Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I Dreamed a Dream...

My coworker and I were discussing online services the other day, and we decided to get all wacky, and describe the attributes of our dream academic library website. So, here goes...

1.) Authentication through username and password, NOT a proxy server that requires you to configure your browser or a VPN. I know this is not a crazy wish, just a little beyond our over-worked IT department right now (and by that I mean the university's IT dept., we don't have our own, so you can see why they're so over-worked). Once logged in, the users would not only have accesses to all online resources, but also all features of the OPAC, instead of needing a separate PIN number, like they do now.

2.) One interface. Uno. Un. Solamente. Dream big, right? The interface would be Ebscohost-like, for no other reason than I like that particular interface. Through this interface, students can access our books, books elsewhere, e-books, journals, journal articles, newspapers/articles, etc. etc. They would be able to customize their search through a series of checkboxes that allowed them to choose which databases they wanted to search, and/or what kind of results they wanted (what format/media, that is).

The results would be sorted not by database (unless they wanted them that way), but by format (I'm sure most users don't care what database the journal article is contained in, so why not put all the journal articles together in the results, thereby allowing for sorting across all of them, and eliminating duplication?)

This interface would also contain links or buttons that allowed students to immediately request an item through ILL/DDS directly from the record (like in WorldCat). For requests that require a fee, students would be given an option to immediately charge their student account (or credit card or whatever...) In the case of requested articles, once the fee is paid, the PDF is immediately e-mailed to the user (one of the complaints we get most often is from users wanting immediate access to articles... No big surprise there.)

You'll note here that I am not a propronent of a simple, Google-like interface that searches everything. I know that such an interface as I propose would be very complicated, and have a steep learning curve, but it would be so much easier to teach only one interface in our library instruction sessions than 5, or 12, or 20... and it would be so much more useful if the user had control over what they were searching in, what they were searching for, and how they wanted their results displayed/sorted.

I'm definitely not techie enough to know just how much of this is currently possible, but I am internet-obsessed enough to know that this is what users will come to expect, and hopefully the direction we are going in.