Next Generation OPACs

Presenters: Bryan Loar, Resource Librarian, Fitch, bryan.loar@fitch.com and Megan Macken, Assistant Director, Visual Resources Collection, Department of Art History, University of Chicago, mmacken@uchicago.edu

Description: OPAC creators are embracing Web 2.0 technologies that foster decentralized, social interactions among academic and public library patrons, catalogers, and reference librarians. This virtual poster session will provide a closer look at emerging Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) technologies, highlighting those most beneficial to art library patrons. Rating, reviewing, and tagging catalog items are just a few of the interactive options available. The visual aspects of these innovations–graphical interfaces, visually stimulating content, and the like–have exciting implications. Art Librarians are in a unique position to affect the development of these tools for the visual thinkers and learners they serve. In this session, interviews, reviews and previews will expose art information professionals to the latest OPAC technologies to improve access, delivery, and instruction at their institutions.

Introduction

Online public access catalogs (OPACs) were created as a natural extension of the card catalog. Based on the premise that a catalog’s records are surrogates for physical materials owned by the library, OPACs have served to point patrons to the library’s shelves. The advantage of the OPAC over the card catalogue has been that access is no longer warranted by physicality and cataloging descriptions can be made more robust.

However, the majority of librarians and library vendors have been slow to create user-centric search mechanisms. Most OPACs give a wide array of search options without taking into consideration our current patrons’ preference of keyword searching. Most OPACs are constrained by only referencing the library’s collection while not being able to retrieve information through a wide variety of sources. Query results can be organized a number of ways, but most OPACs do not assist the patron in selection. In an atmosphere of sharing assisted by social media, most OPACs do not provide the means to easily share results. As a consequence to these factors as well as others, patrons have migrated to solutions that take into account their preferences and behaviors.

Librarians and library vendors are now scrambling to create solutions that will recapture the patrons’ hearts and minds. This virtual poster will examine popular features that encompass next generation OPACs, submit commentary on why next-gen OPACs matter to art librarians, and provide an extensive bibliography on the subject.

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