Reinventing the OPAC

Article excerpt

People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.--Warren G. Bennis (1)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.--attributed to Benjamin Franklin by (2)

In trying to figure out how best to present all of the data, opinions, and current discussion swirling around the whole "future of cataloging" issue, and since I have already stated my opinion in chapter 1 (which is that the era of the library OPAC is over), I thought it best to just provide a kind of written mashup of all the good resources, presentations, and even listserv posts regarding the whole topic. There seem to be two major paths forward so far: reuse, reinvent, reconceptualize the current OPAC and its data in forward-thinking, new ways; or dump the "lipstick on a pig" concept and just start building and working with users in Web/Library 2.0 and 3.0 directions. The many and varied opinions and quotes regarding the former are provided in this chapter. All of these links, quotes, and opinions are must-read pieces.

Perspectives on the OPAC's Future

Papers, Articles, and Reports

"ILS Assessment: A Background Document"

Revised background document created for a one-day symposium on the future of the Integrated Library System hosted by the University of Windsor, Nov. 15, 2006 (dated June 1, 2007)

This is a fact-based, economics-reality look at the future of the ILS in libraries. There are numerous statements from other related documents that warrant quoting (references are provided in the document):

   Today--information resources are relatively abundant and user
   attention is relatively scarce [dispersed]. The network is now the
   focus of a user's attention, and the available collection is a very
   much larger resource that the local catalogued collection. This
   poses major questions for the future of the catalogue and this is
   bound up with the difference between discovery (identifying the
   resources of interest) and location (identifying where those
   resources of interest are actually available). There may be many
   discovery environments, which then need to locate resources in
   particular collections. While the catalogue may be a part of the
   location process its role in the discovery process needs to be
   worked through. (Dempsey, 2006, p. 2)

   [Consider a business model]--in healthy businesses, the demand for
   a product and the capacity to produce it are in balance. Research
   libraries invest huge sums in the infrastructure that produces
   their local catalogues, but search engines are students' and
   scholars' favourite place to begin a search. More users bypass
   catalogues for search engines, but research libraries' investment
   in catalogues--and in the collections they describe--does not
   reflect the shift in user demand (Calhoun, 2006, p. 15)

   The time and energy required to do Library business is
   unsustainable. We have people performing duplicative work
   throughout our system. We are unable to share matching resources or
   records across our multiple catalogues, content management systems,
   and differing standards. These
   redundancies have opportunity costs in terms of services we do not
   have the time or staff to offer. We all agree that the cost of our
   bibliographic services enterprise is unsupportable as we move into
   an increasingly digital world, yet a solution is nowhere in sight.
   (Univ Calif., 2005, p. 9)

   The OPAC of the future will not be our most important finding
   tool.... The OPAC should function well alone but recognize its
   position in the larger scope of available information (the
   catalogue of the future will feed end user discovery tools as well
   as be a discovery tool in its own right) (Tennant, Nov. … 


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