OPAC Evaluation: Chicago Public Library Kid's Catalog Web - Elizabeth Koehler

 
OPAC Evaluation: Chicago Public Library Kid's Catalog Web - Elizabeth Koehler
OPAC Evaluation:
Chicago Public Library
 Kid’s Catalog Web

      Elizabeth Koehler
OPAC Evaluation: Chicago Public Library Kid's Catalog Web - Elizabeth Koehler
Table of Contents

Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Brief Scenario . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

OPAC Details . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

OPAC Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

            Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

            Search Functions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

            Search Results Display . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

            Item Record Display . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

            Browsing Functions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

            Overall HELP Features and Documentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

            Other OPAC Functionality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

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OPAC Evaluation: Chicago Public Library Kid's Catalog Web - Elizabeth Koehler
Table of Figures

Figure 1 - Clickable buttons featuring pictures of children........................................................................... 8

Figure 2 - Easy-to-understand terminology .................................................................................................. 9

Figure 3 - Lack of Consistent Navigation Tools ........................................................................................... 10

Figure 4 - Browsing feature location breadcrumbs .................................................................................... 10

Figure 5 - the "Type Search" screen............................................................................................................ 12

Figure 6 - Keyword Search of the Entire Catalog ........................................................................................ 12

Figure 7 - Narrowing the audience of items in a keyword search .............................................................. 13

Figure 8 - Search results display.................................................................................................................. 14

Figure 9 - "Ask a librarian for help" screen ................................................................................................. 14

Figure 10 - Item Record Display .................................................................................................................. 17

Figure 11 - "Best Stories" browsing function .............................................................................................. 19

Figure 12 - "Best Stories" results display .................................................................................................... 19

Figure 13 - "Explore" toolbar ...................................................................................................................... 20

Figure 14 - "Events and Programs" list ....................................................................................................... 21

Figure 15 - Event details.............................................................................................................................. 21

Figure 16 - Book reviews feature ................................................................................................................ 22

Figure 17 - A list of book reviews ................................................................................................................ 22

Figure 18 - Book review submission form................................................................................................... 23

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OPAC Evaluation: Chicago Public Library Kid's Catalog Web - Elizabeth Koehler
Executive Summary

Lakewood Elementary School, which houses a collection of over 25,000 volumes, is searching for a new
online public access catalog (OPAC) to provide online access to the collection to the school’s third to
fifth grade students.

The ideal OPAC to fit Lakewood Elementary School’s needs would be:

       Age appropriate for eight- to eleven-year olds.
       User-friendly for students with little or no OPAC experience.
       Visibly appealing.
       Sensibly organized.
       Accessible to students with special needs or unique circumstances.
       Supportive of both simple and advanced searches of multiple fields.
       Browsable based on subject, genre, or classification, as well as on popularity or teacher
        recommendation.
       Inclusive of book summaries.
       Remotely accessible for all students, teachers, and parents.

This report evaluates the design, search functions, search results display, item record display, browsing
functions, overall HELP features and documentation, and other OPAC functionality of the Chicago Public
Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web.

        Summary of the OPAC design evaluation

The OPAC layout is clearly designed to appeal to users who are the age of Lakewood Elementary School
students. The pages are brightly colored, attractive, and intended to be easy for children to navigate
through. The simplicity of the design, however, results in the absence of several key elements, like a
consistent navigation tool and alternative functionality for users with special needs.

Strengths:

       Bright colors and eye-catching graphics make the catalog attractive and exciting for young users.
       Pictures of children make it clear that the catalog is designed for a child’s use
       The terminology used is suitable and accessible for eight to eleven-year old users.

Weaknesses:

       There is no consistent navigation tool throughout the OPAC. Users must return to the home
        page to access different features.
       There is limited alternative functionality to accommodate students with special needs or
        circumstances.

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Summary of the search functions and search results display evaluation

The Chicago Public Library Kid’s Catalog Web only allows for users to conduct basic title, author, and
subject searches. There is no advanced search functionality, nor is there a direct way for users to
conduct general keyword searches within the Kid’s Catalog Web. There are also no options for users to
select how their search results are displayed or sorted. Finally, the catalog is not designed to handle
errors or references to related authors, titles, or subjects.

