The last Online Public Access Catalog I will be reviewing is that of the Upper Arlington Public Library. Like the other OPAC’s this one has multiple levels and tools that users can utilize to access the catalog and find information. The UAPL OPAC does not have as many user interfaces as the CML OPAC, but it is equally as complicated. Accessible from a link on the sidebar of the main page, the library does not have dedicated computer terminals at the branches just for catalog access, allowing users to just use the internet access computers to search the catalog. My review here will follow the same pattern as with the previous reviews, looking at the following three questions:
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 Catalog:
There are two main access points for the Upper Arlington OPAC, as well as a series of tools that can be used to “filter” the results of each interface before the search is conducted. The two interfaces are extremely different types of searches, not merely an advanced and basic interface.
The primary search that opens from the “Library Catalog” link on the side bar of the main page is a “Browse Search.” It is a very simple interface, with one entry point and five different “search types.” These are really search areas, as all searches performed from this access point are the same type—they are catalog/index searches that are word specific. That is if you type in “tree” in a title search, you will get an alphabetical list of titles in the catalog that start with the word tree. The search works the same way with subjects, authors, call number searches, and journal title searches. Similar to the Salt Lake County OPAC’s “Starts With” search, this search allows users to enter into the catalog and see all entries; in fact once a search is conducted users can browse through all catalog entries, not just ones with Tree in the first word.
This OPAC also has a Keyword Search, accessible from a link at the top of the search interface. This interface has three different entry points that can be customized to perform a keyword search in one out of nine areas. These range from the typical Author, Subject, Title, Subject, and Anywhere, to the more specialized numerical searches ISBN, ISSN, LCCN, OCLC (yes this is the OCLC accession number, I looked it up and tested it), and by the barcode. Under the search boxes is an area to create filters to further limit the search results. These limits are in four different drop-down menus and two different date range possibilities (publication ranges and context dates). Users can narrow down results based on Nature of Contents, Format, Language, or Publication Location, but none of the choice options within these areas would be useful for those looking for materials for children, or even a lot of public library patrons. They range in the “nature of contents” from Abstracts/summaries to legislation, and finishing with thesis and treaties.
One final tool for searching the catalog is actually not directly on either of the search interfaces, but is set on a box on the side of the page frame and from a link at the bottom of each search interface. This is a “Session Filter” option that allows users to set limits on the results of every search conducted during a specific session (what is a session is not explained, but if the screen is left on either search interface for very long it moves to the “My Account” screen. For the most part these limits are the same as those at the bottom of the Keyword search interface, with the addition of the ability to narrow down the search to items at one or more of the systems three branches.
Assistance Available to Explain or Guide the use of the Catalog:
Of the four OPAC’s reviewed, the UAPL has the least available tools integrated to assist users in searching the catalog. There are some text instructions, for instance “Select items to filter on. Hold down CTRL to make multiple selections.” But that is pretty much the extent of the assistance available from on the website for users to learn how to navigate the catalog.
Explanations/Tools Available to Evaluate the Results:
Results are displayed in a numbered list that tells the user the number available, where they are located, what the title is, the author is, publication information, and also allows users to place a reserve directly from the results list. An icon next to the number illustrates what format the item is, though there is not a key to explain what they mean. Below the icon are three links to different levels of information on the item, first a full item screen, second an item level screen, and then the MARC record screen.
The three types of records contain data describing the item. First is the “full” record, which contains basic information about the item: call number, author, title, publication, and subject. It doesn’t have any information about if the item is available or at what library it could be found, beyond the call number. The second record is the “item” record dedicated to the circulation status of the item, its current location, and so on, as well as including the basic details from the “full” record page. It provides a chart of different status options, from Checked Out, On Hold, Requested, and so on. The final record is the MARC record of the item, simplified somewhat, but showing all of the information entered in the basic fields. For those not accustomed to reading and interpreting MARC records, this may not be the most informative screen.
Overall Review of Upper Arlington Public Library OPAC
In some ways this is a very simple OPAC, it doesn’t have a lot of flashy Library 2.0 features, but that doesn’t mean that using it is straight forward and easy. Besides not having instruction and guidance built into the catalog, it is not an intuitive search, as it uses terms and record numbers that are not popularly used outside of library science. In particular, there are no tools or limiters that might help users discover what materials are suitable for children. The limits seem better suited for adults or even academic libraries. Even the individual item records are difficult to interpret, seeming to offer a perspective more suitable for staff and professionals, not parents, teachers, or children.