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Why Library Catalogs are not as user-friendly as Search Engines?

Why Library Catalogs are not as user-friendly as Search Engines?

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Published by M S Sridhar
Editor's Desk in J-Gate Newsletter, Volume 4 Issue 1 January 2012. http://informindia.co.in/iil_newsletter_editors.asp
Editor's Desk in J-Gate Newsletter, Volume 4 Issue 1 January 2012. http://informindia.co.in/iil_newsletter_editors.asp

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Published by: M S Sridhar on Jan 08, 2012
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07/25/2013

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Editor's Desk
Why Library Catalogs are not as user-friendly as Search Engines? 
Traditional library card catalogues are data-
centered ‘handicrafts’ with lots of rigid
rules controlling their access and descriptions and hence naturally very much under-used. Since the legacy is continued in modern Online Public Access Catalogues(OPACs) as early OPACs functioned like digital version of card catalogs, end-usersalso continued to admire li
brary card catalogs and OPACs as ‘handicrafts’ than
understand and use them extensively. Whatever limited use made of them is morefor searching known-items and/or as adjuncts to library circulation system than as aninformation retrieval tool. Interestingly, many studies have reported that largemajority of users prefer to browsing books on the shelves of libraries than browsinglibrary catalogues.Search Engines intuitively captured the imagination of end-users with many simpleand easy to understand features in information discovery and access. User-centricdesign, self-service, seamlessness, natural language search, fuzzy search, autosuggestion of search terms, spell-check, auto-plurals, auto-word truncation, showingsimilar items/pages, relevance ranking, popularity tracking, interaction and feedback,provision for varieties of filtering and browsing, etc. are the features users gotacquainted from Search Engines. They never expected users to undergo informationliteracy trainings and not even to have a search strategy or prepare a complexsearch query, but allowed users to enter whatever natural language words come to
their mind in a search box with a ‘search’ or ‘go’ button adjacent to it to click and
execute without the burden of knowing field tags, Boolean operators or datastructure and so on. As a matter of fact, unlike OPACs, by default they did notrestrict the search terms to select fields even though that is an option available andthis feature greatly increased the relevance of search results. Search Engines wentto the extent of automatically deciding, as soon as two or more keywords are entered
in the search box, either to execute as a phrase search or Boolean ‘AND’ search.
Some clever Search Engines execute both in sequence, i.e., first as a phrase searchand then as Boolean AND search if the resulting hits are below certain pre-specifiednumber.Once the search results appeared, Search Engines effectively capture the attentionof users with relevance ranked presentation, option to change the criteria for ranking
like ‘latest first’ (i.e., by date of publication). The display of results by Search Engines
is more convenient and comfortable than that from OPACs. Search Engines guideusers, in a simple way, not only to modify the search and re-execute with the search
Newsletter
Volume 4 Issue 1 January 2012

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