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Library 2.0 and the Upper Arlington Public Library’s Website May 20, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Final Project, Library 2.0, Upper Arlington Public Library.
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On a spectrum of engagement with Library 2.0, the Upper Arlington Public Library falls much closer to the Salt Lake City Public library, with only a very few ways for users to interact with the website’s content. While not completely devoid of means of interaction with the library through the website, many of the tools they use are more traditional, and less embracing of Web 2.0 ideals.

In reviewing UAPL’s website for its engagement in Library 2.0 technologies, I will be looking at the following three issues to guide my review. This will permit me to see both what tools are present, as well as how well this use is facilitated through instruction and explanations.

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Upper Arlington Public Library System Website

Like both the Salt Lake County Library System and the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Upper Arlington Public Library uses Evanced to manage their events. This provides some instant Library 2.0 features, with the RSS feeds and the ability to modify the calendar views. UAPL also allows users to register for programs on line, which is required for a lot of their programs.

In their other tools, UAPL follows a more traditional approach to providing interactivity. They have various e-mail newsletters that users can subscribe to, which allow some interaction with the library. They also provide an interesting book club, where the library sends users excerpts from books via e-mail. While these are not technically Library 2.0 tools, they provide a sense of interaction with the library that is beyond just a static website.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

The few interactive tools on the website are very simple to use, and so they require very little instruction to navigate. Joining the e-mail lists is a matter of clicking a button and typing an e-mail. It would be nice if there were some information about unsubscribing to the e-mail lists, but hopefully this information is included in the e-mails.

Just as with the other libraries that use Evanced, there are no included tutorials, which is particularly difficult in this case where registration is required for many activities. This tool could use more explanation to make it more user friendly. Either the library could provide it, or the system that they hire could create a tool page.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

For the e-mail lists, the library does invite users to join them mentioning specific reasons why they might want to join, trying to appeal to people with specific interests. This is more of an advertisement that describes what the content is, though they do entice readers to experience some books even before they are published. As to the rest of the tools, there is not a lot of explanation as to why anyone would want to use them. It is just assumed that users want to know what is going on, so they would want to use the interactive tool.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Library’s Website

The Upper Arlington Public Library has not really begun to embrace the many Library 2.0 tools that other libraries are integrating into their websites, but they have provided some ways that their users can interact with the library via their website. These e-mail lists are not quite Library 2.0, but they provide interaction that many users expect. Certainly there is something to be said for an e-mail list that is frequently updated and maintained, versus a RSS feed that is not consistently supplied with content.

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Subscription Databases Upper Arlington Public Library May 14, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Databases, Final Project, Upper Arlington Public Library.
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The Upper Arlington Public Library has the simplest interface to connect users to their databases. They have all of the resources listed on one page titled Reference Databases & eBooks. Whether or not this actually increases the accesibility of the databases is another question, and is one which I will explore as I look for the answers to these questions: 

  • What pathways are available for accessing the databases?
  • What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the databases?
  • What explanations/tools are available to determine which database to use, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?

Pathways for Accessing Databases:

As earlier noted, UAPL has the simplest interface for accessing their subscription databases. Primarily this is limited to their Reference Databases & eBook page, though there are links to this page from other pages. There are a few exceptions. One is a rotating featured database on the front page of their website, which is changed periodically to showcase some of the resources they provide. Another exception is the Readers’ Zone, which features resources such as links to eBooks and a link to the full Reference Database page. Beyond these few locations, access to subscription databases is channeled through the one main page.

 

On this main page, users are able to narrow down the 119 listed databases (and yes I counted, and though some are duplicates of one service, there are that many entries) into categories by topic. There are 14 different topic areas, ranging from “Biography & History” to “Health and Medicine.” Databases are frequently represented in more then one area, as they might help with more then one topic area. The descriptions for the databases all are the same in each list, just the groupings are different.

 

Assistance in Using the Databases:

The two sources of assistance for users who want to use the databases are the descriptions given of what is in each and the lists of databases around specific topics. Once a user clicks on a database, it does prompt them to put their library card number in to authenticate them. Beyond these two tools, there is no assistance offered by UAPL to use their databases on their website.

 

Database Choice—Descriptions and Age Appropriateness:

While the list does contain some information about reading levels, the descriptions seem to contain pretty standard wording, some of which is more accessible then others. For instance the EBSCO Middle Search talks about the lexile levels of the articles, which is not something a lot of parents or kids are familiar with. While many of these databases are aimed at children, the descriptions really aren’t written towards them.

