Re-envisioning the Library Catalog

Setting the Stage

For many of us, the availability of discovery services such as Primo, Summon, and EBSCOhost, has caused a major rethinking of the library catalog. After all, who out there isn’t excited about finally putting an end to one of our most frequently asked questions: “Why can’t I find articles in the catalog?”.

For me integrating articles had to be more than simply redefining the catalog itself. Today’s discovery services  search across collections, but are not comprehensive resources and should be strategically placed next to more in-depth, subject-specific tools. Therefore, they are most effective when presented as one piece in a suite of services. For our users to navigate this kind of suite effectively, they needed a new research-oriented web page consolidating our online offerings and providing point of need instruction indicating how and when to use them.

A/B usability testing of two design options from Joe allowed us to move forward on a new research page pretty quickly. Take a peek and note the strong research branding, top-front and center library catalog, and presentation of our LibGuides. Users loved the brief explanatory text combined with sample links to provide additional context. From this page you can dive into searching the catalog, easily find favorite databases and get subject help.

I would love to hear what you think and how you are setting the stage for article integration.

Gathering Data for the New Catalog

Knowing how to integrate article data into the library catalog needed serious investigation. I turned to competitive usability testing (I know, how non-librarianish of me!) to get some answers.

Eight users (4 undergrad, 4 graduate) were asked to perform a competitive usability test of three discovery service implementations and one additional catalog interface with some unique design features. The sites tested were:

We had a number of major findings – some surprising:

  • People prefer to search rather than browse.
  • People rejected concept of resources for their specific population.
  • Users rejected the idea of results blending. Interpreting too many different types of materials is extremely problematic.
  • Users performed most successfully when asked to make simple decisions first.
  • Terminology around digital collections and institutional repositories is especially confusing.
  • Users were confused when services and or people (reference librarians) were in their result set.
  • Too much visibility of facets (icons) led to a hesitation to search.
  • Once users find something that works, they keep doing it.
  • Too much branding hurts. Many different tools with different names causes confusion. Search and discovery of collections regardless of format is one thing to our users.

These along with some other findings were shared with Joe and our Blacklight developers.  I am eager for you to see what they came up with!

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2 comments on “Re-envisioning the Library Catalog

  1. [...] Erin has performed initial assessment activities, my first design task isn’t to jump right into HTML & CSS or select a color palette or [...]

  2. [...] Library Web Site Nov18 by Joseph Gilbert After this summer’s successful integration of article content in our library catalog, Erin and I began working with our Library Communications department to [...]

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