April 2009 Archives
However, in research, or where known-item searching is not the norm, there is one step remaining. Once the user has access to the contents of the resource, there is an evaluation process: "Will this suit my needs, or should I look for something else?" In full-text environments, this rapid compression of the time required for the delivery and evaluation phases is substantial. Accordingly, the delays to the evaluation phase in the traditional library delivery model are increasingly unacceptable to our users.
A newly available study on WorldCat data quality, OCLC's "Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want" [http://www.oclc.org/us/en/reports/onlinecatalogs/default.htm] suggests that the user seeks above all not rich bibliographic information but rich availability data and evaluative information. Libraries have not traditionally provided evaluative materials to their users in systematic ways; however, they have maintained such aids (book review indexes, etc.) for expert users and for collection development purposes.
The newest mode of providing evaluative content is a game-changer: the provision of full text. Aggressive moves by for-profit companies in the digitized full-text market are no secret. They bear none of the costs or scarcities of delivering physical books, instead delivering texts. From the user side, the entire process of determining suitability-of use is extremely foreshortened.
As the research and evaluation process is further influenced by the availability of full text, libraries will need to pay attention to the most user-friendly and popular methods of accessing these texts and provide helpful links to them from their discovery tools. (Libraries have some relevant experience with this in the area of referring users to licensed content through link resolution.) The successful integration and synthesis of multiple types of evaluative information is a central challenge.
Popular alternative discovery platforms for information resources (Amazon, tagged personal collections, etc), in addition to using simple holdings and/or sales data, tables of content, and reviews, have approached the evaluation problem in new ways. One is subcollections - either curated actively or casually through tagging. Another is leveraging user-behavior data such as browsing behavior or "fulfillment" - circulation or purchase. OCLC's new record display in worldcat.org (and WorldCat Local) uses a variety of tools, including user reviews and behavior data, to provide evaluative information. For an example, see http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/61479616 .
OCLC will continue to develop and leverage internal systems and to seek out external providers of licensed content to enhance the evaluative richness of WorldCat. We invite you to share your thoughts on the new record display.