Information Retrieval

Towards a modern, functional OPAC

Aaron Schmidt has used quite a few library OPACs. He's also used and sought out the best of the open web. You’ve probably done the same and like him, you’ve probably been dismayed at the disparity between the two worlds. The open web can be fun and inspiring. Would you say the same of our OPACs? He's thought about what OPACs should be like in bits and pieces and decided to assemble them here.

A Problem
Besides all of the small, simple usability enhancements OPACs need (listed way below) a big concern about library websites and OPACs is the distracting transition between the two. You know the routine. Ubiquitous “Click here to search the catalog” links take users from one place to another and create a disjointed experience.

Aaron's Solution
One way to provide a seamless experience is to put some OPAC functions into the website, letting people accomplish OPAC tasks without having to leave the library website. In Aaron's dream OPAC this go-between is essentially an ecommerce shopping basket but called a backpack or bookshelf in this instance. Just like on, when logged in, a patron’s library backpack appears on every library webpage, whether it be the homepage, a book list, or the results list of a search. Any item cover on the website can be dragged and dropped into users’ backpack/bookshelf.

Where Do the Footprints of Metadata Lead? asks Where Do the Footprints of Metadata Lead? Metadata, often described as "data about data," is electronically stored information that generally is not visible from the face of a document that has been printed out, or as first seen on a computer screen. Embedded in the software, metadata gives information about the creation or modification of the document -- information which often is mundane but at other times, can be quite significant and perhaps even privileged.

By "mining" the metadata in a document, someone may be able to identify the document's author, changes made during various stages of its preparation, comments made by others who reviewed the document and other documents embedded within the document.

Pondering Podcast Access -- A Conundrum I Have No Solution To

The Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science defines podcast as:

A digital media file (audio or video) syndicated over the Internet via an RSS feed. The author or host of a podcast is known as a podcaster. Once available online, podcasts can be downloaded for listening on portable media devices (MP3 players, pocket CDs, cell phones) and personal computers. Despite the similarity in name, listening to or watching a podcast does not require an iPod, although the device can be used for that purpose. Online directories of podcasts are usually browsable by subject and searchable by keyword(s) (examples: Podcast Alley,, and

This describes the program produced here in the Las Vegas metro. This also describes the method of normal distribution. Is this the normal means of accessing LISTen, though?

Calais and the Semantic Web

Reuters has released an open API for its new Calais Web service that aims to make it easier for publishers, bloggers, and other content producers to automatically metatag their content and to develop their own applications for the Semantic Web. To use the service, a publisher simply inputs unstructured text and the service returns semantic metadata in RDF format in less than a second. Using natural-language processing and machine learning techniques, Calais locates entities, facts, and events and processes those components into metadata.

An Online Organizer That Helps Connect the Dots

HOW often have you wasted time searching through page after page of e-mail messages, Web sites, notes, news feeds and YouTube videos on your computer, trying to find an important item?

If the answer is “too often,” a San Francisco company, Radar Networks, is testing a free, Web-based application, called Twine, that may provide some robotic secretarial help in organizing and retrieving documents.

Twine ( can scan almost any electronic document for the names of people, places, businesses and many other entities that its algorithms recognize.

Then it does something unusual: it automatically tags or marks all of these items in orange and transfers them to an index on the right side of the screen. This index grows with every document you view, as the program adds subjects that it can recognize or infer from their context.

Article continued here.

ISU-based center to help librarians train info consumers

Teaching people to find, evaluate and use information effectively has always been part of a librarian’s job, but Ward wants to create a centralized one-stop shop to help. With a nearly $60,000 federal grant in hand, he aims to build the Illinois Center for Information Literacy at ISU.

“The idea is to have one place to see what is going on in Illinois in terms of information literacy,” Ward said.

A new search engine...

Sarah, from LibrarianInBlack, shares this cool search engine that I hadn't seen before. It's called Carrot, and not only is it open source (so you can use it on your library's website), but it clusters results together. What I mean by this is try searching for the term Harry Potter. Over on the side they divide topics up so that you can narrow results by title of books or wands. You also have subheadings so that you can see where the results came from or the sources the engine found it in (such as Ask!, Google, etc.)
Very cool!

ChaCha Guided Searching Goes Mobile

A search that uses human guides didn't make much sense in a world of libraries with IM service, and when ChaCha debuted in 2006, the buzz died down quickly. Expect to see a revival now that they've started providing text message services. Still powered by human guides, the service will likely be a hit with folks unwilling to pay for Internet access on their phones. It's free for now, but the company plans to charge $5-10/mo. for the service in the future, which may effectively kill any interest from users without smart phones.

Before Memex

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Information Re/Evolution

The professor behind the The Machine is Us/ing Us video has produced a new one, called Information Re/Evolution. This video deals with the search for information and has some relevance for libraries and librarians.


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