Information Analysis and Organization
OPAC comparison


ILS 506-70 - Assignment #3 Pamela R. Dennis April 18, 2002


            Since my library is in the process of developing a web site, this was an interesting project that has been of much value.  The 10 online public access catalogs (OPACs) I observed were: 

University of Memphis (

Rice University (

Yale University (

Princeton University - Endeavor


Duke University ( - DRA

Library of Congress (

Philadelphia Free Public Library (

British Library (

University of Miami ( - Innovative

New York Public Library (

            These catalogs used software from the major developers, Endeavor Information Systems, Inc.; Innovative Interfaces; and Sirsi (merged with Data Research Associates).  I chose one of each of these developers to compare.  Many features were created by the library itself and added to the original software design, so even libraries using the same company had varying features in their OPACs.

1.            Princeton University uses Endeavors Voyager integrated software, the same as my library, but their opening screen gives much more detail for the patron.  The user can search by title, author, journal title, keywords, ranked keywords (combined terms),  subject heading, call number, and author/composer sorted by title.  The menu is stationary rather than a drop-down menu, so the user knows all the possibilities at all times.  There are helpful hints (with examples) at the bottom of the screen for each type of search so the user knows whether Boolean operators can be used, whether to put multiple terms in quotes, etc.  Records will be displayed 25 at a time.  (We have chosen to change this number to 50 in Systems Administration so the user doesnt have to click so many screens in the search.)  The search can also be limited by location, medium, date, language, etc.  Though I know what this button means, I am not sure the user would know to do this.  It is very helpful in music for limiting the search to only scores, sound recordings, videos, etc.  For example, if I search for J.S. Bach without limits, I retrieve 535 entries.  If I limit the search to sound recordings, my search is narrowed to 212 entries; if limited by score (type), there are only 154 entries retrieved.  I have never seen the Author/Composer category in Voyager.  This would be very helpful with authors and composers who have large lists of works in the collection.  I tried our favorite poet, Neruda, and found 154 entries in alphabetical order rather than by relevance, acquisition, or other order. 

            When the records are retrieved by keyword, they are in descending date order.  Voyagers default is by relevance, and I think Princetons change is more helpful for the user.  I find that most students are looking for the most recent book on a topic.  The call number appears with the title and author, keeping the user from having to search through screens of information if that is all he/she wants.  The location is also included so the user knows if the title is found in a separate library collection, in reference, in oversize, in juvenile, etc.             There is also an indication of whether the book is checked out or on the shelf.  The default terms (charged and not charged) that Princeton is using are confusing to the user, so we, like other libraries, opted to change these terms to checked out and available.  Upon clicking on the item, the user is able to view the information in brief, long, or staff form. The brief form includes the title and author or composer (the latter of which is searchable), publication information, physical description, series, contents, location, call number, and status, all one needs for finding the item and citing it in a bibliography.  The long view includes information from notes and added entries fields, the latter of which are searchable.  The staff view is the MARC record.  There are also previous/next arrows that allow the user to look at items next in the catalog to the present one.  A search history exists to allow the user to see what terms have already been searched, and there is a help screen available.  Finally, the user has the options of printing out the records in text form or MARC format, or emailing the records to himself/herself.  I have found this feature to be extremely helpful.  New searches can begin at this point, or the user can use the Back button to return to the original screen. 

            Though I am prejudiced in my views about this particular system, I find it to be very user-friendly and inclusive of pertinent information at all levels.  Princeton has made several important changes to the default, and I have recommended to our Systems Administrator that we employ some of these changes at our library.

