23:3 (2008:09) 23rd Conference (2008): Vision Session: Discovery and Delivery

August 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Conference Reports, Vision Sessions | Leave a comment

VISION SESSION

Discovery and Delivery: Making it Work for Users
Carol Pitts Diedrichs, University of Kentucky
Reported by Karen Buntin

Carol Pitts Diedrichs presented a broad survey of library and commercial websites, contrasting the tools and features found on each. She examined user expectations; where libraries have been in terms of discovery and delivery; where libraries are now; and how we are transitioning to the interfaces our users have come to expect.

Exceptional service, convenient tools, and user recommendations and feedback characterize user expectations today. Diedrichs cited examples such as: the call-back feature for customers with problems on Amazon.com; real time chat on Woolrich.com; the author tracker feature on the Harper Collins website; restaurant recommendations on Epinions.com; and, of course, simple and responsive search engines like Google. In contrast, users find library resources hard to use. As much as we would like to teach them how to use those resources, they do not necessarily want to be taught those things. The challenge is to bring the popular features of commercial sites into library catalogs and services.

What characterizes discovery of library resources? Our information is stored in silos by format; our tools focus on tangible, purchased resources; and we force users to come to us. In addition, there are different layers for discovery of library resources—local, as in the case of a university library website; statewide or regional, such as OhioLINK; and national, as with WorldCat.

Carol Pitts Diedrichs

Carol Pitts Diedrichs

New options for improved discovery in legacy ILS systems characterize where we are now. ILS vendors have developed products to facilitate discovery—examples include Encore from III, Primo from Ex Libris, and VuFind, an open source option. WorldCat Local can work on top of a local catalog, but pulls largely from holdings in WorldCat. These tools can retrieve both book and journal content, addressing the silo problem, and provide that richness of content seen on commercial sites—faceted search, relevance ranking, jacket covers, tables of contents, tag clouds, and “Did you mean…?” functionality.

Where are libraries going? Library users will bypass the library website, and libraries are going to be forced to take their content to them. Efforts toward this end include: the “Find this Book in a Library” feature in Google Book Search; access to local link resolvers in Google Scholar; and linking to library content from Wikipedia. In an example of leveraging user participation in a way that really enhances description, the Library of Congress put a number of images on Flickr, and some of the user comments were later added to the source catalog.

Discovery happens everywhere, and libraries need to focus not only on discovery, but on how to give users what they need wherever they are. Diedrichs stressed the need to be a little more creative than libraries have been about what their responsibilities are and how they can serve users. Libraries need to take risks, experiment with things, try new interfaces until the next thing comes along, and really make a difference for their users.

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