Weekly Response 8 — Diana Rosenthal

Last week’s readings on the radical catalog were a nice set up for this week’s look at subject headings, Online Public Access Catalogs, and classification. Though all the readings made interesting points about these topics, the main consideration I came away with concerned education. It seems to me that the best use of subject headings and OPACs requires a lot of previous insight (and maybe even a Master’s degree!) into how the system works in order to maximize the access to information pertaining to a research topic. How much of a librarian’s time should be spent educating patrons on using the subject headings to their benefit, and how much time should be spent doing the searches for (or with) them?

This is a somewhat silly example, but has anyone used Netflix’s “Max” to help decide what to watch? When browsing by genre, title, or recently added movies and shows doesn’t help users find something they would enjoy watching, Netflix has a service called Max that asks the viewer a series of questions and then comes up with a list of recommendations. I wonder if this user-friendly searching option could be modified and applied in a library OPAC setting. Perhaps a digital tour guide could point patrons to the best search methods in order to maximize their results and factor in the lesser-known secrets of finding information in order to steer them away from simple keyword searches. This could help orient patrons who are searching within an OPAC, but who see a search bar and equate it with Google.

One question I came up with while reading Naun’s piece on “Next Generation OPACs” related to the description of new design features, including “the ability to filter keyword search results by a range of criteria including subject, format, genre, location, language, author, and period … [and] other features like spelling correction and relevance ranking…” Is there such a think as synonym searches? It seems that the existence of thesauri would provide for this feature, but I’m not sure if this actually exists on an automatic level.

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About Diana Rosenthal

Scientific publications editor and archivist at the American Museum of Natural History with a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute. New York City enthusiast.

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