Been super busy lately. Superer and busier than usual even such that I haven’t found the time (ok, let me own this, haven’t made the time) to comment on some really amazing posts out in the blogosphere. Here’ s a sampling of what’s been blowing my mind lately, some old, some new. My intention is to write more fully on all of this soon. I’ve added these to a new “must read” section on the sidebar of the blog.
- Karen Schneider’s “The User is Not Broken”
The most significant help you can provide your users is to add value and meaning to the information experience, wherever it happens; defend their right to read; and then get out of the way.Your website is your ambassador to tomorrow’s taxpayers. They will meet the website long before they see your building, your physical resources, or your people.
- Darlene Fichter’s thoughts on “Radical Trust”
Radical trust is about trusting the community. We know that abuse can happen, but we trust (radically) that the community and participation will work. In the real world, we know that vandalism happens but we still put art and sculpture up in our parks. As an online community we come up with safeguards or mechanisms that help keep open contribution and participation working.
- Wandering Eyre’s “Why my OPAC Sucks”
3,11,15) It will not correct my bad spelling
8) If I do not type “U.S. News and World Reports” in exactly that fashion with the periods and spaces, my OPAC thinks we do not have this item
16) With all my practice and training, sometimes I can not find things I know we have, how can I expect my users to find anything?
- John Blyberg’s “ILS Customer Bill of Rights”
I envision a library Bill-of-Rights with four simple, but fundamental must-have’s from your ILS.
1) Open, read-only, direct access to the database.
2) A full-blown, W3C standards-based API to all read-write functions
3) The option to run the ILS on hardware of our choosing, on servers that we administer
4) High security standards
- Karen Schneider’s “How OPACS Suck Part 3: The Big Picture”
The fundamental problem with today’s library catalog is that it suffers from severe literalism. Even with a few bells and whistles, today’s OPAC is a doggedly faithful replica of the card catalog of yore. This isn’t a failure of any one vendor; by and large they’re delivering what librarians think they want. It’s a larger failure of vision.
- Karen Schneider’s “How OPACS Suck Part 2: The Checklist of Shame”
But think about your own catalog: are these features available? It may well be, as some users wrote me privately, that the OPAC (as separate software purchased by local libraries) is near death’s door. I think that’s very likely. But if so, anything else we use for a catalog—who’s betting on Open WorldCat?—will need good search functionality as well, or it too will suck, only more consistently and on a much larger scale. In the end, as uber-librarian and user champion Marvin Scilken told me many times, the bottom line is public service.
- Karen Schneider’s “How OPACS Suck Part 1: Relevance Rank (Or the Lack of It)”
The users who complain that your online catalog is hard to search aren’t stupid; they are simply pointing out the obvious. Relevance ranking is just one of many basic search-engine functionalities missing from online catalogs. NCSU worked around it by adding a search engine on top of its catalog database. But the interesting questions are: Why don’t online catalog vendors offer true search in the first place? and Why we don’t demand it? Save the time of the reader!
- Dan Russell’s “Getting People to Decide”
Here’s the bottom line: Be specific in your help and support. Be very clear. And get your users to decide to do something with your product. Don’t let it just lie there and go out of their attention—get your users engaged!
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