ACAT Subjects in the OPAC: Doing it better

Posting to Autocat

On 2/3/2015 8:25 PM, Tim Spalding wrote:

If you had all powers, how would OPACs and other discovery systems present subject headings for display and search?

Good to have you back, Tim.

I still maintain that the major problems that people have with our catalogs are not so much with our individual records, but rather that the way our catalogs search and display our records are outmoded. So, we can change our cataloging rules however we want, our formats and so on, but people will still not use our catalogs (or use them only unwillingly) until we improve the displays for the public. When our displays improve, then we can decide how our individual records need to change but until then, nothing of substance will change for those who matter: our users.

There are a couple of issues with subjects as others have mentioned. First, there is the matter of providing access to the series of Narrower/Broader/Related terms that are now practically hidden to modern searchers.

The other part is letting people know the ways subjects are divided into smaller parts i.e. the subdivisions. I think both those methods could be incredibly useful but all are hidden from users, for all practical purposes.

I have given some papers and even done some podcasts on new attempts to display our records in the catalog. Below are some for subjects:

Some postings where I discuss the traditional methods and why they do not work today. Here, I use a real-world example that happened to one of my users, when finding a record by keyword with subject “Fascism Italy Bologna” was found, but that people will never find the related terms for “Fascism” which may be exactly what they want.

I also discuss this in one of my podcasts where I go into some detail how the traditional methods worked and–believe it or not–how they were rather powerful when done correctly, but why translating all of this into the web/keyword environment did not succeed, and why it cannot succeed in today’s environment. Plus, I give some suggestions for improvement. where I discuss some of the problems of alphabetical arrangement. I give an example of a wordcloud for the subject subdivisions for Edgar Allen Poe

Another problem I discuss in a posting about another real-world search “battles wwii” and how the subject structures of the catalog should help people tremendously, but they do not.