ILS 506-S70 Information Analysis and Organization
Eino Sierpe, Ph.D.
Assignment 3 Comparative Analysis of OPACs
April 22, 2009
In order to compare Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) of two relatively large libraries, I searched for Connecticut’s largest populated cities’ public libraries’ collections. As of the 2000 census, Hartford and New Haven have roughly the same population of 122,000 while Bridgeport and Waterbury report 139,000 and 105,000 respectively (“ePodunk.com”, 2007). Hartford Public Library’s (HPL) OPAC has a collection of approximately 500,000 items including the Hartford Collection which comprises works by Hartford authors, works published in Hartford, and works about Hartford. (“Hartford Public Library”, 2008). New Haven Free Public Library (NHFPL) has a collection of 440,000 items (“Online Highways”, 2008) while Bridgeport Public Library’s (BPL) collection consists of 352,695 items including books on local history, manuscript material, photographs, genealogy information, and special collections on P.T. Barnum (“Bridgeport Public Library”, 2008). Waterbury’s Silas Bronson Library houses a collection of 240,000 items (“Silas Bronson Library”, 2009).
In conjunction with Libdex.com, a worldwide directory of library web-based OPACs, I checked to which catalog service these large metropolitan libraries subscribe. Both Hartford and New Haven Free Public Library subscribe to Innovative Interfaces, Inc.; Bridgeport Public subscribes to epixtech, Inc. (NOTIS, Dynix, Horizon); and Silas Bronson Library subscribes to CARL (“Libdex.com”, 2008). Other OPACs I considered to evaluate based on past usage were Denver Public Library (CARL) serving 592,000 population with 2,382,672 items in their collection (“Denver Public Library”, 2009) and San Francisco Public Library (Innovative Interfaces) with 2.5 million holdings as of June 30,2008 supporting 776,000 population (“San Francisco Public Library”, 2008). However, I chose to analyze Connecticut libraries, as they are a good representation of the catalog providers most used by public libraries across the country. Since Hartford and New Haven use the same provider for roughly the same population, I selected New Haven Free Public Library (NHFPL) along with Bridgeport Public Library (BPL) as their OPACs were easy to navigate and their respective collections were large enough to test different search options.
Bridgeport Public Library’s Horizon-powered OPAC’s Basic Search option offers drop-down search limiting options by Alphabetical or by Keyword for Title, Author, Topic, Subject or Video/DVD searches. Advanced Search has seventeen drop-down field options including those listed above plus Spanish Titles, Magazine, Series, Non-musical or Musical, Awards, ISBN/ISSN, Dewey Call Number, Government Call Number, and Best Seller Browse. Searches can be further limited to Location and Media Type as well as sorted by None, Author, Media, Publication Date, Title, and Best Seller Rank. Horizon also offers a Power Search option that uses Boolean indicators by any combination of the Advanced Search options to help pinpoint the information sought. There is a History link in the upper right corner that is a great tool for a searcher to recall previous searches to avoid duplicating search efforts. Also, BPL has links to the Spanish catalog as well as additional tabs for users to quickly access iCONN, Reader’s Advisory/Book Lists, and the ADA catalog for those who may find the OPAC’s current font size difficult to read. The Reading Lists are categorized into Public School Reading lists and Award Winners, quick and easy on-line tools for parents and students, and Bestsellers and Playaways for the adult recreational reader. Reader’s Advisory highlights popular African American authors alphabetically with hyperlinks to a Brief Record hitlist of BPL’s collection. This feature was the only feature of its kind in my research and uniquely reflects the demographics of the area served.
New Haven Free Public Library’s Innovative Interfaces-powered OPAC’s Homepage presentation is a bit dated as the library uses images of an old, wooden card catalog drawer system with the search options in the card catalog label. There are links on the bottom of the page and in the left navigation bar to the Spanish Catalog or the Text Only Catalog. Patrons select a catalog drawer to conduct either a Keyword, Title, Author, Subject, Author and Title or Other Criteria search. The patron can eliminate the images by selecting Text Only on the left navigation bar or on the bottom of the page. This feature also provides simple Boolean search directions. After selecting the card catalog image search term from the OPAC’s main page, another page appears with a field for Words/Terms to search. Only the Keyword “drawer” offers several drop down fields to limit the search by Location, Material Type, Language, Audience, and By Year. Material Type can be Any, Book/Pamphlet, Computer file, Essays, Maps, Music Manuscripts, Recording, Score, Talking books on Tape/CD or Videos/DVDs while Language can be qualified by Any, English, French, Italian, German, Chinese or Spanish. The page provides more detailed directions on how to use Boolean operators so a patron is able to locate the desired material. The other “drawers” are Basic Search options except Other Criteria which has three unique categories: Call Number, ISBN or OCLC Number. Below the card catalog image on the Main Catalog Page is a Basic Search feature called Quick Search with a drop down menu for a search by Keyword, Title, Author, Subject or Call Number with a blank field in which to type the search item. Unfortunately, NHFPL’s OPAC does not offer advanced search links to iCONN or any other Union catalog. (Back to the top)
Bridgeport Public Library offers Author Alphabetical and Basic and Advanced Author Keyword search options by Last Name, First Name. Depending on how closely the search terms are to the Library of Congress Authority Record, a Basic Author Alphabetical Search will retrieve a hitlist beginning with the searched name in addition to “See: also” references to the correct Authority Record within the collection. Upon selecting the LC Authority Record, the user is directed to the author’s Brief Record hitlist with each record including the cover of the book, Title, Author, Request status, Format, Location, Call Number, and Availability with an option to request items or to add to personal list. In the upper right-hand corner of this page, the user can sort the hitlist by None, Author, Title, Media, Publication Date, or Best Seller rank and limit by Branch. The title’s hyperlink opens the individual Full Record of Title, Author, Publisher, Location, Call Number, and Availability with the left navigation bar containing links to Reviews, Subject Headings, and the MARC Display.
