Tuesday, November 2, 2010

RE: Brief records: does the information really help patrons?

Posting to Autocat

On Fri, 29 Oct 2010 09:31:16 -0400, Williams, Ann wrote:
>The one catch with all this is that people will not be using computers 10 years from now to search our catalogs. Maybe they'll use large screen TVs (Google TV?) at times, maybe they'll use smart phones or notebooks. They may have their car run the search for them! We'll need to develop 2 levels of display for our OPACs: one for large devices, one for mobile. Spelling out abbreviations with RDA, while theoretically a good idea, won't be very relevent in a mobile device future. Listing multiple authors beyond 3 also won't be very good for display purposes for a mobile device.
Everything you say here is very true, and deals with some issues I have preferred to avoid. Of course, I realize that avoidance is not an answer! I also know that many of the students here access our materials with their cell phones (in Italy, *everybody* has at least one!), and I have also seen how awful my catalog looks on a cellphone. I have not found the strength to change it yet however....

In response to John Myers, he is right that a heading may help find a specific record, even though that heading shows only in the long display and the user will never see it, but my point is that while you may find this record and a few more, you do not see the real power of the catalog with the multiple headings and subheadings, plus all of the syndetic structures. This is what makes catalogs *potentially* as powerful as Google, but they don't see any of it because it is relegated to a brief display. As a result, records appear "magically" just as they do in Google, but the results in the catalog will necessarily be inferior to Google's because we are not searching full text. I think this explains why people tend to search library catalogs like they do Google, and the results cannot be as good.

It is my experience that when people see how a catalog works, and gain just a bit of understanding as to how it is different from Google and full-text, they actually like it. It is so difficult to make a catalog work correctly however, that it remains outside the scope of most of our patrons. And that is a pity for everyone.

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