Thursday, May 17, 2007

IUG 2007 – Enhancing the virtual catalog experience: WebPAC Pro and the WebPAC Pro bundle

Mark Strang from Bowling Green State University made this presentation.

The spell checker function works like you’d expect it to work, if a user misspells one of their search terms, options for correct spellings are displayed along with any results for the initial search. If they misspell more than one of their search terms, drop down boxes display that contain options for correct spellings for each potentially misspelled word! In our initial usability tests at the Bell Library, two of our four participants misspelled a search term at some point during the testing and all of them were ultimately unsuccessful in task completion as a result. That indicates to me that a spell checker would be tremendously useful to them. My dream would be that we could implement the spell checker in the initial version of our new design so that I could compare successes against the data we collected in those initial test.

If a library chooses to implement it, Encore also supports inbound and outbound RSS feeds. Strang didn’t spend any time discussing inbound feeds but instead spent his time talking about configuring outbound feeds. Most libraries’ initial use of outbound feeds seem to consist of new materials lists generated by Create List queries. Strang discussed the advantages and disadvantages of basing feeds on the query vs. a review file. In essence, using a query is the preferred method because it allows automatic updating of the feed as opposed to a review file which is static and must be updated (and thus a new feed item) manually.

The feature that generated the most questions and comments from the audience is called Community Reviews. Community reviews allows library users to write their own reviews of library materials. Strang’s library was using it to present student reviews written as a class assignment that library staff were putting up on their site, they were not currently allowing users to post their own comments. This, however, is possible and can be monitored by library staff.

Of these three functions, it seems to me that both building RSS feeds and monitoring reviews would require a permanent commitment of staff time. Not necessarily Systems staff time but library staff time certainly. A couple of questions occurred to me during this session in that regard. First, I wonder how much (if any) access to MilAdmin is required to monitor reviews since the Systems Department may be reluctant to give a lot of access to a non-Systems staff member.

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