Strengths:

       The search function is simple and introductory and allows children to see exactly where they are
        searching for terms.
       The search screen is consistent and does not include extra, distracting information.
       When no search results are found, the catalog encourages users to ask a librarian for assistance.

Weaknesses:

       There is no functionality for an advanced search.
       There is no direct way for users to conduct a general keyword search.
       The user has no options to control how search results are sorted or displayed.
       The proper formatting of an author’s name in an author search is not explained.
       There is little to no functionality in the search feature to handle errors or references.

    Summary of the item record display evaluation

When a title is selected from the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web, the item record display
includes the book’s call number, summary, Library of Congress subject headings, author (and other
responsible parties), publisher, and size. There are no views available to users other than the default
view that includes all of this information and the MARC record view. The URLs of the item records are
long and not persistent.

Strengths:

       The default view of the item record display provides an array of useful information for children
        in terms that they can understand, including book summaries.

Weaknesses:

       There are no item record displays available other than the default view (which contains too
        much information) and the MARC view.
       Item record URLs are lengthy and non-persistent, which could lead users to have to repeat
        searches to find records.

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Summary of the browsing functions

There are two browsing functions in the Kid’s Catalog Web. Users can browse a section called “Best
Stories,” and there is also a feature called “Explore” that allows users to browse through items by topic.
There are several levels of subcategories, and the OPAC utilizes location breadcrumbs for users to track
their location and broaden and narrow their searches.

Strengths:

       The Explore feature provides records of nonfiction items in chronological order, allowing
        students easiest access to the newest information about any topic.
       The location breadcrumbs provide navigability for users.

Weaknesses:

       There are no apparent weaknesses in the browsing functionality.

    Summary of the overall HELP features and documentation

There are no apparent HELP features or documentation attached to the Chicago Public Library’s OPAC. It
is not apparent whether the lack of inclusion is a design choice on the part of the Chicago Public Library
or a weakness of the Carl∙X OPAC with Endeca overlay.

    Summary of other OPAC functionality

The Kid’s Catalog Web provides a function for users to view and browse events for kids happening in the
library. It also features a book review section, written for and by children. Children can see what other
users are reading, view their opinions and recommendations, and submit their own book reviews. This
function could be a useful tool for Lakewood Elementary school teachers to incorporate into their
curriculums.

    Recommendations

Evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the design, functionality, and usability of the Chicago
Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web suggests that it is not the right OPAC to fit Lakewood Elementary
School’s needs.

In its current form, the Kid’s Catalog Web is visibly appealing to young users, but its simplicity of design
prevents it from being an effective tool for today’s students. The OPAC lacks options and functionality
that are necessary for students to conduct searches. The lack of HELP documentation would make it
nearly impossible for students to function independently from remote locations.

Lakewood Elementary School should continue its search for an OPAC that can more closely fit the needs
of its student population.

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Brief Scenario

Lakewood Elementary School, which currently serves close to five hundred enrolled third to fifth grade
students, opened its doors in 1959. The original library collection was small, even comparatively, but has
grown substantially over the past five decades due to budget allocation and generous endowments. The
collection now includes over 25,000 books and other items.

Weeding and cataloging the library’s large collection has always been a monumental task for a single
librarian, and as the library’s collection has grown, so has its card catalog. The card catalog drawers now
cover a significant area of one wall, valuable space that could be utilized for other purposes. In 2005 the
district decided to move all journal subscriptions online and purchase new subscriptions to several
online databases, but it has not, up until this point, utilized any type of Online Public Access Catalog
(OPAC).

Considering the advent of new technology and the increasing difficulty of manually maintaining a print
catalog, the librarian has appealed to the Southwestern School District administration and has been
granted funds to purchase an OPAC for the Lakewood Elementary School library.

Links to the library’s e-journals and online databases are already available on the library website for
student use, and the new OPAC will also be accessible to the students both at school and remotely.

The age, level of OPAC experience, and educational needs of the student population are all important
factors to consider for the selection of the OPAC. The catalog that is chosen will need to be user-friendly
and accessible for children between the ages of eight and eleven. The icons and buttons must be visually
appealing, sensibly organized, and include pictures that correspond with their individual functions. It is
imperative that the OPAC should support both simple keyword searches and advanced searches of
multiple fields. Another important feature is browsing capability. With an effective OPAC, students
should be able to select materials based on subject, genre, or classification, as well as on popularity or
teacher recommendation. Book summaries and descriptions must also be accessible through the OPAC.
Finally, the OPAC that Lakewood Elementary School selects will need to be remotely accessible for all
students, teachers, and parents.

                                               OPAC Details

This report focuses on evaluating the Chicago Public Library (http://www.chipublib.org) Kid’s Catalog
Web (http://www.chipublib.org/forkids).

The Chicago Public Library utilizes the Carl∙X OPAC, a product of The Library Corporation (TLC). The OPAC
overlay is produced by Endeca Technologies, Inc.

This OPAC serves the entire Chicago Public Library system, which includes seventy-nine branches in the
greater Chicago, Illinois area. The library provides resources and services to patrons of all ages, but the
website includes a section “For Kids” that will serve as the subject of this evaluative report. This “For

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Kids” section of the website, as well as the OPAC within it, has been formatted to serve youth patrons at
the Chicago Public Library.

Evaluation of the design, search functions, search results display, item record display, browsing
functions, overall HELP features and documentation, and other OPAC functionality of the Chicago Public
Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web should provide an idea of whether the Carl∙X OPAC with Endeca Overlay
could be utilized as an OPAC for the third to fifth grade students at Lakewood Elementary School.

                                              OPAC Evaluation

        Design

The overall design of the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web is fairly user-friendly. The
appearance and layout are clearly designed for young patrons, and would be suitable for the eight- to
eleven-year-old students at Lakewood Elementary School.

In an article entitled “How To Design Websites to Maximize Usability” (2007), Jasek suggests several key
components that web designers should keep in mind in order to best serve their users. Sites should, for
instance, be organized based on users’ tasks and their frequency, and the search functions of the
website should be clear and offered on the homepage. The Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web
does provide links to the functions that users are likely to utilize frequently (resources, search and
browsing functions, book reviews, and events) on its main page, but they cannot search the catalog
directly from a search bar on the main page. They must instead click “Type search” to enter into a
search, but this feature is clearly illustrated apparent on the home page. (See Figure 1.)

The layout design of the Kid’s Catalog Web is bright and attractive, and it provides an interface that
would appeal to young users. Many clickable button features in the OPAC, for instance, feature pictures
of children that are related to the functions of the buttons. Children of different genders, races, and
ethnicities are featured, making the OPAC more representative of and accessible to a broader range of
students. (See Figure 1 for an example of the buttons that users can click to access functions from the
main page.)

                            Figure 1 - Clickable buttons featuring pictures of children

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The bright colors and eye-catching pictures used throughout the OPAC, in addition to these pictures,
make the catalog more attractive and exciting for young users.

The terminology used in the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web is also suitable and accessible for
patrons the age of Lakewood Elementary School students. “Usability studies have shown many users do
not understand simple library terms and concepts like catalog, resources, online database, citation,
reserves, reference or special collections” (Jasek 2007, p. 4). This is especially true of young,
inexperienced library uses who are just becoming accustomed to making the transition from searching
within the physical library space to searching within the OPAC. The Chicago Public Library Kid’s Catalog
Web uses easy-to-understand words and phrases like “Explore” and “Find It,” rather than advanced
library terminology. All functions and options are made clear to users. (See Figure 2.)

                                   Figure 2 - Easy-to-understand terminology

The navigability of the catalog is not as ideal for young users as the layout of the catalog is. The main
page of the Kids’ Catalog Web has a clear header and sidebars that can be used to navigate to any of the
OPAC’s tools, but there is no consistent navigation tool throughout the rest of the OPAC. If a student
was to click the “Explore” button on the main page of the catalog when he or she really meant to click
the “Type Search” button, for instance, the student would have to click “Back” or “Home” to start over
at the main page, rather than being able to click directly into a different feature of the catalog. (See
Figure 3.) The main page, in fact, is really the only place in the catalog where users can go to access
different features of the catalog. Jasek (2007) suggests that an effective OPAC would “use one
navigation bar, use it consistently and use it well. Usually a navigation bar appears at the top of every
page, as a series of buttons or tabs” (p. 8). The Chicago Public Library Kid’s Catalog Web provides no
such consistent navigation tool.

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Figure 3 - Lack of Consistent Navigation Tools

It is particularly important to keep in mind the unique needs and preferences of the students who will
be using Lakewood Elementary School’s future OPAC. Students might, for example, start looking for a
new Goosebumps series book to read by clicking “Browse,” then “Stories, Myths & Fairy Tales,” then
searching through the “Ghost Stories” section of the OPAC. Not finding one, however, students will
have to return all the way to the main page to begin a search for R.L. Stine.

The OPAC does, however, provide location breadcrumbs at the top of screen when users are using the
Browse feature, making it easy for users to backtrack into broader terms within the subjects they have
been browsing. (See Figure 4.)

                               Figure 4 - Browsing feature location breadcrumbs

The last issue to consider in the design of the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web is the
accessibility of the site for students with unique needs. The W3C “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

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1.0” (1999) spell out some of the situations in which a normal webpage design might not be accessible
to all users:

     They may not be able to see, hear, move, or may not be able to process some types of information
      easily or at all.
     They may have difficulty reading or comprehending text.
     They may not have or be able to use a keyboard or mouse.
     They may have a text-only screen, a small screen, or a slow Internet connection.
     They may not speak or understand fluently the language in which the document is written.
     They may be in a situation where their eyes, ears, or hands are busy or interfered with (e.g.,
      driving to work, working in a loud environment, etc.).
     They may have an early version of a browser, a different browser entirely, a voice browser, or a
      different operating system.

The Chicago Public Library Kid’s Catalog Web provides very limited alternative functionality to
accommodate these types of special needs. There are three different choices for font size within the
catalog, (to accommodate users with smaller screens or some vision problems), but no other types of
suppert. There are not even links to HTML plaintext versions of the webpages. The OPAC’s graphics and
pictures will serve to make it more interesting and appealing to children, but they might prove to be an
issue for users accessing the OPAC from a small screen, a text-only screen, or a slow Internet
connection. Students with difficulty reading or comprehending text or students whose first language is
English might be entitled to extra support software or personal help through special school programs,
but the individual needs of all of the students may not be served by this OPAC as it stands.

        Search functions

Type Search Function

The search functions available for users of the Chicago Public Library are very simple and not extensive.
The “Type Search” function, accessible after one click on the main page of the “For Kids” section of the
Chicago Public Library’s website, only allows for author, title, and subject searches. (See Figure 5.) The
large size of the “Author,” “Title,” and “Subject” options and the graphics associated with them make it
easy for young users to understand exactly where they are searching for information, and the
instructions, “Type here, Then choose a button,” tell users exactly how to conduct a search. There is no
functionality for an advanced search within the Kid’s Catalog Web.

Some of the limitations of the “Type Search” function are discussed in further detail in the “Search
results display” portion of this evaluation below. No help documentation is provided to users, for
instance, and there are no resources anywhere in the Kid’s Catalog Web that explain what the limiters,
narrowers, controlled vocabulary, and formats of search terms are. Author searches, for instance,
should be conducted by users as “last name, first name,” but that is not made apparent anywhere on
the search screen.

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Figure 5 - the "Type Search" screen

The user has no options on this “Type Search” page to control how many results will be displayed or to
search any fields other than the title, author, and subject fields of a record. The only text or graphics
that users see when conducting a search are the text and graphics visible in Figure 5. While this screen is
always consistent for users and does not provide any extra information that might confuse or distract
inexperienced searchers like the eight- to eleven-year-old students at Lakewood Elementary School, it
does not, in the opinion of this librarian, provide enough options or search functionality to be effective
for the needs of today’s students.

General keyword search

There is no direct way for users to conduct a general keyword search in the actual Kid’s Catalog Web,
and therefore the search results display of such a search will not be evaluated here. A small, easy-to-
miss search bar at the top right of the Kid’s Catalog Web main page does allow users to search for items
by keyword, but they must search the entire Chicago Public Library catalog, not just the special section
designated for child users. (See Figure 6.)

                                 Figure 6 - Keyword Search of the Entire Catalog

Once users have typed in a keyword and clicked the “go” button from the main page of the Kid’s Catalog
Web, they are brought to a list of results that is taken from the entire library’s catalog. The format and
design of the list are not consistent with what young users are used to seeing in the Kid’s Catalog Web. A
sidebar on the left side of the results display allows users to narrow their search based on location,
format, languages, audience, subject – topic, subject – place, subject – time period, fiction items,
nonfiction items, or recommendations from the Chicago Public Library librarians. In the “audience”
category on this sidebar, users can select books that are only for “Kids and Teens.” This category,
however, is the fourth one down on the sidebar, and it requires users to scroll down to find it. It is also

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small and inconspicuous, which might result in users failing to notice it altogether. The definition of the
term “audience” in this context, as well, may not be clear to all young users of the library catalog (See
Figure 7.) Even narrowing the results to items for “Kids and Teens” will not limit the results to items
listed only within the Kid’s Catalog Web, as the “For Teens” portion of the Chicago Public Library’s
website is its own entity. Jasek states, “Most users come to a library site wanting to do research, and the
shorter their paths, the happier they are” (2007, p. 4). The path to keyword searching for children,
however, is not short by any means. Overall, the general keyword search functionality in the Kid’s
Catalog Web seems to be both inconvenient and unintuitive for children.

                          Figure 7 - Narrowing the audience of items in a keyword search

        Search results display

This section provides a summary and evaluation of the search results display of three different types of
searches: an exact match controlled title heading search, an exact match controlled author heading
search, and an exact match controlled subject heading search.

Exact match controlled title heading search

       Terms searched: The terms searched were “Harry Potter.” Quotation marks were used in order
        to ensure that the catalog would only display exact match results.
       Information displayed to the user at each level:
             o First level: The initial search results in a list of items that contain the terms searched in
                 the field searched.
             o Second level: (see the “Item record display” section of this evaluation below.)
       MARC fields information is taken from: 245 (title statement); 240 (uniform title)
       Presentation of results to user: The OPAC provides a list of results that includes the author,
        title, publication date, call number, and format of each item. These fields, however, are not
        labeled.(See Figure 8.)
       Order results are listed by default: The results are sorted by the year of publication, with the
        most recently published items listed first.
       Options user has to control or sort the display: The user has no options to sort the display. (For
        example, a user would not be able to choose to display results by relevancy, author, or title.)

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Figure 8 - Search results display

   Handling of errors:
       o Initial articles: The OPAC does not recognize initial articles as stop words, whether or
           not the title is searched within quotation marks.
                 A search of “A Wizard of Oz” results in zero results, but the catalog does suggest
                    that the user ask a librarian for help. (See Figure 9.)
       o Misspellings: The OPAC does not have any functionality that recognizes misspellings,
           and it does not recommend different or correct spellings to users.
                 A search of “Harry Poter” results in zero results, and the catalog suggests that
                    the user ask a librarian for help. (Again, see Figure 9.)

                              Figure 9 - "Ask a librarian for help" screen

   Handling of references: The OPAC does not seem to have extensive functionality for handling
    references.
        o For instance, the book Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone in America is entitled Harry
            Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in England. An exact title match search of “Harry

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Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” results in zero items in this catalog, and no
                suggestion is made to users to search for an alternative title to the book.
            o   Uniform titles: This catalog does make use of uniform titles, although the user is not
                made aware of this fact. When searching for titles, the catalog searches both the title
                statement and the uniform title MARC fields.
                     An exact title match search of the terms “Harry Potter” will provide users with
                        all results that contain the terms “Harry Potter” in either of those MARC fields.
                        The result is that users are presented with books that are not in English, (and
                        there for are not exactly entitled Harry Potter), but which are actually Harry
                        Potter books according to their uniform titles in their MARC records.

Exact match controlled author heading search

Note that in order to find the desired results in an exact match controlled author heading search, users
must search for authors in the following format: “last name, first name.” This is not spelled out
anywhere on the “Type Search” page and would not be readily apparent to children the age of the
students at Lakewood Elementary School.

       Terms searched: “Sendak, Maurice”
       Information displayed to the user at each level:
             o First level: The initial search results in a list of items that contain the terms searched in
                 the field searched.
             o Second level: (see the “Item record display” section of this evaluation below.)
       MARC fields information is taken from: 100 (main entry); 700 (added entry)
       Presentation of results to user: The OPAC provides a list of results that includes the author,
        title, publication date, call number, and format of each item. These fields, however, are not
        labeled.(See Figure 8.)
       Order results are listed by default: The results are sorted by the year of publication, with the
        most recently published items listed first.
       Options user has to control or sort the display: The user has no options to sort the display. (For
        example, a user would not be able to choose to display results by relevancy, author, or title.) It is
        interesting to note that Maurice Sendak, as both an author and an illustrator, is not the main
        entry of many of the results in this specific search, but the results are not organized in such a
        way that the items for which he is considered the main entry are listed first.
       Handling of errors:
             o Initial titles: The OPAC does not recognize longer forms of abbreviated titles/honorifics.
                       A search of “Doctor Seuss” results in zero results, but the catalog does suggest
                          that the user ask a librarian for help. (See Figure 9.)
             o Misspellings: The OPAC does not have any functionality that recognizes misspellings,
                 and it does not recommend different or correct spellings to users.
                       A search of “Sendack, Maurice” results in zero results, and the catalog suggests
                          that the user ask a librarian for help. (Again, see Figure 9.)

