allows for continuous updating and editing, as AquaBrowser continues to develop and we find new ways to use AquaBrowser in our everyday core library services.

When I started writing this tutorial, I realized that there wasn’t a lot of available literature around to assist in developing this, and that while a lot of libraries may want to train their staff on AquaBrowser, or schools want to introduce their students to what social catalogues are, there were limited resources available to do so. As a result, I not only wanted to created this tutorial for staff here at my library, but for other professionals to adopt as they saw fit and for library schools, hoping to not only teach what features are common in next generation catalogues, but the many different ways you can implement its functions into services such as Readers’ Services, Youth Services and Promotions/Events. Hopefully this tutorial will spark lots of ideas for you, indicate some future directions these catalogues should be exploring and the possibilities for using social catalogues.

One of the key objectives was to show staff that AquaBrowser (which we have named “Discover“) is more than just an updated version of the classic catalogue. As a result, the different sections of the tutorial explore, albeit not too deeply, the many ways we can use social catalogues to assist and enhance core library services. It isn’t just about pointing out what features exist and where they are located, but how to implement the use and benefits of AquaBrowser into everyday library services – and perhaps, while doing this, to realize some shortcomings, some potential and inspire additional ideas and thoughts about how social catalogues will be used in the future.

Because this is an ongoing work and the tutorial will continue to change and be updated to reflect ongoing enhancements, versions or components, I welcome new ideas or additional thoughts on how these catalogues can be used – or are being used in your libraries.

In the meantime, please feel free to use this tutorial at your own libraries, or to create your own tutorial using this one as a guide. Rather than re-inventing the wheel and duplicating the same “how to use our new catalogue” tutorial, I’d rather see other professionals spend their time thinking about additional ways to use these catalogues and how they benefit library services.

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue

Presentation of interest focusing on Research and Next-Gen Catalogues

With Remembrance Day being a holiday on Thursday (here in Canada), I decided to take Friday off as well, giving myself a four day weekend, and an opportunity to work on finishing my first book (which has a deadline of December 15th!). While doing some additional searching on the internet and taking a look at the future directions next-generation catalogues might take, I ran across a presentation that I thought some of you might be interested in.

Some of you might have seen this already, especially if you attended ALA Annual this past summer and the session Cataloging and Beyond: Publishing for the Year of Cataloging Research. Amy Eklund gave a very good presentation on the shortage of research we have examining next generation catalogues, and areas that need to be explored.

Key points?

We should examine next generation catalogues because:
1. So far, a build it and they will come approach has been taken with these catalogues;
2. Discovery tool overlays, such as Encore and AquaBrowser, are not integrated with the catalogue, but sit on top, like an interface;
3. Next generation catalogue features are not based on large scale of evidence; and
4. Rich content contained in our bibliographic records is still not being used to its greatest potential.

I found Eklund’s presentation well-thought out and enjoyable. She hits on key areas of research that we need to explore and provides a few ideas as to specific concepts we should be examining.

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

We’ve implemented a next generation catalogue, now what?

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question on Twitter: Should next generation catalogues allow user to manipulate data within the catalogue or focus on great sharing and “breaking apart” of data for external use?

I received several responses. Some asked “why can’t they do both”? while another indicated that we should stop asking questions and “…move on. Times a wastin’” [sic] Yet another indicated that the term “catalog” might be the problem, given that the term is steeped in tradition and therefore hard to redefine.

The question was prompted a day after attending my last ALA session, You found it, now what? Extended services in next generation catalogues. Eric Lease Morgan, John Blyberg and Tim Spalding were the panelists for this presentation, attended by an (unfortunately) underwhelming crowd of about 20 (I’m rounding up). The number of attendees was disappointing because it is a valuable topic and an issue we need to address.

The session topic can actually be broken into two questions: What types of features and functions will next generation catalogues provide in the future? and What can we do with next generation catalogues after they’ve been implemented that goes beyond findability and discoverability?

Okay, we’ve implemented these *great* new catalogues and yet, now that they’re in place, we really don’t know what to do with them or where to go from here. While there are a small number of professionals exploring their potential beyond tagging, rating and reviewing, many professionals are accepting that they represent the new catalogue, but are nothing more than another “version” of the catalogue. Similar, in a way, to our first automated library catalogue – it’s a migration from the card catalogue, but it’s still the same ol’ thing.

In the literature that I’ve been reading, there’s talk of moving to next next generation catalogues. While we can all find humour in the amount of “nexts” we’ll use until we think the catalogue has mutated and transformed into something perfect, just when are we going to say enough!

Let’s say, for example, we stick with the name “next generation catalogue” and now, focus on the technology and uses of these new and ever-evolving catalogues. Because they are still relatively new and underdeveloped, we don’t need to move on to new names, such as next generation catalogues 3.0, 4.0 and so on. Let’s stick with one name and figure out what we have in our new catalogues and, not just from a cataloguing and technology perspective, but from a frontline staff (reference, readers’ advisory, programming and so on) perspective.

So, we’ve implemented a next generation catalogue, now what? So many libraries have implemented these catalogues and then…nothing. Staff are trained, a preliminary feedback survey may have been implemented to seek patron and staff opinion and that’s where it ends. However, exploration needs to go beyond this most basic and preliminary stage. How are staff using the catalogue? Has it made the reference department’s tasks easier because of federated searching and the ability to search multiple, additional external data sources (such as websites) all in one search? Are staff promoting the tagging and reviewing features to local book clubs? Are cataloguers looking at tags and their local usage by patrons? Has the library website been added as a data source so that library locations and hours, as well as programming, can be searched from within the catalogue in one search?

I suppose, rather than asking a question about whether a library catalogue should be “this or that”, we should be asking “if” a catalogue can do something, “how” it can do it and “why not try it”. Exploration of next generation catalogues and their true potential has not even begun to the extent that is needed to realize their potential.

While we can talk about adding extra features to the catalogue (which is good!), we also need to talk about existing uses of next generation catalogues and their features to enhance core library services, perhaps significantly altering staff workflow or procedures to create even better services, options and access to patrons – however they want to use our library catalogue – and by whatever name they choose to call it.


Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

ALA 2010: Eklund’s Slides for Research on Next Gen Catalogues

As with many of you who attended ALA (if you’re cataloguers) I, too, attended the “Cataloging and Beyond: the Year of Cataloging Research” session.

For those of you following me on Twitter, you might have seen my tweet observing the mass exodus of cataloguers when the last presentation – “Research on the Next Generation Catalog“, presented by Amy Eklund – began.

While I’d like to think half the room had another session to go to (and it was vital to leave this session early to get there), I’m wondering if many of the attendees left because they don’t believe next generation catalogues will impact their work, workflow or the future of cataloguing. Or, maybe they just have no interest in them. What a shame, because we need to study these new catalogues and their impact on cataloguing, as well as their impact on core library services and users/staff.

However, for those of you who are interested, Amy’s slides are now available, and I’d recommend taking a look. They address the shortcomings of research into next generation catalogues and the areas where further examination needs to occur.


Filed under Conferences, Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Implementing AquaBrowser

Back in May, I was invited to give a presentation on Halifax’s implementation of our social discovery tool, AquaBrowser. Here are my slides of that presentation.

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue