OPAC Sesame!

A couple of days ago, Tim Spalding linked to an announcement that Simon Spero has released a nearly-complete copy of the Library of Congress Authority Files. This data wasn’t exactly hiding, but it hasn’t been easily accessible before, not in this way.

Caveat One: In the announcement, Simon makes it clear that the records aren’t necessarily usable for cataloging right out of the box.

Caveat Two: Due to my limited cataloging knowledge, I’m not entirely sure I fully understand what all of the implications of this are.

But Simon did a lot of tedious work to get this information out, and it looks as if it could lead to more open and accessible cataloging in and out of Libraryland. I think this is a very good thing. As I’ve said before, I fail to see what the World of Libraries has to gain by hording or encumbering information.

My Current Place of Work shares a catalog with my Future Place of Work. I am not all that happy with our current OPAC situation. Linking to a particular page in the catalog is problematic. The social, Web 2.0 aspects of the catalog aren’t there. In general usage, it functions just fine, but it could be so much more. I agree with Tim, library catalogs should be Google-friendly at the very least. It looks like my libraries will be looking into the possibility of new software for our OPAC in the not-to-distant future. Boy, wouldn’t it be something if we could jetpack forward from our current OPAC 1.0 to an OPAC 2.0 (or, heck, 3.0!)? And wouldn’t it be something if we saw a tsunami of free information flooding through LibraryLand, and it led to even better services for us and our users?

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Sucking the Suck out of OPACs

To make a long, long rant much shorter, I’ll just say this: I think OPACs have a long way to go before they stop sucking. To be more precise, I think we need to throw out the whole concept of the “Online Public Access Catalog.” But that’s not going to happen today or tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll happily settle for OPACs that don’t suck so much. Casey Bisson’s WPopac is one such OPAC idea, and I’ve raved about it before.

John Blyberg has just announced another one: AADL’s “SOPAC.” Check this puppy out: users can rate, review, comment on and tag items. And John has released the source code, in case anyone else wants to do the same to their OPAC.

‘Scuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

I’m just all kinds of impressed. Ann Arbor’s SOPAC, like Casey’s WPopac, is seriously cool. These are major steps towards making the OPAC fun, and y’know, I’m all about the fun. Vive l’amusement!

Second Libraries

Here’s an idea that just popped into my head:

What if a library took Linden Lab’s source code and created their own Second Life grid? The grid would be a virtual library with staff providing online reference. But the Second Life library would also have virtual stacks where visitors could browse the shelves, looking at book and CD and DVD covers. A visitor could touch a cover and get information about the title, such as library holdings and availability. Visitors could also put holds on materials. Basically, it would be a 3-D virtual catalog that you could browse just like you can browse shelves in the real world, with all of the functionality of a computer catalog.

Vive L’Amusement!

Casey Bisson won the Mellon Award for his WPopac. The first time I saw his proposal for a library OPAC based on WordPress, my mind was fairly blown. So it’s great to see him getting an award for that. (Getting an award for creating the WPopac, that is, not for blowing my mind. There’s no award for the latter, although if Casey digs chocolate, I’d be happy to send him some of my wife’s fantabulous brownies, just for firing my neurons in new and exciting ways.)

Steve Lawson jumps on the fun train, referencing Tim’s “fun OPAC” post and Casey’s big win. Steve makes a point similar to the one I made, that a library’s whole website should be fun. Right on, Steve!

I haven’t seen a library website yet, even the really good ones with integrated CMS and nice visual designs, that didn’t start with the premise “What useful information do we need to get to our patrons?” rather than “What awesome and fun experiences can we give our patrons?” They all seem to begin with “Where is the library? When is it open? What events and programs are coming up?” and then moves on to “Here’s our OPAC, here are links to other websites–if you have any serious questions, just ask.” Library websites started as internet-based information and advertising for library services, and they haven’t really moved away from that. Just as the OPAC has basically been a physical card catalog on HyperCard, the library website has basically been the library’s pamphlets and flyers on HyperCard. (If anyone knows of a library website that isn’t like this, please point me towards it. I’d love to see something different.)

Steve makes another great point:

It also got me thinking about what kind of user community you would need to support a library website that was more–as one commenter said on Thing-ology–more MySpace than Google.

Indeed. I’m gonna think on that one for a bit.

Carnival of Sorts

I’m a fan of rants and manifestoes (especially when I agree with what’s being said) and I’m a fan of LibraryThing. Throw both of those in a blender, add some chocolate syrup, and I’m one happy camper.

And so, Tim Spalding’s latest post on the Thing-ology blog: “Is Your OPAC Fun? (a manifesto of sorts).”

When I was in college, I rarely went to the library to do homework. That may sound shocking for a librarian to say, but the reason was this: it was too hard for me to get any serious work done. The library was too much fun for me. Wandering the library labyrinth, getting lost in the stacks, stumbling upon fascinating books and periodicals I hadn’t realized I was looking for, meeting other people and having conversations–that was my library experience.

I didn’t become a librarian because libraries perform an important public service. I didn’t become a librarian because I wanted to help people find information quickly and cleanly. Not really. I became a librarian because I discovered libraries are fun and sexy. And I want to help other people discover that, too. The OPAC, the library website in general, the physical library itself should be a memorable experience, fun and exciting and weird. Libraries should be about “exploration, serendipity,” and getting “entertainingly lost.” And yes, libraries should get you laid.

Using a library shouldn’t be work, it should be play.

Let the games begin!

Slouching Towards OPAC 2.0

It’s getting hot in Kansas, and my office at home is particularly godawful hot and stuffy. Phew! So, no long posts for me lately. Instead, I’m playing the “link and nod my head in agreement” game.

And here I go again…

Basically, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of Karen G. Schneider’s epic OPAC smackdown trilogy, “How OPACs Suck.” Reading them is like…a fresh, cool breeze blowing into a small, stuffy room. (Have I mentioned my office is a bit uncomfortable?)

Part 1: Relevance Rank (Or the Lack of It)
Part 2: The Checklist of Shame
Part 3: The Big Picture