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   Handling of references: The OPAC does not seem to have extensive functionality for handling
        references related to exact match author searches.
            o Pseudonyms: Lemony Snicket is the pseudonym of Daniel Handler. An exact match
                author search of “Snicket, Lemony” results in 93 results in the Kid’s Catalog Web, while a
                search of “Handler, Daniel” shows the user zero results, and the author’s pseudonym is
                not suggested to users. The catalog simply suggests that the user ask a librarian for help.
                (Again, see Figure 9.)

Exact match controlled subject heading search

       Terms searched: “Wizards Fiction”
       Information displayed to the user at each level:
             o First level: The initial search results in a list of items that contain the terms searched in
                 the field searched.
             o Second level: (see the “Item record display” section of this evaluation below.)
       MARC fields information is taken from: 6XX (subject access fields)
       Presentation of results to user: The OPAC provides a list of results that includes the author,
        title, publication date, call number, and format of each item. These fields, however, are not
        labeled.(See Figure 8.)
       Order results are listed by default: The results are sorted by the year of publication, with the
        most recently published items listed first.
       Options user has to control or sort the display: The user has no options to sort the display. (For
        example, a user would not be able to choose to display results by relevancy, author, or title.)
       Handling of errors:
             o Initial articles: In an exact match controlled subject heading search, the Kid’s Catalog
                 Web does seem to recognize initial articles as stop words.
                       Searches of the terms “Holocaust,” “A Holocaust,” and “The Holocaust” all
                          resulted in 312 results. The controlled vocabulary subject headings that match
                          those search terms to the items all contain “Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945).”
       Handling of references:
             o Subject headings: The OPAC does not suggest that the user “see” any related subject
                 headings when a user conducts a search.
                       There is a subject heading, for instance, called “Stories in rhyme,” but a subject
                          search for “poetry” does not include items that fall under this subject heading,
                          nor does it suggest that the user search using that term.

Overall, the search results display of the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web is lacking in options
and functionality. The Kid’s Catalog Web “Type Search” feature is clearly designed to be simplified for
young users, but there are no explicit instructions for limiters or controlled vocabulary or formats that
users should incorporate into their searches, users have no options to sort the display records, display
records only really exist at one level, and the OPAC has not been designed to handle errors or references
well, although it does, at minimum, advise users to ask a librarian for assistance. This is not always

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practical, however, as Lakewood Elementary School students would need to access the catalog remotely
from their homes, where no librarian is present to assist them. While the catalog does search related
relevant MARC fields in the case of title and author searches, (the 240 field and the 7XX fields,
respectively), this added functionality does not make up for the lack of intuitiveness that is apparent in
the rest of the search process.

        Item record display

When a title is selected from the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web, the item record display
includes an extensive amount of information. Users are able to see the book’s call number, summary,
Library of Congress subject headings, author (and other responsible parties), publisher, and size. (See
figure 10.)

                                        Figure 10 - Item Record Display

There are no views available for users other than the default record view and the MARC view. That is, a
student could not choose to only see a book’s title, author, and call number; he must view the complete
default record or the MARC record.

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The default item record display includes much of the same identifying and descriptive information about
the book that is included in the MARC record, but the information is presented in a way that students
can understand:

     The title and responsible party information in the 245 field in the MARC view is included under the
      headings “This title is” and “It’s by.”
     The publication information in the 260 field in the MARC view is included under the heading “It’s
      published by.”
     The summary, which would be included in the 520 field of the MARC record, is included under the
      heading “It’s about” in the default item record display.
     The descriptive information about the size and contents of the book in the 300 field in the MARC
      view is included under the heading “Size” in the default item record display.
     Finally, the subject headings of the book, which are included in the 6xx fields in the MARC view,
      are listed under the “It’s about” heading, below the summary of the book.