2.         The University of Miami uses Innovative Interfaces software.  The main screen includes a quick search through drop-down menu by author, title, subject, ISBN, etc.  The search can be done of the full collection or be limited to particular collections within the main collection (i.e., Reference, Music Library, Archives).  The user is also offered the choice of reading the catalog in English or Spanish, a nice feature for a Spanish-language-dominated region such as Miami.  The user can conduct regular searches by author, title, author and title, keyword, subject, or numbers (call numbers) in any of the individual collections.  If one of these choices is made, such as author, the user is given directions on how to set up the search.  It is suggested that authors names be typed in with last name first, and several examples are given.  The user can start over at any point or click the Back button to return to the beginning screen.  When I searched for Bach, J.S., I received a message that I should search under the uniform title, Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750 and was given a searchable link.  Upon clicking this link, I received 5000 hits.  At this point, I began looking for a way to limit the search.  At the bottom of the screen was a Search Limit button that brought up a list of limit possibilities.  The limit did not work at this level, however, because the list I had retrieved was sorted by type of work (harpsichord inventions, sonatas, etc.).    Once I chose a particular type (for example, 2 and 3 part inventions), I was given a list  that included the title and composer of the work, where it was located, the year published, and the medium (with icons).  The icons were most interesting treble clef for score, phonograph with bell for LB, and CD icon for CD.  As a musician, I know how frustrating it is to hunt through each item to see if it is a recording or score, and these colorful icons made the search much easier.  Upon selecting a score, I was given basic information including author, uniform title, title, imprint, location, description, series, publishing information, notes, contents, and added entries.  I was also given the choice of viewing the MARC record.  The designation for available status was Check Shelves.  The user could then conduct the same search in others of University of Miamis catalogs without having to return to the main screen, or he/she could export the record and save a list to be printed by full or brief display, in MARC format, or email the record.  The options pro-cite and End-Note were intriguing, because I thought they might put the record in a prescribed format for directly entering into a research paper, but, upon emailing the record to myself, I did not find it to be in usable form, though all information needed was present.  The information was well laid out and easy to use.  There was also a search history button allowing the user to know what searches had already been attempted.

3.         Duke University uses software by Data Research Associations (now merged with Sersi).  It includes a search drop-down menu by keyword, title, author, subject, ISBN, etc., that can be limited by location, date, language, and material type (book, musical recording, etc.).  This is a nice feature, since the word limit (as found in Endeavor and Innovative) may not mean anything to the user.  Records can be displayed by brief citation, citation plus holdings, and by full records.  The user can also limit the search to Dukes library or include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and/or North Carolina Statue Universitys libraries.  Search tips are included at the bottom of the screen for each type of search, including examples.  In searching as author for J.S. Bach, I was instructed to enter the search as bach j.s.  However, no matches were returned.   I then tried bach johann.  I received a huge list including J.S. Bachs son, Johann Christian Bach, and others which was too long to search.  I chose the Refine Search option and changed the search to bach johann sebastian and received an Index Hitlist  in alphabetical order.  I chose to refine the search again by material type (musical recording) and receive a new Index Hitlist.  There was a huge amount of wordage that made it difficult to find what I was looking for.  Each entry had a Search under note leading me to yet another long list.

Example:  Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750. 2 and 3 part inventions.

           Search under: Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750. Inventions, harpsichord.

            I clicked on the search link and was given a shorter list.  I then had the option of clicking on the item itself or an About link.  The About link was an authority record display.  The item link gave me title, author, publication information, holdings information, added entries, series, type of material, notes, publishing information, and a system ID number.  The status was designated as Checked Out or Not Checked Out.  There were choices of display of Brief Citations, Citations with Holdings, and Full Records, but I only got Full Records no matter which choice I made.  MARC records display was also available.  I was able to download records to my hard drive or email them to myself in any format.  There was a help screen at the top and an opportunity to begin a new search at any point.  While I had no real problems getting around in the system, I did not care for this software because it gave too much information.  There were too many searchable fields and too many see also directions.  The screen was cluttered with single spaced entries and no blank space.  An interesting observation was that when I timed out of the system, I was given error messages in English, French, and Spanish.

I preferred Endeavor and Innovative over DRA.  However, there were parts of each I liked.  I liked the clean look of Endeavor and the simple instructions.  I would like to add to it the colorful icons from Innovative and the main screen limit feature from DRA.

Information Analysis and Organization