New Haven Free Public Library’s Quick Search for Author, or from the OPAC Main Page Author “drawer”, yields an Author Catalog Browse with the search terms as the first hit and the “See also” references to the LC Authority record including Call Numbers on those works that are highlighted in the hitlist. Lastly, there is a hit in red font-hyperlink with a number indicating the author’s additional works in the collection.
Bridgeport Public Library’s Basic Title Alphabetical Search retrieves the searched term as first entry in the hitlist. After selecting the title’s hyperlink, the OPAC retrieves the Full Record as described above with the Title/Author hyperlink bringing the user back to the Catalog Title Browse hitlist. Alternatively, a Basic Title Keyword Search for the item will result with a hitlist of all items with the searched keywords in the title thereby making it the most circuitous search method, which could pose a problem locating the correct material in a long hitlist. However patrons can sort the hitlist by the Advanced Search options described above and can use the Page Navigation tools to reduce the amount of scrolling to locate the correct item. When conducting a Power Search, combining the Title and the Author name, the item’s Full Record, if there is only one volume in the collection, or a Brief Record hitlist of all volumes matching the Specific Power Search is immediately retrieved.
NHFPL Title Quick Search for an item automatically eliminates the article, if there is one in the title, upon retrieval and locates as many items in the collection from the searched term. The OPAC functions similarly to BPL’s except NHFPL uses the Library of Congress Name Authority Record in the Author field on the Full Record while BPL uses a simple Title/Author link. Interestingly, NHFPL has an abbreviated MARC Record, which does not contain the LC Call Number, while BPL’s Marc Record is very detailed. In both OPACs, the Power Search feature is the most direct search method to locate the desired material. Again, there is a hit in red font-hyperlink with a number indicating the author’s additional titles in the collection.
BPL patrons can only perform a Series Title Search in Advanced or Power Search mode. As in a Basic Author Alphabetical Search, the exactness of the search terms to the LC Authority Record for the series title will determine the usefulness of the hitlist. Beginning with the searched keywords, there are “See: also” references to the standardized LC Series Titles. The hitlist will include the number of titles in the collection linked to the Series Title so the user can elect the result that most likely will retrieve the complete series volume. As well, the Power Search feature combining Author and Series Title is the most direct method and results in a Brief Record listing of the series volumes.
On the other hand, NHFPL patrons can use the Title Quick Search or the Author & Title “drawer” to conduct a Series Title Search and retrieve the same results as BPL’s OPAC even without a true Advanced or Power Search feature.
Bridgeport Public Library’s Basic Topic Keyword and a Basic Subject Keyword Search for Author results in a Brief Record hitlist of BPL’s entire collection for the searched author. Alternatively, a Basic Subject Alphabetical search of an Author results in a Catalog Browse Display of those materials in BPL’s collection on the author with the first hit LC’s Personal Name Authority Record or LC Subject Headings in alphabetical order with the number of titles linked to the record. Using the Advanced or Power Search features to search for LC Subject Headings, a patron retrieves a hitlist of LC Subject Headings with the number of titles linked to the topic with an alphabetical listing of “See also:” references to additional Subject Headings.
The same results were achieved in NHFPL’s OPAC however the Catalog Browse Display of LC Subject Headings varied based on the library’s collection and again, there is a hit in red font-hyperlink with a number indicating additional entries in the collection. (Back to the top)
To search by a Dewey Call, a Government Document Call or an ISBN/ISSN Number in BPL’s OPAC is only possible in Advanced or Power Search mode. BPL uses “FIC” plus the author’s last name and the date to separate material if there are many items of the same title in the fiction collection. Non-fiction books have a Dewey Call number. However after selecting several DC Numbers, I was not able to retrieve a record even when I copied and pasted the DCN into the field, but I was able to retrieve works by ISBN. Conversely, NHFPL’s OPAC’s Quick Search and Other Criteria “drawer” features worked for both fiction and non-fiction materials and presented the respective hitlists in alphabetical title order although some items must be retrieved at the Reference Desk. There was no problem retrieving any record by ISBN.
Bridgeport and New Haven Public Libraries’ OPACs serve large metropolitan areas with search functions and layouts that meet users’ needs. Both OPACs’ search logic was very similar. Only NHFPL has limitations in its OPAC’s presentation, search options, and navigation tools, typical of 1G OPACs. By contrast, BPL’s OPAC was more satisfying to navigate.
