Wednesday, January 25, 2006

North Carolina State Catalog

Our SWAN Catalog in the southern and western suburbs of Chicago has had lots of problems lately. The most recent software release from Innovative Interfaces came with some serious bugs that had to be fixed with a series of patches. I was a bit surprised, as III has given us a pretty good system for a number of years, but it may be time to search for other alternatives, as SWAN seems old-fashioned and slow. At least, that's my reference librarian's perspective.

A lot of praise is being given to the new catalog at North Carolina State University ( I have played around with it and am impressed. I did a search for items by Wendell Berry, one of my favorite authors. Look at the "Browse by" area of the screen shot. (Click on the photo to get a bigger image.) All the books by this prolific author have been divided in to LC categories. I assume this could be changed for public libraries to Dewey groups. Even better is the side column, where Berry's books are divided into fiction, poetry, biography, and so forth.

I also tried a keyword search for "depression," a word that can have many meanings, to see the results. In the "Browse by" area were many discipline selections that could help the user narrow her focus. Along the side were recommended refinements to subjects "depression mental" and "economic conditions," as well as genre choices "biography," "fiction," and "popular works."

I like the look, but I am not sure how the average library user in the public library would react. Of course, the problem is there is no average library user. The web savey users would probably appreciate it. Our less computer literate users would bemoan more change. What's a librarian to do? Study and make wise changes. They won't please everyone.

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