A Column by Andy Anderson
Although the new Voyager online system, Minerva 2000, won't be available until mid-August, there's no need to wait until then to get a good look at what our patrons can expect from the online public access catalog (OPAC) feature and what it may look like to them. I say, "may look like" because considerable flexibility is allowed each Voyager site in determining the appearance of screens, the amount and type of instruction given and the help available. Here are some sites, each very different in appearance, which have exercised creativity in their presentation of the system.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is switching from a NOTIS system and also has a fall semester deadline for implementation. Their Voyager presentation is both attractive and very well thought out. You can find them at http://voyager.mhsl.uab.edu/. Although they call their OPAC "Scotty" (Go figure!) notice that they've also included a link button labeled "Local Catalog" so that first-time users don't have to stumble around until they find it.
UAB has also done a nice job of implementing the five basic search types provided by Voyager: Keyword/Relevance, Author/Title/Subject/Call #, Builder, Command/Boolean and Course Reserves. Please also note that the user screen for each type of search selected contains brief instructions, as well as a "Help" button for further information. The "Limits" button at the bottom of each search screen allows the user to limit searches to particular dates, locations, media or languages. The Limits button shows a pencil point. Once limits have been set, a second Limits button displays, showing a pencil eraser (for removing the limits). It's a nice, playful graphics touch to a very well conceived and executed site.
While you are at the UAB site, try a "Keyword/Relevance" search with "University of Louisville" as a search term. You might be surprised. Notice that Voyager marks the results with a series of colored balls to indicate their relevance to your search string. This is a nice feature of Voyager and is nicely implemented on this site although they've left too little room for the balls to display properly.
Perhaps less successful in its implementation is the library at the National Geographic Society (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/resources/ngs/library/explore.html/). NGS has opted for a much plainer, strictly business approach to screen design. This site trades the warmth and homeyness of the UAB design for the coldness and sterility of a more upscale/technical design. The wording of some of NGS's help screens are better than most. Their "How Relevance Works" screen (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ help/howrelev.htm) is a nice addition, but is no help since the relevance markings have been omitted from the search results screen.
The University of Rochester calls its OPAC "Voyager" and has chosen a nautical theme (compass rose, globe, etc.) for its home page (http://groucho.lib.rochester.edu/) but hasn't carried it through the remainder of their screens. Their gray navigation buttons and thin Times New Roman text on a stark, white background provide a less than pleasant way to spend an afternoon at the library. UOR has, like the NGS library, struggled with how to present the basic keyword/relevance search feature of Voyager. UOF calls the search type "Any Word (s)" and fails to tell the user that search results will be ranked or how to make best use of the allowed operators. Perhaps the fact that two of the three libraries we've visited have not done a good job of presenting this feature should be a warning to us that we need to expend some effort in making sure that we do it right.
The Endeavor web site (http://www.endinfosys.com/customers/index.htm) for Voyager has active links to all the Voyager customers. Please take a look at some of the other implementations and let our OPAC subteam know what you like, what you don't like and your suggestions for making our site as good as it can be. The co-chairs are Anna Marie Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nancy Utterback (email@example.com).