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Wagging the long tail

Sigfrid Lundberg's Stuff 2009-07-29

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By and large we in the library world have, finally, accepted the reality. We do no longer regard the online catalogue's poor usability as an information literacy problem. As such, there was a remedy: User education. The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. The path towards mastering the online catalogue is like a very long session in the gym. You feel better the day after tomorrow.

After (rougly) 2003, there was a general acceptance that the our patrons deserved an easier to use interface, and the concept of the integrated library system was born. The new kind of system should be so easy to use that new generations used to Amazoogle and Googlezon should not be frustrated by the complications of the typical scanlists generated by the library opac upon the entering of a long and complicated query in CCL.

The user preferences have been known for a long time. For instance, all users of the Open Text search engine used the simple form, except those that didn't. They used the advanced one, and they amounted to about 0.5% of the grand total. Such users belong to the tip of some long tail, and they do know what they want to know, but knowing that might not help if we cannot deliver.

I heard a story from a librarian at The Royal Library. A student appeared at the information desk at one of our reading rooms requesting a list of contemporary Japanese literature translated into Danish for some paper in translation studies. Our nice ILS Primo provides an OK Amazoogle experience. But, well... An user hostile boolean fielded search in the rusty old OPAC did the job.

The good news is that the advanced search form is much cheaper to build than simple one. That one is still the real challange. Even for Google.

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My name is Sigfrid Lundberg. The stuff I publish here may, or may not, be of interest for anyone else.

On this site there is material on photography, music, literature and other stuff I enjoy in life. However, most of it is related to my profession as an Internet programmer and software developer within the area of digital libraries at the Royal Library, Copenhagen (Denmark) and, before that, Lund university (Sweden).

The content here does not reflect the views of my past or present employers

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