Additional Thoughts on the OPAC

Helene Blowers at Library TechBytes points out that we, in the library community, share responsibility for the state of our ILS systems. She suggests that we have demanded that ILS vendors create specialized systems that are tailored to our individual organization with little thought of flexibility. I would agree. I think that today’s mind set of being able to customize programs and interfaces per library, but more importantly per user, is a relatively recent concept. Helene also points out how difficult it is to change people’s habits. Again, I agree. Many library people are not unhappy with their ILS systems and/or OPACs. They may accept them because “this is the way it has always been done,” because they actually don’t find a problem with it or for any number of other reasons. Many people do not like change – they will accept something the way it is simply because they prefer the devil they know to the one they do not. Overcoming this attitude is hard. It requires agents of change who can gently handly many types of personalities. Only when a group is ready for change, can we move forward. Achieving this desired change requires a great deal of self-examination (library as self). Re-examining circulation and collection procedures should definitely be revisited. A natural part of Library 2.0 (or just normal evolution – I like Meredith Farkas am not a big fan of labels) should always about questioning existing policies and procedures on a regular basis.

So ultimately, we aren’t just looking at ways to improve our OPAC. I think we are looking to improve our libraries and our way of business. Most of our policies and procedures were developed before the internet, before the advent of full-text resources, etc. Maybe we should be starting by looking at our mission statements, reexaming our services, question everything, think about all aspects of our day-to-day business. Only when we truly understand ourselves can we even begin to try and understand our patrons. Hopefully, if we do it right, we will be better able to deal with future changes in a more timely manner.

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5 Responses to Additional Thoughts on the OPAC

  1. jmnlman says:

    or you can end up with the exact opposite problem. In my graduate school program were being continuously asked for feedback about changes so often that we end up tuning them out.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Excellent point. I find it hard to envision in terms of library policies given that they are very frequently reviewed in many places. However, constantly revision would be worse would make for a exhausting work atmosphere. Additionally asking patrons to continually comment on services, take surveys, etc. could only hurt the cause.

  3. Helene says:

    Good points about staff comfort level and “because we’ve always done it this way” mindset. It’s very hard to introduce change in any organization, but when your custumers are demanding it, you need to be able to take a hard look at yourselves.

    Sometimes it’s not about continually asking the users for their input. I find that it’s more about listening and reacting to the input/feedback they’ve already been telling you for years. Our catalogs are that way – we’ve heard the furstration from users for years about subject searches, keyword placement, series searches, etc. They just want it easier … and for a change it’s nice to see the profession agreeing with them 🙂 Nice post!!

  4. Susan Harden says:

    I think that Libraries have yet to make the investment in IT and web development staff when compared to private retailers. Libraries invest significantly in service staff but yet seem to think it unnecessary to pay high salaries (that may exceed the Director’s salary) to provide outstanding customer service via the catalog. I think a Library should hire someone who manages an online banking site to manage the catalog. I think online banking is a great retail model for a catalog. I hate my bank, generally, but won’t leave because I LOVE their online banking. Wouldn’t be great if our customers who love our other customer interactions, felt the same way about our catalog (which we should call something else).

  5. Jennifer says:

    Boy Susan you are right on target. Most often, libraries invest in systems and then rely upon current staff to support them. We do the best we can – and then berate ourselves for falling short of the mark – or end up feeling put upon and lose sight of the overall goal.

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