ILS-506 Information analysis and organization
©2003-2007 Amy Ranger
Analysis of 3 OPACs
Shelflisting exercise
Cataloging exercise
Main index

This review of ten Online Public Access Catalogs (OPAC) and analysis of three was performed by Amy Proni (now Amy Ranger) for the course ILS-506, Information analysis and organization, taught by Dr. C. H. Kim, Southern Connecticut State University, Fall, 2003.–ALR. 2007-06-10.

Analysis of 3 OPACs

Purpose: to develop a greater understanding of catalog construction as well as an appreciation of the consequences of catalog design decisions on catalog usability.

Method: Locate ten Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs). The catalogs chosen should represent the holdings of relatively large collections. They should also vary in terms of presentation styles and available features.

Catalogs viewed: three public libraries, two school libraries, one special library, and four academic libraries. Four libraries use catalog software from Sirsi Corporation, either Unicorn (‡) or DRA (‡‡); two use the Innopac (§) product from Innovative Resources; two use Voyager (¥) from Endeavor Corporation; and one each use the Horizon Information Portal (¤) from Dynix or the Aleph500 (ℓ) program from Ex Libris.

link to comments
Library and link to website or catalog
system code
Kalamazoo Public Library (e-library OPAC) (ALA Library of the Year, 2002)

Las Vegas/Clark County District Library (catalog) (ALA Library of the Year, 2003)
New York Public Library (CatNYP)
New Trier High School Library (catalog) [Winnetka, Ill.]

Cranbrook Educational Community (library catalog)
Art Institute of Chicago Libraries & Archives (Ryerson & Burnham libraries catalog)
Yale University Library (Orbis)
Western Michigan University Libraries (WestCat)
University of Michigan Libraries (Mirlyn catalog)

Fordham University Library (catalog)

Action: After reviewing the principal characteristics of the catalogs chosen, select three. Spend time developing familiarity with the features they make available to users. In this context, the term "feature" refers to any characteristic that enables the catalog to function as well as any characteristic that gives the catalog a distinctive feel and identity.

Process: Develop a comparative analysis of the three catalogs selected. Your comparative analysis should address both, general and specific features. To initiate this analysis you should test the catalog using simple searches. Your examination should address search features, hitlist displays, and the presentation of individual records.

Result: Write a relatively brief (no more than ten pages) commentary outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the catalogs you selected for your analysis. While doing so, think of how successful the catalogs are in responding to users’ needs. Comment on the features that seem to contribute to a positive or negative evaluation (you are the judge). Your commentary should also describe potential improvements to the catalogs you selected for your comparative analysis. In this area, concentrate on the changes you would introduce to satisfy your needs.

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Kalamazoo Public Library
KPL's online catalog provides jacket photos, reviews, summaries, and excerpts for many titles.
To check your account or renew online, select My Account in the blue bar near the top of the catalog page. Enter the ID number on the back of your library card when prompted. Your PIN number is the last four digits of your phone number. — Library website homepage.
[NOTE: As of December 2005, the wording for this is somewhat different, and it now appears on a different page, titled "How to Login". AP.]

Search by: Title; Author; Words or phrase; Subject; Series.

Options: Keyword search; Alphabetical browse; Exact.

Power search (Boolean): includes possible combinations of the above plus Periodical title, with variables And; Or; xOr; Not.

Browse: Authors; Titles; Subjects; Series; Journal titles ; select from the following locations: All; Here; Alma Powell Branch; Bookmobile; Central Library; Eastwood Branch; Local indexes and community information; Oshtemo Branch; Washington Square Branch.

Call no. search: Also offers options to select library collections: Alma Powell Branch; Bookmobile; Central Library; Eastwood Branch; Local indexes and community information; Oshtemo Branch; Washington Square Branch ; options to select by type of material (nearly 60 types listed); options to select by locations within the collections (nearly 70 locations offered).

Category search: Twenty-eight categories graphically represented: “A” to “Z”; Animals; Business & Industry; Cars & Motors; Computers; Education; Employment; Environment; Family; Finances; Fine arts & Crafts; Food; Genealogy; Health; History; Home & DIY; Language & Literature; Law & Politics; Performing arts; Philosophy & Religion; Recreation; Science; Self-help; Society & Social issues; Sports; Style & Fashion; Travel & Transportation; The Unexplained. Clicking on any category leads to another page of graphical representations of things or ideas or concepts classified within that category. For example, clicking on the History button offers 34 subdivisions. ‘Pioneers,’ one subdivision, yields 1053 titles. Those titles are found within 34 areas of the collection, ranging from Agriculture (General) to United States Law and includes 1 title in the Botany section and 273 titles in the American Literature area.

Children’s library: Fifteen categories graphically represented: “A” to “Z”; Animals; Cooking; Fun stuff; Handicrafts; Holidays; Jokes and riddles; Kids’ concerns; Plays; Poems; Science, Spooky things; Sports; Stories; United States. By way of example, “Science” is further subdivided into 37 categories.

Basic information and observations: Even before a record is selected, for example, when browsing a list of retrieved items, it is easy to see that there are a variety of icons in the Brief view. Allowing the cursor to hover above the icons provides information on what they represent: [links to] Author biography; Review[s]; Summary; Table of contents; Publisher’s blurb. The Brief view also provides call number, title, author, edition, publication date, city of publication, publisher, distributor (data from MARC fields 090, 1xx, 245, 250, and 300); and where holdings are located within the library system.

Selecting a record by clicking the link to “Full details” allows the user to see a color image of the cover and the following data: call number, title, author information; holdings: total number of copies in the system and where they are held; whether any copies are on hold for patrons; estimated wait time for a copy to become available for check-out. A toolbar provides options (Change display) for patrons to view the MARC fields and/or limit the displayed record to a brief view. This tool also enables patrons to view holdings at a single library facility. There are options for ‘More by this author’ or ‘More like this [item],’ and the various subject categories that include this item. Some records include an MARC field 856 (electronic location and access) with a link to information at the Library of Congress taken from electronic data provided by the publisher.

Another link, not in the bibliographic record, but on the page displaying the record, opens a window and displays expanded publisher information (Read publisher’s blurb) from a relational database at, the catalog software vendor. There is another option to “Keep” a title, and to retrieve a list of “Kept” titles. Unfortunately, the Help link on this page does not work, so I don’t really know how this function works.

One drawback: I could not find the link to return to the library home page from the catalog search screens. I think this is a major disadvantage for casual searchers who may want information on a title, and then need information on the library’s hours or other services.
[NOTE: As of December, 2005, this has not changed, nor has any explanation been added to the page. AP.]

I returned to the library home page by opening a new window and using my “favorites,” and found a link to send comments and/or suggestions. I sent these comments:
I am evaluating your catalog for ILS506, Information analysis & organization, Southern Connecticut State University. The link for Help on the Kept Screen does not work. Also, I could not find a link from the catalog back to the KPL home page. Am I missing it? Otherwise, I am very impressed with the catalog's features and options. Does Sirsi charge a lot for this? Sincerely, Amy Proni.
An unnamed person who answers email at the library responded the next day:
“Thanks for the info about the 404 help for kept. As to a link back to our home page, logout will take you to We just got Sirsi in May and are still figuring things out, hence no button for our web catalog. As to cost, it was roughly $350,000. But we were a DRA site [a previous catalog program from the same company] and got all our modules, circ, Acq, collection agency, Z39.50 etc for free. We pay maintenance but did not have to ‘buy’ the module. If you had to buy the modules the price would be higher. iBistro itself is about $45,000. The iBistro web is nice, esp. with the iBistro DataStream subscription for the covers and reviews, best seller lists, etc. Keep in mind we had to purchase a Unix server to load all this software on. We also purchase[d] a Test server in addition to our production server.”
Conclusions: One week later, the link to Help within the Kept module still does not work. Logout does indeed return the user to the Library homepage, but I think that if I, an experienced web user, did not make the connection that Logout =, then what must children or senior citizens or less-savvy users make of this? I was surprised by the unsigned response; I expected more from a “Library of the Year.”