 

Like some of the other libraries, one of the ways that UAPL showcases the databases appropriate for youth is by listing out different interfaces that are designed for them. Whereas some libraries just list EBSCO as one source, this library breaks it down into all of the different interfaces. They do this with all of their services, which makes it easier to find ways for different ages of users to find an interface that matches their needs.

 

An additional way that youth and parents can find resources for their kids, is through the list of homework databases.It doesn’t necessarily indicate what age of school kids, but it does narrow down the enormous list of resources to a more manageable level. There is also a list on “Education & Careers,” but it does not focus on youth.

 

Overall Review of Database Accessibility:

While UAPL does have some elements that make their databases accessible for children and youth, the sheer number of databases listed, along with the lack of direction for how to access them or why they should be used, makes it difficult for the website alone to draw users in. The site does have the advantage of being very simple, with all resources in one place. Perhaps it would be best improved with the addition of instructions on how to use the databases from home, and by improved descriptions of the databases they offer.

Library Instruction and the OPAC March 22, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Columbus Metropolitan Library, Final Project, OPAC, Salt Lake City Library, Salt Lake County Library, Upper Arlington Public Library.
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Online Public Access Catalogs all really have the same aim, to help users discover items that fulfill their information needs. Even though many systems pile features on top and around this purpose, perhaps to facilitate discovery, the basic purpose of the OPAC remains the same. After reviewing four systems it is obvious that there are a lot of factors that go into the intuitiveness of a catalog. Some OPACs have a lot of features, but no assistance for how to use them, others have lots of instruction for multiple features, but they don’t work how they are supposed to, which lessens their overall usefulness. The question isn’t if they work—because with enough time and effort it is possible to find materials through all the catalogs—but how well they work for users independently accessing them.

 

Many libraries rely on in-person staff instruction to guide users in discovering the features of their OPAC, neglecting those users who either access the OPAC from the internet or prefer not to ask for help. Even those libraries whose OPACs have instruction may not be able to reach those with specific needs, or reach children, who may not understand the terminology used in some catalogs (such as UAPL’s OPAC). There really isn’t one solution to make all of these OPAC’s more accessible for parents, teachers, and children, as each of those reviewed had different issues. Certainly catalogs like CML’s and the UAPL that had almost no instruction could integrate more directly into their interfaces, and those like Salt Lake County Libraries could make their instructions more obvious.

 

In conducting this first review, I understand that many of these OPACs are purchased from outside distributors, and that the individual libraries may not have the ability to add or modify them to integrate more instruction. Perhaps, instead of cramming instructional tools onto the search interfaces, some of these libraries might provide electronic tutorials to guide users in the catalog. Instructional videos are quick and easy to make, and can bring together written and oral instruction together to better reach both children and adults. In my next post, I will discuss the technology and process of creating an instructional video to demonstrate how to use the CML catalog to find materials for children.

Upper Arlington Public Library OPAC March 20, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Final Project, Upper Arlington Public Library.
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The last Online Public Access Catalog I will be reviewing is that of the Upper Arlington Public Library. Like the other OPAC’s this one has multiple levels and tools that users can utilize to access the catalog and find information. The UAPL OPAC does not have as many user interfaces as the CML OPAC, but it is equally as complicated. Accessible from a link on the sidebar of the main page, the library does not have dedicated computer terminals at the branches just for catalog access, allowing users to just use the internet access computers to search the catalog. My review here will follow the same pattern as with the previous reviews, looking at the following three questions:

  1.  What tools and interfaces are available for accessing the catalog?
  2. What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the catalog?
  3. What explanations/tools are available to evaluate the results of using the catalog, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?

 Tools and Interfaces Available for Accessing the Catalog:

 There are two main access points for the Upper Arlington OPAC, as well as a series of tools that can be used to “filter” the results of each interface before the search is conducted. The two interfaces are extremely different types of searches, not merely an advanced and basic interface.

  The primary search that opens from the “Library Catalog” link on the side bar of the main page is a “Browse Search.” It is a very simple interface, with one entry point and five different “search types.” These are really search areas, as all searches performed from this access point are the same type—they are catalog/index searches that are word specific. That is if you type in “tree” in a title search, you will get an alphabetical list of titles in the catalog that start with the word tree. The search works the same way with subjects, authors, call number searches, and journal title searches. Similar to the Salt Lake County OPAC’s “Starts With” search, this search allows users to enter into the catalog and see all entries; in fact once a search is conducted users can browse through all catalog entries, not just ones with Tree in the first word.

