… and (almost) the perfect library search engine

Cambridge now offers an integrated, fairly seamless search interface for its libraries’ holdings – no mean feat when you consider that there’s over a hundred libraries within the University. It’s based on the AquaBrowser software and offers significant improvements on the traditional library catalogue, particularly in terms of discoverability. Coverage includes article databases and the DSpace@cambridge repository in addition to print holdings, while the interface itself is far more intuitive and visual. Best bits: excellent search result faceting, and the funky word cloud.

My MLIS research, which was an analysis of OPAC transactional logs,
made for depressing reading: the vast majority of searches were for known items, meaning that discovery was happening elsewhere; there was little evidence of clickthrough from one record to another (‘pearl growing‘, possibly the silliest library metaphor ever); and the number of searches carried out for article titles was enough to make me weep.

As anyone who went to ALPSP now knows, my mantra is that we should make library catalogues attractive places where people are encouraged to spend time: to linger and explore, to make connections between stuff they know about and new material. Discovery is a major element in AquaBrowser’s mission, and together with the much friendlier, more visual interface and the Google-style search box, I’m hoping that the word cloud and faceting will open up our holdings to researchers in a lot of new ways.

Almost perfect? Well, the interface is still in beta, and we’re hoping for comments and feedback so we can continue to improve the service: it’s very flexible and customisable.

Oh, and a name – other than ‘Library Search’ – would make it absolutely perfect!

Check it out at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/searchinfo/

2 comments so far

  1. Roddy MacLeod on

    If it’s a Library Search, and it searches the library, then why call it anything except ‘Library Search’?

    Therre are too many weird names at websites for searchy things as it is.

    • librariangoddess on

      Roddy, it’s undoubtedly true that there are too many weird names for OPACs :) I guess my problem with ‘Library Search’ is that being a pedant I read it as ‘a search for libraries’ – which almost makes sense in Cambridge given how rich we are in them!

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