Sunday, October 15, 2006

UBC Library OPAC Idiosyncrasies

This term I’ve had what seems to be a larger than usual number of complaints about the changes to the library OPAC. Perhaps it’s because it’s still near the beginning of the year and people are still figuring it out, or perhaps it’s because I’m working weekends and evenings when the reference desk takes the place of IT support.

A new layer has been added to the catalogue that, regardless of what you type in, produces a page that gives hope it is available in both print and online. Even if you misspell a word, it gives you results – to a point. The reason, according to Systems is, it’s “a ‘feature’ of our switch to Serials Solutions, unfortunately -- at least for a little while. When we're confident that SS has an accurate record of our print holdings, we'll likely remove the intermediate page with the parallel links to print and electronic, in which case the user would see immediately that we don't have this journal -- but for now we'll have to just note that the links just say to ‘check’ for print/electronic (that is, no record has yet been found).”

A recent incident illustrates the difficulties the OPAC presents and how unforgiving the search function is. I had a faculty member come in and looking for the journal Acta oto-laryngolica. I typed it in and the catalogue said we don’t have it.

I checked the spelling using Google and got what appeared to be a significant number of hits from reliable sources showing a journal with the same spelling as the one the faculty member gave me.

I next moved to CISTI and couldn’t find it there either. However, CISTI lists other journals with similar spelling and shows you where your journal would have been – a handy way of checking if you’ve spelled it wrong. I went to the journal spelled similarly to the one I was looking for (spelled Acta oto-laryngoloica) copied that and pasted it into the UBC catalogue journal search box.

Bingo! It popped up. We had it all along (at least the Biomedical Branch does), so she didn’t need to order it from CISTI, it was a simple (and cheaper) document delivery.

No wonder faculty and students get frustrated with the library OPAC. All that work just to get the correct spelling of a journal.


Blogger Dean Giustini said...


I'd go to PubMed's journal database first, I think. Those latin titles are always a bug bear. I might even try truncation for "acta otolaryn*


8:15 p.m.  
Blogger nancy said...

On a tangent.......

"Bug bear" - I have not heard that expression in years! In the spirit of librarianship,I just had to look up the definition.

9:04 a.m.  
Blogger Dean Giustini said...


here's some more bugbearing....


4:07 p.m.  

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