I blogged about Beth Jefferson’s Bibliocommons project last year, impressed with her goal of creating a library catalog interface from scratch that is focused on users and integrates community and social pieces around the content, rather than tacking them on here and there. I also showed some screenshots of the beta version in a presentation I did at Computers in Libraries this past spring in an attempt to highlight how things like reviews, tagging, and community could actually work in a library catalog if they weren’t an afterthought.
So it’s with great excitement that I read in Library Journal that the first installation of Bibliocommons is now live as the OPAC for the Oakville, Ontario, library in Canada. There is much to explore here, and I need to get in and see if anything has changed since the beta, but my favorite part is still the catalog home page that shows actual users on it.
As I noted in my CiL talk, it’s refreshing just to see a catalog I could log in to with a username instead of a barcode — what a novel idea! Don’t even get me started on the fact that the interface includes terms like “connect,” “network,” and “trusted sources.” So much good stuff here, though — ratings, tags, lists, users, comments, recommendations, faceted browsing, contextual help, natural language (not jargon), user-based age ratings, “share with a friend” links, similar titles, a shelf browser with cover images, and the ability to get rewards for adding content to the catalog. I love that I didn’t have to dig deeply into the catalog to start finding user-generated content, as I often have to do in other OPACs when I need an example.
There’s even a contest right now to help them gather feedback from users (with an awesome twist on the prize), not that they need this based on the beta, where users contributed far more content than anticipated.
There are more screenshots available here, but I can’t encourage you strongly enough to just go play with this catalog on your own to see just how different it is from yours. Even better, this interface can run over any vendor’s system, so adoption isn’t limited and libraries don’t have to start over from scratch.
I will definitely continue following Bibliocommons closely, and I hope Beth will be able to give a few more talks or write more articles about the project to keep us update to date on usage of this great new product. Congratulations to Beth and her team for getting a solid product with lots of potential out the door, and kudos to the Oakville Public Library folks for implementing it. This is definitely one to watch, and I know I’ll be posting more about it in the future.