Facet-nating Catalogs!

Okay, that title stinks. But one of the standout seminars at this year’s American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting was “Bringing the Library to the User – The Practice”. What a way to kick off a meeting! The focus of the three presenters – Casey Bisson, David Lindahl, and Emily Lynema – was on improving the search using existing catalogs, and adding on layers that enable faceted search.

For anyone who was struggled with an online catalog, and especially for those who have used the staff side, this was like the sun coming out from behind clouds! Two words: faceted search. You know the data’s in the catalog but the rather klunky OPAC interfaces developed by vendors seem to inhibit finding it! And rather than fixing the interface, you can usually search for a particular catalog vendor’s product (like this Google search for Voyager or Dynix/Horizon ILS) and the interface, regardless of the institution, looks the same.

The open source ILS like Koha allow for more flexibility. But I was really impressed with what the University of Rochester libraries are doing with a ColdFusion overlay to their Voyager catalog. You can test drive the Voyager interface and the C4 interface. The latter has simplified the initial search and added a lot of control at the first results page. David Lindahl’s presentation materials are a bit spare compared to what he covered live.

Emily Lynema’s presentation covered the use of Endeca to enhance the search at the North Carolina State University library. As with Rochester, the real power of the faceted search can be seen on the admittedly busy results page. You can learn more about the Endeca Project at NCSU.