February 09, 2005

Visualisation - the future in OPACs

As a community we have to recognise that OPACs are not user-centric. Visitors to the library rarely use them for anything other than specific location information, and the idea that web-enabling OPACs in the current form will extend their reach to a wider audience is flawed.

We have to embrace the notion that "NextGens" will continue to switch off from text-oriented systems as they become increasingly attuned to more visual and immediate stimuli. We see this in the development of learning objects for teaching and the extensive reach of the gaming culture.

Its good to see search engines like Groxis, grasping the nettle. And software companies like Anacubis are already manipulating business intelligence from Hoover's and others to represent commercial relationships in visual formats, that are far easier to absorb. In addition, Anacubis is recreating Google searches in a visual format which is worth a look.

Talking of which, a colleague of mine pointed me to Langreiter.com, they have used visualisation technology to produce Google sets in a visual format.

So what does that mean for libraries? Well, I am a fan of the Amazon feature "the person who bought this, also bought....." but am frequently disappointed. The information presented can occasionally turn up gems, but rarely do I find subject-specific or genre-specific information. Quite frequently, the purchasing patterns reflect a desire to buy material by the same author/artist, which makes me feel that I could get the same value from viewing an author/artist's bibliography/discography.

Would a libraries's borrower information reflect in the same way? And would there be additional value in a visual format? Not sure, but think it could be interesting, and potentially stimulate interest from disengaged users?


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