OPAC of the Future Featured at UW Reference Retreat

Last week the UW Madison Libraries sponsored a Reference Retreat for our campus reference librarians. There were some really great sessions that I thought might have a broader appeal and which some WisBlawg readers might enjoy viewing. By way of full disclosure, I was co-chair of the committee that organized the retreat.
One session though, pretty much stole the show: Making Your Catalog Data Work Harder: A Library R&D Project by Steve Meyer, Library Application Developer at UW Madison. This presentation is toward the end of part 1 in the Webcast.
In his presentation, Steve gave us a glimpse of the OPAC the future and, boy was it cool. Living up to his own mantra, “embrace the beta,” Steve introduced us to, SaneCat, the “OPAC-like toy” that he developed last winter, during our campus intersession.
According to Steve, SaneCat was built to solve the following problems:

  • To create an OPAC-like prototype that doesn’t suck
  • To showcase library collections not just provide the call number for an individual title
  • To approximate the experience of browsing the stacks in 2-D

And solve them it did, as you can begin to see in the screen shot below. Note the Amazon-ish feel with the “more like this” links (of which there were much more than this screen shot shows) and the “browse virtual stacks” link.
Obviously, this was a very small project using a very small sample of our catalog data, so we won’t be moving into production anytime soon here at the UW Madison Libraries… but it does give our imaginations something a bit more concrete to build upon. As Steve points out:

  • we have proof that our data can do what we want
  • we know that Amazon does not have a monopoly on ‘more like this’
  • we have a mockup that can stand as leverage with vendors
  • we can lend our tech to vendors so our systems are better

Libraries have so much awesome data with which we could do so much more. It’s so cool to see a system like SaneCat that can leverage that data into something much more powerful than our current OPAC. Let’s do this thing.