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Graphical User Interfaces and Library Systems: End-User Reactions

By Zorn, Margaret J.; Marshall, Lucy | Special Libraries, Winter 1995 | Go to article overview

Graphical User Interfaces and Library Systems: End-User Reactions

Zorn, Margaret J., Marshall, Lucy, Special Libraries


The graphical user interface (GUI) is becoming the standard for business application software. According to Microsoft Corporation, over 40 million units of the Microsoft Windows operating system have been sold, fostering industry-wide growth of GUI software products on the market.[1] Estimates of Windows-compatible software growth in 1993 range from 52.7% to 260%.[2,3] Sales of third-party Windows-compatible applications almost doubled in 1992, compared to the 12% growth of software applications overall. Macintosh's System 7, another GUI operating system, claimed 15.1% of the software market in 1992.[4] These statistics, plus other industry trends, indicate that the GUI is by far the fastest growing computer desktop configuration. Release of improved versions of OS/2 and Windows NT, as well as Windows Lite and Windows 4.0 (a.k.a. Chicago or Windows 95), only point to a continuation and expansion of the use of GUIs in more mainstream and low-end computing applications.

How, then, are library systems vendors, library management, and library end-users responding to this growing trend? Currently, integrated library automation systems, online searching systems, and CD-ROM database systems are still heavily entrenched in the text-based or DOS environment. Most library systems vendors must continue to appeal to and satisfy the lowest common computing denominator, which is the text-based or DOS applications. Therefore, development and enhancement of those types of systems continues to flourish. As noted by Breeding, "In the realm of library-specific software . . . the movement toward graphical interfaces so far seems somewhat slower than that for general computing applications. . ."[5] There are, however, the beginnings of a push from most major vendors toward development and release of GUt (Windows and Macintosh) versions of previously text-based or DOS library applications software. A number of library vendors have released production versions of GUI-based applications. Notably, CD Plus, SilverPlatter, and Dynix Marquis all have substantial investment in the GUI as applied to library computer applications.

Despite the undeniable trend towards the GUI coupled with promises of easier training, improved productivity, and more satisfied users, user response to this change, in both the computing world as a whole and the library environment, remains largely undocumented. Libraries make software decisions that will affect all library users, often thousands of people. Additionally, special libraries, as part of larger entities, are more likely to encounter GUIs as part of the organizational computing environment, and feel pressure to migrate to library applications that provide a GUI. It is therefore extremely important to find out if GUIs live up to the promises of advertisements, vendors, and current trends. This article focuses on the user satisfaction of the recently-implemented GUI-based Dynix Marquis Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) at the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research Library in Ann Arbor, MI. User satisfaction was determined with a survey comparing user satisfaction with the Dynix Classic OPAC, which uses a traditional text-based interface, to the Dynix Marquis OPAC. Additionally, usage statistics of the two OPACs were compared.

Literature Review

Studies measuring end-user satisfaction with various vendor versions of the OPAC in libraries are well documented in the literature. Seymour provides a comprehensive overview of methodologies used in these studies, and is a starting point for anyone seeking insight into end-user satisfaction with OPACs.[6] Much less has been written, however, concerning end-user satisfaction with a second or third generation system or a new OPAC interface. A body of literature exists which discusses the migration process to a new library automation system, but very little has been published covering user satisfaction with new systems. Scharf and Ward conducted a survey to assess end-user satisfaction with the OPAC after migration from a CLSI to a NOTIS system at the University of Central Florida.

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