BPL’s OPAC link is in large font and easy to locate on the top of the library’s Home Page. Once in the OPAC, I like that BPL created a separate tab to access the ADA Catalog versus other OPACs that feature a plus or minus sign to adjust font size. I also prefer that Horizon limits the hitlist to ten records per page. This makes it easier for users to see records on one screen and, with the page navigation on the top and bottom of the list, the user can select on which page of results to locate the desired item instead of scrolling through a long list of items. The Power Search, History link, and ADA tools make research very enjoyable. However when searching by Call Number, I found it very frustrating that I was unable to successfully locate records. Although not all patrons may search by Call Number, BPL should either investigate why this section of their OPAC is not functioning properly or consider including this feature in the future. As fiction records shared the same Call Number, FIC + Last Name, individual records were not linked or alphabetized properly by the cataloger so as to retrieve all fiction works during a search. It also appeared that Bridgeport had many items that were in closed stacks as opposed to New Haven where Call Number Searches worked and the items were available to the public.
On the contrary, New Haven Free Public Library’s catalog link is much harder to locate in the left navigation bar on the Home Page. The bar’s background is black and the font is purple and small. Users can only find the link by scrolling over the navigation bar to highlight the term. NHFPL’s OPAC’s font is large enough and the Text Only option does satisfy the need for larger font, however if NHFPL elects to update their OPAC, they may want to consider including an ADA tab and an Union library catalog link as well as changing the colors in the navigation bars to black font on light green background to maintain the consistent look of the library’s Webpage. Although NHFPL’s OPAC’s main page is dated and some “drawers” are redundant to the Quick Search function, it is functional and user-friendly. For instance, if the title is known, the patron clicks on the “Title drawer” and then enters the search term. I did like that NHFPL OPAC automatically eliminated the articles from titles. Many times users forget which article a title begins with, if at all, and the Title Search feature does the “thinking” for the user. By placing the Call Number in the Catalog Browse hitlist, NHFPL enables patrons to access material according to the preferred web-design “two clicks” programming. However, there is no true Advanced Search function, History link or keystroke-memory function in the search fields, for automatic recall of previous search terms, in order to facilitate research. NHFPL may want to consider adding these features as libraries serving the same demographics have it in their OPACs. Also, NHFPL may want to consider adding a Sort option or Navigation Tools for Title Search lists so NHFPL users do not have to scroll the whole list to locate the desired item especially as many users are looking for ease of use and are retrieving results from a variety of screen-sizes. In addition, NHFPL may want to consider limiting hitlists to a predetermined number of records per page
Bridgeport Public and New Haven Free Public Libraries may elect to incorporate these suggestions or may determine other features, based on surveys or benchmarking, that will better enable their patrons to conduct quick and logical searches to easily retrieve valid information. Once a consensus is reached, the library could approach their current OPAC providers to assist with implementing the changes. Whatever enhancements the two libraries choose to implement will only strengthen their current catalogs and take them towards the goal of creating an up-to-date, accessible, and easy-to-use OPAC in the future. (Back to the top)
Bridgeport Public Library. 2008. 2009-2010 Proposed Budget. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://ci.bridgeport.ct.us/__documents/2009-2010%20Proposed%20Budget/LIBRARY.pdf.
Denver Public Library (2009) Library facts & figures, DPL by the Numbers, March 23,2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009 from http://www.denverlibrary.org/about/press/facts.html.
Bridgeport. (2007) Population Overview. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/genInfo.php?locIndex=9107.
Waterbury. (2007) Population Overview. Retrieved from April 1, 2009 from http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/genInfo.php?locIndex=9300.
Hartford (2007). Population Overview. Retrieved April 1, 209 from http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/popInfo.php?locIndex=9171.
New Haven (2007) Population Overview. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/genInfo.php?locIndex=9218.
Hartford Public Library. About the Library, History. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from http://www.hplct.org/about.shtm.
Hartford Public Library Retrieved April 12, 2009 from http://www.libdex.com/country/usa/connecticut/hartford/library_22115.html.
New Haven Free Public Library Retrieved April 12, 2009 from http://www.libdex.com/country/usa/connecticut/new_haven/library_19416.html.
Bridgeport Public Library Retrieved April 12, 2009 from http://www.libdex.com/country/usa/connecticut/bridgeport/library_21757.html.
Silas Bronson Library, Waterbury, Connecticut. Retrieved April 12, 2009 from http://www.libdex.com/country/usa/connecticut/waterbury/library_20403.html.
New Haven Free Public Library. (2003). OPAC. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://184.108.40.206/.
Online Highways website. (2008) New Haven Free Public Library. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://www.ohwy.com/ct/p/plct0103.htm.
San Francisco Public Library. (2008) Library Administration Statistics and Reports Collection Size. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/administration/pdf/collection_size_0708.pdf.
Silas Bronson Library. (2009) History and Mission. Retrieved April 1, 2009 from http://www.bronsonlibrary.org/content/36/39/default.aspx. (Back to the top)