On the other hand, I’m pleased by their quick response. In general, there is not a lot I would change about this catalog. Overall, I am impressed with what it offers—both the information and the options provided more than I expected—and I think it offers a good value for the community.

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Art Institute of Chicago Libraries & Archives Ryerson & Burnham Library
For a general search of the library catalog, we recommend starting with Library Catalog Excluding Auction Catalogs.–Library website homepage.
Basic information: The library catalog has been divided into sections to make searching easier. Patrons can choose which section to search at the Main Menu. There are links to the Library homepage, Help, and Electronic resources. The Help screen offers information on: Auction catalogs, Boolean searching (nice graphics reinforce the textual explanation), Consignor, Library of Congress Subject Headings, Limiting, Marking and saving records, Printing or e-mailing records, Sections, Truncation.

Users may switch sections while searching via a drop-down box above the results screen which allows the section to be changed without retyping the search. Searches can be done in any of the following:
Library Catalog Excluding Auction Catalogs: This section contains all library holdings (books, serials, archival material, microfilm and more) except for auction catalogs.
Auction Catalogs Only: Includes over 70,000 auction catalogs held by the libraries.
Periodicals Only: Includes all periodical titles held by the libraries.
Mary Reynolds Collection Only: Includes over 600 books and periodicals held in the Mary Reynolds Collection on Surrealism.
View Entire Collection. Offers a combined search of all sections.
Search process observations: Searches may be limited:
by Language [drop-down menu] (Any, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, German, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean);
by Words in the author;
by Words in the title;
by Words in the subject;
by Words in the notes;
or by Publisher;

by Material type: [drop-down menu] (Any; Book; Auction catalog; Serial; Archival);
by Format: [drop-down menu] (Any; Print; Microfilm; Microfiche; Internet resource; CD-ROM; Video cassette; DVD; Audio cassette; Record album; Mixed);
by Where item is located: [drop-down menu] (Any; Open shelf; Pamphlets; R&B archives; Print department);
by Year of publication: After [blank] and Before [blank];
by Date of sale;
and Sort results by year.
Search options: Author or Subject; Title; Author and Title; Words in subject; Words in the title; Words in the notes; Call number; ISBN – ISSN.

Search options, Auction Catalogs: Auction house name or Consignor; Title; Auction house + consignor and title; Words in the consignor; Words in the title; Words in the notes; Date of sale; Sale code; Call number.

Title searches are available, but not searches for Series titles as a separate entity. There is no option to view the MARC record, and the “long version” of the record is typically not very long. Notes and subject headings are sparse. Once you are looking at a record, your options are: Previous record, Next record, Return to browse, New search, and Save record; a Help link appears in the upper left corner of the screen.

Observations made regarding Word in subject searches: I searched for [key]words in subject: University Chicago, and 69 hits were returned. The system does not allow for this type of keyword search to be limited prior to the initial search, and I think that is a drawback. There are limiting options available to the user once the first screen of results is displayed. Options (at top of screen) are: Extended display; New search; Limit this search. Options (at bottom of screen) are: Save marked records; Save all on screen; Locate in results [fill-in box]; with hyperlinks to all of the pages required for this set of results. I decided to limit the results by Material type = Book; Format = Print; Where item is located = Open shelf; and Sort results by year. The results dropped to 3 records, and none had anything to do with [The] University [of] Chicago, but each record did have the words University and Chicago in the subject headings. I revised my search to “University of Chicago” as an Author or Subject, with the same limitations, and 5 hits were returned. Of these, one item was dated 2000, and the other four were from the 1890’s. I was surprised that there were so few hits, but this could be due to the type of collection represented in this catalog.

