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The James P. Boyce Centennial Library

Boyce Library News

Item Detail View, Part 2 – Item Availability

June 26th, 2009 • Robb Brunansky

One of the most common questions I am asked when helping patrons use our catalog concerns item availability. Patrons want to know if the item is in the library and available to check out. Answering this question was not always intuitive for researchers using our older online catalog. For example, look at the screenshot below and try to figure out which library has a copy of this book available and which one doesn’t:

It’s not immediately obvious. SBTS shows 1/1 and LPTS shows 1/0. You might correctly assume that the first number is the total number of copies the library owns, but what does the second number indicate? Does it indicate number of copies available, or does it indicate number of copies checked out? Further investigation would reveal that the second number shows the number of copies that are checked out. So in this example, SBTS’ only copy of this book is checked out, while the copy at LPTS is on the shelf and available.

There are two major problems with this interface. First, it is unintuitive. Most users would assume that SBTS had the book available while LPTS did not because most users would assume this is showing availability of an item. Therefore, the first number would show the total copies owned by the library and the second how many of these copies were available. However, what actually is displayed is, in essence, item unavailability. SBTS has one copy, and one copy is unavailable. That is not intuitive for users coming to find out whether something is available. Second, not only is this interface unintuitive, it is also confusing. Users have no way of knowing from this screen what these numbers mean.

WorldCat Local has a better way of handling availability information. For the same book, look at the screenshot detailing this item’s availability in WCL:

The first thing you might notice is that WCL shows what you expect it to show: item availability. It’s in green right at the top where it says, “1 of 2 available.” Looking at the details, you can see exactly which one is available without any confusion. There is one copy on the shelf at LPTS, demonstrated with a large, green check box next to the words “On Shelf.” If you’d prefer to wait for the item at SBTS to be returned, you are shown the due date of that item as well: 8/31/2009.

The WCL interface arguably is not only more attractive than our older online catalog interface, it is also more intuitive and informative in its availability information. Those of you who have been using WCL heavily over the past month or so might have noticed that not everything in the catalog displayed its availability correctly in WCL. I think we have fixed that bug. All items should be showing up correctly with their availability displayed in this easy-to-read, intuitive format.

If you haven’t tried WorldCat Local, I’d encourage you to test it out. After you’ve spent some time using it, send us an email and let us know what you think: worldcatfeedback@gmail.com.

RSS Feeds from EbscoHost

June 17th, 2009 • Robb Brunansky

We’ve talked quite a bit about WorldCat Local lately on our blog, and I’ll continue covering it until I have finished giving an overview of the new features, but today I want to take a break from WorldCat and take a look at another search tool available to our patrons: EbscoHost.

We subscribe to a number of databases through EbscoHost, including such databases as Old Testament Abstracts, New Testament Abstracts, Academic Search Premier, ERIC, and Christian Periodical Index. Ebsco allows you to search as many of these databases as you want simultaneously. Let’s say, for example, that you want to search both the Old Testament Abstracts and New Testament Abstracts databases for anything related to 1 Peter. To do that, first navigate to the Ebsco search interface by finding either one of these databases on our Theology and Religion Databases page. For our example we’ll pick OT Abstracts.

When we click the link to this database, we are taken to Ebsco’s main search page. From here, we can add other databases to our search criteria. Click “Choose Databases” to bring up a window listing all of the available databases.

Check the ones you want to search. For our example, check New Testament Abstracts. Now our search will query both databases and show us the results from each integrated neatly into one list. Let’s say we want to search for articles relating to Peter’s first letter. We type 1 Peter into the search box and click Search. A list of results is returned, in our case, 474 different items. The results screen presents many options we can modify to refine our search, but we won’t bother looking at them today.

Let’s say what we really want to do is find out when our search results change and new articles are added that relate to our search. One way of finding out this information is to keep a tally of how many results you found today, then tomorrow re-run the same search and see if anything has been added. However, that’s a little time-consuming and cumbersome. It is also completely unnecessary. Ebsco allows you to generate an RSS feed of your search results that automatically updates when the database updates. Click on the RSS button to generate an RSS feed.

A window will appear with details about your feed and instructions on how to access it from any aggregator, RSS newsreader, or web browser.

Follow these instructions, and you will have an automated research assistant that alerts you whenever a new article appears relating to your research. This works across all the Ebsco databases, and we hope you find it useful in your studies.

Searching WCL from the Library’s Website

June 15th, 2009 • Robb Brunansky

At the top of the main library web page we have updated the “Search the Catalog” feature with WorldCat Local. Now, to use the many new features of WCL, you no longer need to go to sbts.worldcat.org, but you can navigate to our web page, type your search terms, and you will be taken directly to WCL to see your search results.

If you prefer the older OPAC, you can still search that, too, by clicking “Search the Catalog” on the left-hand side of our site.

If you’ve had a chance to explore WorldCat Local, we would love to hear what you think. Email us your thoughts at worldcatfeedback@gmail.com.

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