Library OPACs: Can Library 2.0 Services Like LibraryThing Make Them More Valuable in Today’s Information Environment?
Roy Tennant (2005) “After all, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still very much a pig.” Changes to OPACs are done to alter the look and feel in order to make it appear on the surface as more attractive or more user-friendly, but when you get down to it not much is being changed at all and the same animal that keeps getting dressed up is the same animal.
Yang (2010) • The OPAC has “remained static over the years and [has] not evolved in pace with the discovery and search tools now commonplace at commercial sites such as Amazon.” • “Most of them [OPACS] cannot and will never be able to provide advanced functionalities in order to meet current expectations” • A better method is to “…field new OPAC systems that run alongside the older ones”
overwhelming evidence according to Sauperl (2009) that “younger users turn to Google first when searching for information of any kind and for any purpose.”
Mercun (2008) • “Influenced by the surrounding technology, today’s library users have developed different information skills and needs than previous generations.” It may be not just that OPACs are unattractive and not as user-friendly as search engines, but also that along the way individuals have for the most part developed their information literacy skills without the influence of the OPAC. Users have come to expect certain results when they search and the OPAC is not meeting these pre-established notions and skill sets.
Novotny (2004) • Users essentially started to expect library catalogues to function like a search engine with similar features and as well as having analogous results
Calhoun (2006) • Since OPACs do not function like the online environment, they are not being utilized as much as a result even though they are often well-built and functional. In fact, even when a patron recognizes the value and functionality of library technologies, “they routinely bypass catalogues in favor of other discovery tools.”
Is Web 2.0 the Answer?!?! • Web 2.0 allows internet users the ability to interact with web pages and has made the web a “…place of collaboration and participation where users no longer only receive but also create and share content” (Mercun, 2008). It is Web 2.0 that gives us interactive sites like Facebook where user generated content is the norm.
LibraryThing.com • a good example of traditional cataloging working side by side with newer interactive modes of information retrieval. • a cross between an OPAC and a social networking site like Facebook
“contains records of over eight million books…offers avid collectors and casual readers alike a way to keep track of personal book collections easily and find and connect with others whose libraries are similar, as well as get recommendations for books to read based on a personal library or a single book” (Rethlefsen, 2007).
It acts like an OPAC in that it is: • “Relying on data from the Library of Congress (LC), Amazon, and over 30* other library catalogs worldwide for catalog records and book jacket graphics. LibraryThing also depends on user-generated content such as book reviews, tags, ratings, and changes to catalog records to create a dynamic, social space for book lovers” and “also uses LC subject headings (LCSH) to enhance records” (Rethlefsen, 2007). • * more than 30 now
LibraryThing is the first commercial use of the Z39.50 bibliographic transfer protocol and shows that traditional taxonomy like LCSH and “folksonomy” like tag clouds can co-exist.
Tagging • as people contribute to the tagging system more and more low quality tags are weeded out as the tag cloud only shows the top 32 tags on anything. Hesitance to use tag clouds by libraries most likely is just fear of giving up control of the system and of change to it. • The socially generated data, however, is more in keeping with how people actually conduct information searches. Most people do not use, or even understand LCSH, and are not about to any time soon. • Negative? – relies on popularity
Tagging…cont. • it is possible for multiple retrieval methods to co-exist, and in a broader picture that libraries could introduce a tagging system within their OPAC that is still functionally separate. • The only potential problem is that a library would have to use an outside system such as LibraryThing in order to have access to the necessary, and extraordinary, amount of user generated data. A library trying to generate the data on its own and through its own users only would likely be unsuccessful as a vast pool of data is necessary before the data is even statistically valuable. Over time as data sets grow the outlier information becomes more and more inconsequential to the set.
O’Neill (2007) • LT “differentiates between…formal cataloging information and the social data generated by LT users.” • “…can be integrated into existing library catalogs to assist users in retrieving materials…the LT data supplements traditional classification and retrieval in an OPAC; it doesn’t supersede it.”
Another functional component of LibraryThing • One high school library media specialist uses LibraryThing for book groups with students in English classes. She says that “Teachers can go paperless and keep track of student reading logs, journals, and reviews online. They can also respond to students individually, and those responses can be private communications between teacher and student” (Sibley, 2009). • Libraries could also hold book groups
Problem • The problem one might argue about Web 2.0 features within OPACs is that though they can potentially add a multitude of features to an OPAC they may still be falling into the sinkhole of the pig with lipstick metaphor. Web 2.0 features are not necessarily changing the fundamental way patrons are accessing and retrieving information through the OPAC, they are still just dressing up the OPAC and trying to make it look pretty.
Conclusion: • Library 2.0 services such as LibraryThing can definitely make an OPAC more relevant. • Common Web 2.0 user-generated features like tagging can be added alongside OPACs withoutdisrupting the more traditional taxonomies and authority controls. • Tagging does, however, rank results based on popularity, which does not always suit a user’s needs • OPACs can incorporate features more attuned to how people predominantly access and retrieve information then even if these features are just “lipstick on a pig” they are adding to the quality of the OPAC so long as they are retrieving quality