Observations made regarding Word in note searches: I searched for “school of the art institute” as a phrase in the notes area, and retrieved 313 hits, then sorted them by date. Most appeared to be masters’ theses by students in the school, which makes sense, as this data would be found in a 502 note field. These records were more completely filled out, indicating that there may be a small cataloging department concerned primarily with locally-owned items. One record that I found in these results, “Humbugged, hornswoggled, hoodwinked, and hoaxed : the practice of exhibiting through deception” by Jeffrey Arnett, is also listed in the OCLC database WorldCat (record no. 53398765), but with different subject headings. The Ryerson & Burnham Library catalog does not offer a view of the MARC fields, as noted earlier, nor can the user see a record or accession number, so it is not possible to know if these records are the same. Only one subject heading is depicted in the record: Art |x Exhibition techniques; whereas WorldCat provides three different subject headings: Impostors and imposture; Popular culture |z United States; Arts |x Management. Very interesting. I wonder if this was an original cataloging record created with four subject headings and added to the WorldCat database, then stripped of the extra subject headings and imported into the local catalog. In my opinion, all relevant subject headings provide more accessibility for patrons, and enhance the usability of the local catalog. Unfortunately, there will always be limitations placed on catalogs, whether for reasons of space (hard drive or card catalogs) or economies of time and money. Perhaps that is the case here.

Selecting a record allows the user to see the long version of the record. Available fields include: Author*; Title; Imprint; Descript[ion]; Location; Call #; Status; Series*; Note; Subject*; ISBN.

Data in the starred fields (*) is linked, so, for example, patrons could click on the link to the subject heading “Rivera Diego 1886-1957” and go to a search page for Author/Subject that indicates there are 87 works in the catalog under this heading, and that this subject is preceded by “Rivera De Las Heras Jose Angel” and followed by “Rivera Diego 1886 1957 Appreciation.”

One problem with clicking a linked field is that it just takes the user to another search screen. At times during the evaluation process I felt like I was caught in a loop. Selecting a hyperlink is obviously another way of facilitating a search, but in this catalog it did not seem helpful, and I’m not sure why, although a few ideas come to mind. First, the subjects are limited, due to the nature of the collection. The fact that many records were not enhanced with local notes or information beyond the basics suggests that the institution may be outsourcing their cataloging, or are constrained for other reasons with their catalog.

Conclusions: Call numbers are done according to the Dewey Decimal System. This is a very basic catalog, not especially interesting. Functional? Yes, but not exceptional. If I could make changes to this catalog, I’d enhance the records, provide as many subject headings and added entries as necessary, and provide limitations on searches prior to the search being taken. I must admit that I know very little about the system in use here, Innopac from Innovative Interfaces, so I can’t say how difficult those changes might be to make. Some systems are more easily modified than others, and some have inherent limitations designed by programmers who did not understand the needs of the end users. I am disappointed with this catalog, and the functionality of the program, as I expected more from such a well-known institution.

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New York Public Library CatNYP
Basic information: CatNYP includes over 3 million records for titles cataloged since 1972 and an additional 2 million records for roman language books cataloged prior to 1972.
Many of The Research Libraries’ holdings are still only found in the 800 volume Dictionary Catalog of The Research Libraries, published by G.K. Hall. Also known as the “black books” or “retrospective” catalog, it contains records of books and periodicals acquired by the Library prior to 1972. This is a photographic copy, in book form, of the Library's card catalog. The Dictionary Catalog is primarily an author and subject catalog, with a minimum number of entries for titles, interfiled in one alphabet. Information about the filing order of the catalog may be found at the beginning of each volume. A typical page comprises 21 cards, each one numbered sequentially at the bottom. The Dictionary Catalog does not include all of the Libraries’ holdings–neither those of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture nor those of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Holdings of the Map Division and some special collections such as Manuscripts and Archives and the Arents Collection, plus works in non-romanized alphabets from the Jewish, Oriental, and Slavic and Baltic Divisions are also not included.—Information found on the About CATNYP page
NOTE: A copy of this 800-volume set is held by the University of Michigan Library in Ann Arbor.