It is important to note that the URLs of book records in the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web
are not necessarily persistent over time. The URL of the default item record view is based on the search
that found the item and the item’s placement in the list of results produced by the search. The MARC
records of books, however, are persistent and are based only on the book’s ID number, which is
presumably a unique identifier that is assigned by the Chicago Public Library. Even these persistent
MARC record links may break, however, as they are quite long. These long or non-persistent URLs
would make it difficult for students at Lakewood Elementary School to return to records of books
without repeating searches, especially if they did not initially print or write down specific information
from the item record displays.

Despite the inconvenience of non-persistent URLs, the default view of the item record display provides
an array of useful information for children in terms that they can understand. Students viewing the item
record display would be able to choose a book based not only on title and author, but also on summary,
subject, length, or amount of illustrations.

A potential improvement to the default item record display might be an option to expand or limit the
viewable information. While all of the information provided in the default item record display could be
useful to students, it might be overwhelming for children to be presented with so much information at
one time. The default view could, for example, initially show only title, author, and summary
information but provide an option for users to expand the view to see subject headings or size
information.

        Browsing functions

The best websites should “organize information by type of material, subject and course” (Jasek 2007, p.
5). There are, following along this note, several sections of the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog
Web that are available for user browsing. From the home page, for instance, users can click “Best
Stories.” (See Figure 1.) Once they have clicked that button, users can browse books in several
categories. (See Figure 11.)

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Figure 11 - "Best Stories" browsing function

Each category in the Best Stories section is further broken down into sub-categories. If the user clicks
the “Awards” button, for instance, a new screen appears that lists twenty-nine awards, such as the
Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. Clicking on an award will bring the user to a list of books
that have won that award. In the case of the awards category, the results are displayed in chronological
order of the year they won the award (see Figure 12), and each title can be clicked on to reveal the item
record. In the case of other categories within the Best Stories section, the results are displayed in
alphabetical order by the author’s last name. In all instances, the records are organized in such a way
that they would be sensible to even the most inexperienced of OPAC browsers.

                                    Figure 12 - "Best Stories" results display

There is also an Explore button on the main page of the Kid’s Catalog Web (see Figure 1) and a right-side
toolbar on the main page (see Figure 13) that allow users to browse the catalog by topic. Like the Best
Stories section, the Explore feature breaks the topics down into subcategories that the user can navigate
using the location breadcrumbs at the top of the screen. (See Figure 4.) All of the records accessed

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through the Explore feature are organized chronologically, with the newest books at the top of the list.
Theoretically this would allow students easiest access to the newest information about any topic.

                                         Figure 13 - "Explore" toolbar

        Overall HELP features and documentation

There are no apparent HELP features or documentation attached to the Chicago Public Library’s OPAC. It
is not apparent whether the lack of inclusion is a design choice on the part of the Chicago Public Library
or a weakness of the Carl∙X OPAC with Endeca overlay. Jasek (2007) suggests that there should be a
help link on every page of a website as extensive as the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web, but
no such help links exist.

The school librarian and library support staff and volunteers can provide help to students in person in
the library, but it is imperative that students accessing the OPAC remotely are also provided with some
form of online HELP features and documentation.

If the Carl∙X OPAC is selected and no HELP features or documentation are provided by the vendors,
documentation outlining limiters, Boolean search terms, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and
other advanced search skills would need to be created by the library staff for student use.

        Other OPAC functionality

In addition to the functions addressed above, the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web contains
two specific features that are especially pertinent to young patrons. The first of these is an “Events”
section. From the homepage, users can choose to “Search all kids events” or “Find all Kid Events,” and

                                                      20
both links bring users to a page that displays all events of event type “Kids Events/Programs.” (See
Figure 14.)

                                     Figure 14 - "Events and Programs" list

From this page, it is easy for users to search through the events calendar to find events for kids based on
days and times. If users click on an event in the display, an event record is displayed with details about
the event, including the date, time, cost, location, a blurb about the event, and the contact information
for the event. (See Figure 15.)

                                           Figure 15 - Event details

The other feature of note for young OPAC users is the Book Reviews section of the Kid’s Catalog Web.
From the main page, users can see a graphic that says “Book Reviews by Kids Like You!” (See Figure 16.)

