No one wants to use a library catalog

Roy Tennant says:

No one in their right mind wants to use a library catalog. Yes, you read that right. No one wants to use a library catalog. They want to find a book. Or an article or whatever. They only use a library catalog because they have to. And actually, they often just use it to find out a) if you have a particular book they’ve already discovered elsewhere, and b) whether it’s on the shelf.

If Since no one wants to use the library catalog, why do we all spend so much time trying to create “the next generation catalog”? We keep hoping that the next one we invent will be the one they really do want to use.

I doubt patrons will ever want to use any of our search tools–not the catalog, not any of our 800+ databases, not our research guides and not our homepage. They are forced to use them because those are the hoops they must jump through to get to our content. We spend a lot of time trying to “teach” patrons that they should use our databases/catalogs/etc. instead of Google because not everything is in Google. Why not address the real problem, and work on making our collections discoverable in Google wherever patrons are?

Lorcan Dempsey was right — In the Flow is where it’s at.

4 Responses to “No one wants to use a library catalog”

  1. 1 Chris July 31, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Thanks Katie. I agree … I’m beginning to think that library catalogs serve as barriers to our collections rather than as helpful gateways. And trying to make “next-generation catalogs” that look more like Google is a losing proposition. Libraries will never win the battle for “best search engine” … and I’m pretty sure that isn’t the game we should be playing anyway …


  2. 2 Katie July 30, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Have I ever mastered the 8 gillion academic library catalogues in my own thesis research or my work for a professor? No. Have I dug through said catalogues with my kids helping them learn to research their first term papers? No. Have I said, “Wait, here, let’s try google & see what we find.” A hundred times, and we’re just getting started. From a user standpoint, it looks like you might as well go with the flow, b/c that’s where you’re going anyway.


  3. 3 Chris July 27, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Well … it is an “oldie, but a goodie” as they say.


  4. 4 lorcan dempsey July 26, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the nod. That’s going back a little ;-)


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