Dance Collection Catalog: Limit searching exclusively to the Dance Collection. This catalog lists works about all forms of dance, from all cultures, in print and other media. It includes materials in many languages and serves as an index to an international range of dance periodicals.

Schomburg Center Catalog: Limit searching exclusively to the Schomburg Center collection. This catalog contains materials in print and other media from the Center’s five divisions: Art and Artifacts Division, General Research and Reference Division, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division, and Photographs and Prints Division. It provides access to resources documenting the experiences of people of African descent throughout the world.

Search by: Main catalog (entire collection); Dance Catalog only; Schomburg Center Collection only.
Search options: Words (keywords); Author; Title; Subject; Journal Title; Call number; Government document number; Music number; RLIN/OCLC number

About Call Number sorting: New call number sorting software was installed in CATNYP September 26, 2003.
Call numbers used in The Research Libraries comprise several different schemes, including Billings, modified Billings, Fixed Order, and Billings combined with modified Library of Congress Classification or Dewey Decimal Classification. In the past, call number sorting in CATNYP has been counterintuitive. For example, our fixed order call numbers have displayed in CATNYP browse lists as if the numbers were decimals rather than integers. New software has corrected this problem.—Information found on the Call number search page.
The Billings call number scheme is named for the first head librarian at NYPL, James Shaw Billings.

Word (keyword) search process: The system allows users extensive options when performing keyword searches. One may select from 422 Language choices, from Afrikaans to Zuni, from Algonquian to Cherokee to Iroquoian to North American Indian (other) and seemingly everything in between. Search results may be sorted by Date, Alphabetical, or Relevance.
Users may search by Format: Any; Printed music; Manuscript music; Musical sound recordings; Nonmusical sound recordings; Cartographic materials, including Digital; Manuscript cartographic materials; Archival and manuscript material; Unpublished item; Video, film, slides; Photographs, prints, graphics; Databases, software, data files; Artifacts, models, realia; Kit; or Printed materials/microforms.

Options for Publication type include: Any; Book; Periodical. One may search by Publisher; Place of publication; and by Entire collection; Schomburg Center; or Dance Collection.

Observations made in word searches: I searched for keywords New York University, arranged by Relevance, and limited to Video, film, slides. There were 130 hits on this search; the display screen indicated that this was a Word search of the Entire collection, limited to material type “Proj medium” and sorted by Relevance. The first item had 5 stars indicating its Relevance, the other records had either 2 stars or 1 star. I looked at several records to learn the difference between these designations, and it appeared that records with 2 stars were for works done by students in various NYU departments. Records with 1 star were generally attached to works that were recorded at NYU. The record with 5 stars was for an item titled: Dorothy Bird teaching at New York University, and I surmised that the high degree of relevance was due to the keywords being found in the title. The results screen also offers an option at the bottom for the user to “jump to an entry,” and provides the number for the last entry in the fill-in box, which makes it easy to access records at the end of a list, rather than making the searcher “page down” through multiple screens of data.

Observations regarding the bibliographic records: The completeness of the bib records makes it clear that NYPL utilizes in-house cataloging services. Many records included Library of Congress subject headings, Form/genre subject headings, and Local subject headings. Many records included local notes, summary notes, and donor names.

Conclusions: It looks as if the Billings cataloging scheme is based on the Dewey Decimal System and then modified by accession order. No doubt the system works for them because the holdings of The Research Libraries are non-circulating, in closed stacks (88 miles of closed stacks!). I would not change much at all regarding this catalog. Ease of use, complete records, and multiple access points all indicate that this is a well-designed, user-friendly catalog. The library, and the community it serves, ought to be proud of this catalog, based on the Millennium [software] from Innovative Interfaces.

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Last updated 2007-06-10. ALR. Contact me.