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Figure 16 - Book reviews feature

Once users click to “Read Other Reviews,” they can see a list of book reviews by children their own age.
(See Figure 17.) From there, they can read full reviews and use the reviews to find good book
recommendations.

                                       Figure 17 - A list of book reviews

There is also an option in the book reviews feature for children to submit their own book reviews. The
form for submitting a book review is simple, straightforward, and would be easy for kids to use
independently. (See Figure 18.) If this OPAC was implemented at Lakewood Elementary School, students

                                                      22
could write book reviews on their own time or teachers could feasibly utilize the tool to have students
right book reviews as class assignments or extra credit.

                                    Figure 18 - Book review submission form

                                   Conclusion and Recommendations

It is the goal of Lakewood Elementary School to purchase an OPAC that is:

       Age appropriate for eight- to eleven-year olds.
       User-friendly for students with little or no OPAC experience.
       Visibly appealing.
       Sensibly organized.
       Accessible to students with special needs or unique circumstances.
       Supportive of both simple and advanced searches of multiple fields.
       Browsable based on subject, genre, or classification, as well as on popularity or teacher
        recommendation.
       Inclusive of book summaries.
       Remotely accessible for all students, teachers, and parents.

While the OPAC that is ultimately chosen for the Lakewood Elementary School library may not fulfill all
of these criteria, it is imperative that the catalog be, at the least, efficient and user-friendly for young
children with little experience using an online public access catalog. Evaluation of the Chicago Public
Library’s Kid’s Catalog Web’s design, functionality and usability finds the following conclusions about the
OPAC’s strengths and weaknesses:

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Strengths

       Bright colors and eye-catching graphics make the catalog attractive and exciting for young users.
       Pictures of children make it clear that the catalog is designed for a child’s use
       The terminology used is suitable and accessible for eight to eleven-year old users.
       The search function is simple and introductory and allows children to see exactly where they are
        searching for terms.
       The search screen is consistent and does not include extra, distracting information.
       When no search results are found, the catalog encourages users to ask a librarian for assistance.
       The default view of the item record display provides an array of useful information for children
        in terms that they can understand, including book summaries.
       The Explore feature provides records of nonfiction items in chronological order, allowing
        students easiest access to the newest information about any topic.
       The Kid’s Catalog Web also provides an Events and Programs feature and a book review feature.

Weaknesses

       There is no consistent navigation tool throughout the OPAC. Users must return to the home
        page to access different features.
       There is limited alternative functionality to accommodate students with special needs or
        circumstances.
       There is no functionality for an advanced search.
       There is no direct way for users to conduct a general keyword search.
       The user has no options to control how search results are sorted or displayed.
       The proper formatting of an author’s name in an author search is not explained.
       There is little to no functionality in the search feature to handle errors or references.
       The catalog encourages users to ask a librarian for assistance with searches, but users will often
        need to access the catalog remotely from home.
       There are no item record displays available other than the default view (which contains too
        much information) and the MARC view.
       Item record URLs are lengthy and non-persistent, which could lead users to have to repeat
        searches to find records.
       There are no visible help features or documentation.

    Recommendations

Careful consideration of these strengths and weaknesses suggests that the Chicago Public Library’s Kid’s
Catalog Web in its current form is not the right OPAC to fit Lakewood Elementary School’s needs.

While the layout of the OPAC is clearly designed to appeal to the child perspective, the search function,
the most important feature of an OPAC, does not provide enough options or search functionality to be
effective for the needs of today’s students. Without help documentation or more search and display
options, it would be nearly impossible for students to search the catalog effectively.

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If the Carl∙X OPAC is selected and no HELP features or documentation are provided by the vendors,
documentation outlining limiters, Boolean search terms, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and
other advanced search skills would need to be created by the library staff for student use. The OPAC’s
design would also need to be edited to allow for more options in searching and search results and item
record displays.

                                               References

Jasek, Chris. (2007). “How to design websites to maximize usability.” Library connect Pamphlet #5 (2nd

        ed.) San Diego, CA: Elsevier.

“Web content accessibility guidelines 1.0.” (1999). W. Chisholm, G. Vanderheiden & I. Jacobs (Eds.). In

        W3C. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org.

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