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The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications and the state of the OPAC

Some serious questions about the role of libraries and the functionality — or lack of functionality — of library online public access catalogs (OPACs) are in the news lately. These questions fit in well with the recent release of the new Government Printing Office online Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP).

The announcement (Enhanced version of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP)/OPAC now available by John S. Dowgiallo, 9 Mar 2006) and subsequent discussion on the govdoc-l mailing list (see various entries in March and April 2006) focused largely on the acceptable functionality of an OPAC rather than the needs and expectations of users in the age of Google and other Internet search engines.

A broader range of discussion of the place and functionality of OPACs can be found in the following recent articles:

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1 Comment

  1. This is a huge issue for libraries. One of the comments that caught my eye in “How OPACs suck pt 1” was:

    “variations in qualities of cataloging over time can skew relevance.”

    Combine this comment with the fact that more library catalogs will be going to a google-like search in the future (term frequency + inverse document frequency) and it’s a no-brainer that the need for structured metadata becomes increasingly important across library collections.

    So what is LC doing? They’re proposing to unilaterally cease creating series authority records (mmmm 830 field!). There’s a petition online that describes the situation pretty well. Unfortunately it’s closed to new signatures, but it’s still interesting.

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