Catalogs Smatalogs ...

Think the online library catalog could use some improvement? Well you're not alone. There's been quite a lot of bashing discussion traveling around in blogosphere about the state of library catalogs, especially lately. If you haven't been following the conversation, John Blyberg posts a good recap here.

From my point of view, when you read through at all the arguments it seems like everybody makes a good point. Our catalogs are lacking, our resources are limited, we do need more access to API and the database, etc. However, having recently lead a system-wide ILS migration I can also understand the vendor side of things too -- As libraries, we continuously ask demand that our ILS systems be built around our own individual library specialized processes rather then ask ourselves how we might be able to build our processes around a better system that allows our users (and us) greater flexibility.

It's hard to change people's habits (especially when they are in the drivers seat demanding that odd collection code for that obscure 90 day material type status be included in the new system, etc), let alone reverse 20 years of ingrained processes. But in looking at the state our catalogs, I think we should also take a look at many of our circulation and collection procedure oddities that also effect how things appear in our catalog. It's not just all our vendors fault that our catalogs are confusing, it's our fault too!

So... while we may ask more of our vendors in the way of opening up our ILS systems to do more (BTW: I'm 100% for this, I REALLY AM), I think we need to also understand that is becomes our responsibility (not the vendors) -- and that means hiring qualified programmers and developers on our staffs, not just "technie librarians" -- to ensure that it does.

PS: BTW, this mockup If Amazon sucked, like our old OPAC is hilarious -- but I think the copyright line at the bottom is inaccurate. The responsibility should be shared.


Nicole Engard said...

You are right - it is in part our responsibility and our fault for that matter. And you're right that it's hard to get people to change their silly ways after 20 odd years. So maybe what we need to do is address our library policies and procedures, and keep pushing for a modular ILS. Something that will let us plug in only the bits we need and leave the rest out. Then one library doesn't have to suffer because another wants to do things in an odd way. Just my 2 cents.

Jennifer said...

Helene, your take on the way we have influenced ILS development is very true. More of my response . . . - Jennifer