 This OPAC also has a Keyword Search, accessible from a link at the top of the search interface. This interface has three different entry points that can be customized to perform a keyword search in one out of nine areas. These range from the typical Author, Subject, Title, Subject, and Anywhere, to the more specialized numerical searches ISBN, ISSN, LCCN, OCLC (yes this is the OCLC accession number, I looked it up and tested it), and by the barcode. Under the search boxes is an area to create filters to further limit the search results. These limits are in four different drop-down menus and two different date range possibilities (publication ranges and context dates). Users can narrow down results based on Nature of Contents, Format, Language, or Publication Location, but none of the choice options within these areas would be useful for those looking for materials for children, or even a lot of public library patrons. They range in the “nature of contents” from Abstracts/summaries to legislation, and finishing with thesis and treaties.

 One final tool for searching the catalog is actually not directly on either of the search interfaces, but is set on a box on the side of the page frame and from a link at the bottom of each search interface. This is a “Session Filter” option that allows users to set limits on the results of every search conducted during a specific session (what is a session is not explained, but if the screen is left on either search interface for very long it moves to the “My Account” screen. For the most part these limits are the same as those at the bottom of the Keyword search interface, with the addition of the ability to narrow down the search to items at one or more of the systems three branches.

 

Assistance Available to Explain or Guide the use of the Catalog:

Of the four OPAC’s reviewed, the UAPL has the least available tools integrated to assist users in searching the catalog. There are some text instructions, for instance “Select items to filter on. Hold down CTRL to make multiple selections.” But that is pretty much the extent of the assistance available from on the website for users to learn how to navigate the catalog.

 

Explanations/Tools Available to Evaluate the Results:

 Results are displayed in a numbered list that tells the user the number available, where they are located, what the title is, the author is, publication information, and also allows users to place a reserve directly from the results list. An icon next to the number illustrates what format the item is, though there is not a key to explain what they mean. Below the icon are three links to different levels of information on the item, first a full item screen, second an item level screen, and then the MARC record screen.

The three types of records contain data describing the item. First is the “full” record, which contains basic information about the item: call number, author, title, publication, and subject. It doesn’t have any information about if the item is available or at what library it could be found, beyond the call number. The second record is the “item” record dedicated to the circulation status of the item, its current location, and so on, as well as including the basic details from the “full” record page. It provides a chart of different status options, from Checked Out, On Hold, Requested, and so on. The final record is the MARC record of the item, simplified somewhat, but showing all of the information entered in the basic fields. For those not accustomed to reading and interpreting MARC records, this may not be the most informative screen.

 

Overall Review of Upper Arlington Public Library OPAC

 

 In some ways this is a very simple OPAC, it doesn’t have a lot of flashy Library 2.0 features, but that doesn’t mean that using it is straight forward and easy. Besides not having instruction and guidance built into the catalog, it is not an intuitive search, as it uses terms and record numbers that are not popularly used outside of library science. In particular, there are no tools or limiters that might help users discover what materials are suitable for children. The limits seem better suited for adults or even academic libraries. Even the individual item records are difficult to interpret, seeming to offer a perspective more suitable for staff and professionals, not parents, teachers, or children.

Upper Arlington Public Library February 26, 2009

Posted by swegene1 in Final Project, Upper Arlington Public Library.
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Ohio is a state full of libraries, with a system of funding that allows all state residents to get library cards, because of this there are a number of smaller systems tucked in the middle of larger systems. One such system is the relatively smaller Upper Arlington Public Library, which is in a small suburb of Columbus. With one main library, and two small branches, this system serves a direct population of around 32k residants.

Like all of the other libraries in this project, the UAPL has a comitment to providing services to patrons through their extensive electronic presence, both in their website and in their OPAC stations. They list subscriptions to over 100 databases, though many of the listed services are merely subsets of larger services. While a fair number are provided in partnership with the state library, they have invested in a fair number of unique services for their patrons. UAPL is also a member of the Mid-Ohio Digital Initiative (MOLDI) as well as CML, which provides access to the Overdrive services they jointly subscribe to.

In looking at UAPL, my questions are focused, as with the other systems, on what electronic services they offer their patrons, what pathways they have to access them, and to what degree children, parents, and teachers can understand why they would want to use specific services.