[Web4lib] How to label the OPAC (was: Role of the OPAC)

John Kupersmith jkup at jkup.net
Mon Jul 25 13:13:13 EDT 2005

Susan Thomas wrote:
>... But at the same time I wonder if we are not doing a disservice to our 
>users in not educating them about the term catalog and what it 
>means.  Isn't this something they should know, especially as they attend 
>and hopefully graduate from college?

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
>I still feel the necessity to have a noun and to use it in public. Or how 
>else can we refer to "it" when mentioning a catalog as a tool?

Whatever the flaws of current OPACs, I agree students need to learn about 
them.  And we certainly do need nouns to refer to such tools, even if we 
use verb phrase labels also.

But learning involves going from the known to the unknown.  It's pretty 
well established that people tend to scan pages for familiar words that 
they associate with their desired goal.  If a person doesn't understand 
"catalog", or the local brand name used for the catalog, seeing that noun 
by itself on a homepage will not create a learning experience.  Two 
possible ways around this:

* Accompanying the label with other words and/or graphics to create a 
meaningful context.

* Progressive disclosure: attract the user with "find books", leading to a 
page that introduces the catalog(s) and teaches whatever terminology is 
needed at that point.

I think these techniques are applicable to a lot of terminology and 
learning issues on web sites as well as in publications, classes, reference 
interviews, etc.  I may try them on my dog, too (wish me luck)

   John Kupersmith        jkup at jkup.net        http://www.jkup.net
   Reference Librarian                 http://www.lib.berkeley.edu
   Doe/Moffitt Libraries
   University of California, Berkeley
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Not speaking for UCB in this message~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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