– Guy C. Dobson, Integrated Systems Librarian
When I arrived at Drew last February, one of my first tasks was to improve the experience for those using the catalog to find something in the Library. Adjectives used to describe the old catalog included “confusing,” “frustrating,” “ugly,” and “unintuitive.” Fortunately the software that delivers the catalog to your web browser is nothing more than a modified HTML, called Web2, and is flexible and easy to customize.
One of the first things that I did to help me get it right was to invite people to join the Drew University Library Catalog Evaluation Team—DULCET—an ad hoc group of administrators, faculty, staff, and students who have been participating in the evolution of the catalog.
Next, thinking about the graphic design of the catalog, I asked Ernie Rubinstein, Theological Librarian, for imagery of the Library’s stained glass window which he had written about in the Spring 2010 edition of Visions. He was able to give me a set of superb photographs taken by Geoff Pollick, a Ph.D. student in the Graduate Division of Religion. I wanted that beautiful work of art, which watches over all of us as we come and go through the library doors, to be the centerpiece of the catalog. In order to show the window in its best light, it seemed obvious to me that the background should be black. The text is a very pale blue that can be found in the robes of Faith and Hope in the top of the window.
With the help of Faith, Hope, and Love I wrote a simple search form using the elegantly uncomplicated Google model. With the addition of “Feedback” and “Join DULCET” links, the process of collaboration took off in earnest. I received a lot of good ideas, constructive criticism, and wish lists of desirable functionalities from many generous people. The time that they took to articulate their thoughts and communicate them to me is much appreciated. In order to share all of this valuable information with the Drew community, and inspire others to think out of the box, I started the DULCET blog, where anyone who is interested can review comments, questions, and suggestions as well as my replies, answers, and reports about how the catalog has developed. Here are just a few of the improvements and new features that you’ll find in the catalog thanks to DULCET:
Special Collections Descriptions and Title Lists
One member of DULCET remarked, “I would find it helpful to have a link to a thesaurus that tells me what’s in each of the Collections options…” That got me thinking about the fact that you could not ask the catalog to simply display a list of items in any given collection. So I set up a page that includes descriptions of each collection as well as a link to a title list of the contents of each collection. SirsiDynix is the company that provides the library software that we use. Their Application Programming Interface and a technique developed in collaboration with Paul Coen at Computing and Network Services allows me to include this sort of content in the catalog even though Web2 cannot accomplish
this on its own.
Library Lingo vs Plain English
I tried not to change the vocabulary of the new catalog any more than necessary in an effort to avoid disorientation for those already familiar with the old catalog, but I was not always successful. I just had to replace some of the library lingo with plain English, ergo:
- Browse is now Exact Search—for Author, Title, or Subject
- Keyword is now either Simple Search or Advanced Search—Simple with Limits
- Numeric is now Call Number Search
- Visual Materials are now Videos
During my first tour of the Drew Library one of the things that I noticed was that there are maps all over showing you how to find where different call numbers are shelved on each of the several floors of the building. It’s a lot like being at the mall. I found out that the maps were created by Kim Magnell, the Library’s Communications Associate, using Publisher and asked her for a copy of the file. After a little fussing with Publisher and Photoshop, I was able to add the same maps to the Library catalog so that a light-box opens up with a mall-like map when you click on the “Level…” link that tells you where to find the book. This feature has been very well received and, through professional library listservs, shared with other academic libraries.
My Library Account: Renew All…
In the old catalog, the “Renew All” button would only renew items on one page, with a display limit of five items per page. If you didn’t realize that you had more items checked out, and clicked on the link to view them, you wouldn’t realize that you hadn’t actually renewed all of your items. In the new catalog everything that you have checked out appears on the first My Library Account page, and clicking on the “Renew All” button does just that.
Incorporating the art that represents the Library and the science of programming web sites with the collaboration of the Drew community has resulted in a much more attractive and user-friendly catalog. Come to the Library, search the catalog, find what you’re looking for, and join DULCET. With your help we can continue revising the catalog to make it even more intuitive and feature-filled. And on your way out be sure to look up to see Art and Science collaborating in the lower-right of the stained glass window.
From the Fall 2011 issue of Vissions: http://depts.drew.edu/lib/VISIONS/VisionsSpring2011.pdf