The second OPAC I’ll be reviewing is that of the Salt Lake City Public Library System. While similarly available in both Spanish and English, unlike the county system, the City Library’s catalog is very simple. It is accessible both from catalog stations in the library building, and from the sidebar of the library’s website. As in my previous review, I will look at the follow three areas in my discussion of this OPAC:
What tools and interfaces are available for accessing the catalog?
- What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the catalog?
- What explanations/tools are available to evaluate the results of using the catalog, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?
Tools and interfaces available for accessing the City Library Catalog:
This OPAC is fairly simple, both in Spanish and in English. It has a Quick Search interface and then five pages each for searching by specific areas. The Quick Search has a drop down menu to select what specific area to search, which has all the same areas that are listed below with the addition of the ability to search by ISBN/ISSN/LCCN. It is also possible to search in a specific area (such as Title or Author) by clicking on it underneath the quick search. This leads to a new page with just one search box, designed to search just for that specific thing. The only exception to this is in the Keyword Search, which contains more tools for directing the search. Keyword searches can be narrowed down by material type, language, and date range, and can be sorted by relevance, date, or title.
Assistance Available to Explain or Guide the Use of the Catalog:
Even though this is a very simple catalog, with few different tools and interfaces, there is assistance provided to help users. In each specific search area, there are examples of how to phrase search queries, and how to create search strings to get the best results. These are on the same page as the search box, and range from simple explanations of what order to put the first and last name when searching for an author, to lengthy explanations of how to compose a keyword search using truncation, adjacency, proximity, and various other terms, each with examples. Unfortunately they are not translated into Spanish, but since the actual catalog is in English besides the interface, it is not really possible to get a full bilingual experience.
Explanations/Tools Available to Evaluate the Results of Using the Catalog:
Once a search is conducted using any of the simple interfaces, there is some information immediately available to help users evaluate the results of their search. First the results are ranked based on relevance, which means the most pertinent records are at the beginning. Then the basic details are shown, including whether or not the item is available and where it is located. Users are also able to rate items, and save them into lists, which they can access later.
Another interesting feature to help users with their information needs are links to information related to the item in other databases, and to reviews from places like Amazon.com. This can help users determine if a selected work will fulfill their information needs. Unfortunately, when I tested these additional resources, most of the links did not work, and brought me to pages that said “no result found.” Certainly, these are only helpful if they actually work consistently enough for people to trust they will be working!
Overall Review of the Salt Lake City Library’s OPAC:
While this is a very simple system, it has some bells and whistles that elevate it beyond the traditional catalog, however, few of these features are particularly useful for parents or children. With no way to narrow a search to Juvenile or Children’s materials, or rank books based on reading level or intended audience, this catalog leaves something to be desired. The useful descriptions on each search page could also be modified to include more information about using the more advanced features on each item’s detailed record. These features seem likely to be neglected, as there is not a lot of assistance in using them.