Friday, December 14, 2012

The Library Catalogue as Online Service

Through my Twitter feed (an excellent place for stumbling across useful and relevant resources), I stumbled upon this article by Dempsey (2012) on the library catalog. The article extends on some of my thoughts about the library's online public access catalogue. I have long thought of the library's online catalogue as being the library’s flagship online product/service. To now read Dempsey (2012) encapsulating my view in his brief sub-heading of 'The Catalog as an Identifiable Service', now gives me reason to post some of my thoughts on this subject.

While I do not care much for the discussion on how the online catalogue of libraries is changing and how people are becoming interested in making catalogue data open, I find more intriguing the idea that in the world  of online resources and the Web, the library's premier service is its online catalogue. Wells (2007) makes the statement that ‘ [e]ven though the online public access catalogue (OPAC) now functions against a background of alternative information-gathering technologies it is likely to remain at the centre of library operations for the foreseeable future as the primary automated point of connection between library users and those information resources which the library owns or otherwise wishes to promote’ (p. 386). In fact, so crucial is the online catalogue as a library service, that I feel that a library's website should be organised around it. Just like Google, the OPAC's interface should be the landing page of the library's website.

Currently, I am contemplating a paper (even while I should be preparing for my comprehensive examinations) on 'Extending the online public access catalogue (OPAC) through storytelling principles: How can storytelling inform the design of online information retrieval systems for libraries?' In this paper, I hope to focus on the centrality of the OPAC and how to improve its communication using storytelling principles. It is my hope that the paper, which is both a conceptual as well as practical look at applying theoretical research on storytelling and narrative from organisational storytelling, digital storytelling, web-based storytelling, knowledge sharing and computer interface design, to reworking and extending the OPAC, be accepted for presentation at a conference that I intend to attend in the summer. So I will save my under-developed and premature ideas about this topic for later iterations on this blog.


Dempsey, L. (2012, December 10).  Thirteen ways of looking at libraries, discovery, and the catalog: Scale, workflow, attention EDUCAUSE Review Retrieved from

Wells, D. (2007).What is a library OPAC? The Electronic Library, 25(4): pp. 386 – 394.

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