Keyword searching

At a party recently, I was talking to a group of graduate students and the subject of research came up.

They had no idea that there was any difference between subject and keyword searching, and were shocked that I could give them examples to show that keyword is not the best search type for every situation.

Our patrons don’t know some of the stuff that we do, even the highly educated ones. We need to meet them on their level. It is fantastic to meet people who want to learn about the differences between subject and keyword searches, but most of them don’t care and won’t ever pay attention.

Maybe it’s time for us to worry as much about ease of use and accessibility as we do about education.


February 28, 2006. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

My take on the ILS vendors

I’ve been reading the recent conversation on ILS vendors by, Librarian in Black and Family Man Librarian.  I think they are right about trying to get the OPAC more customizable.  The other day I spent 1 1/2hrs trying to change three links on the library home page.  I’d love to make some smaller fiddly edits, but this was to make sure that the link that said Library Home actually went to the library home page after a general site redesign.  That’s not a frill, and it shouldn’t take a phone call to tech support to find the documentation on how to do it.  Anyway.

All of this conversation about catalogs got me thinking.  I’m willing to learn whatever it takes to make it work on the back end, but we need it to be better on the front end.  One of the problems I see frequently here is a lack of understanding of the ways that you would find journals vs. books.  At my library we don’t catalog journals, so it’s not a simple catalog search.  We use Serials Solutions as a journal linker, and that’s pretty helpful but patrons don’t understand the difference between the article title and periodical title.

Why are our catalogs so cluttered?  We offer a thousand different things, but users don’t know what they are and don’t care.  Why can’t everything be searched by keyword, which would give you a list of results including book and article titles, journal names and subject headings?  Internet users today are good at screening out what isn’t valuable, and good at navigating through a series of links to find what they want, but they don’t know or care that subject headings will help them.  How much of our operation can we move to the back end?  Would this mean less respect for library services?  Why can’t we customize our OPACs to do this currently?  Maybe some of us can, but I’m still trying to learn some of the basics of being a systems librarian.  And why is this so difficult when the technology is there and we’re paying so much for it already?

February 28, 2006. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

ALA leadership

So a few days ago Jessamyn posted a link to Leslie Burger’s blog.  I was surprised and impressed to see it.  After Michael Gorman’s response to the blog people, I had pretty much given up hope of seeing anything that spoke to newer and tech savvy librarians come out of ALA.  Burger’s blog is a powerful sign for me, speaking as someone who is on the fence about renewing their ALA membership for the first time.  Particularly since I’m not a student anymore and the price goes up when you’re out of school, I’ve really been debating about this and I’ve read some powerful postings on both sides.  I’ll make a final decision this week.

Next project: figure out this technorati thing.

February 27, 2006. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hello everybody!

So I’ve been meaning to start a library blog for a long time, and here it is. I work in a small academic library in New England, and I’m trying to learn enough tech stuff to eventually become a systems librarian, preferably one who still does reference. I’m going to be involved in (ie. doing with some help from IT) some new projects at my library, such as trying to implement im reference, upgrading the ILS server, and maybe even setting up some sort of electronic reserves system! So if you’re interested in hearing about any of that, stay tuned.

I’ll also be posting about what I think about libraries, and what I think libraries should be. I find that working all day every day, particularly when my primary responsibilities aren’t my primary area of interest, has the effect of dulling my interest in libraries. I’m hoping this blog will keep me thinking and talking and connecting to other librarians without getting bored. It seems silly to talk about getting burned out when you’ve only had the MLS for 6 months, but believe me, it can happen. I’m hoping to keep that from ever happening.

February 22, 2006. Uncategorized. 3 comments.