Thursday, March 27, 2008

Faceted or guiding searching question

I have a question for you. Back a bit more than 2 years ago North Carolina State University came out with a major new look for a library catalog interface. See: This interface is based some products from Endeca which facilitate ‘guided navigation’. While the look has changed a bit since it was first deployed, the ability to suggest to patrons ways they may want to focus or refine their search using a faceted display of key subject, format, or dates off to the side, was a major library catalog innovation. Now instead of having folks refine their search query up front, you quickly gave them many ways to go to continue their search.

Now just about every other major library citation and catalog software quickly developed this type of faceted browsing off to the side, including MetaLib and Primo from ExLibris, WorldCat Local from OCLC, Encore from Innovative Interfaces, etc.

I’m wondering how much you really see patrons using these guided navigation aids that are off to the side after they do a search. We have this now in our MetaLib quicksearches, available right on the main page of our library website at . What’s your take on how much these are used?

A nice overview of faceting is in Wikipedia.


S. Barribeau said...

I like the facets. It gives some quick browsability and suggests other related terms and parameters right up front. It's somewhat akin to Amazon's "More like this" feature but a little more formal. I am not a normal patron, nor do I know what a normal patron (whatever that is) - let's say a student - would think about it. The issue of "screen clutter" is always mentioned but then I look at some of the screen clutter on popular social networking sites and it seems like a non-issue. I guess it depends how focused one is on finding a particular item as opposed to investigating a topic.

Susan B.

Pamela said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pamela said...

I concur that facets help me think about how a subject is framed. What I like even more are catalogs that include book covers - in an instant I can tell if I've already read the book!

Jon said...

When I show students the faceted search options in databases like Engineering Village they seem to get excited about the prospect...but I'm not sure if most users even look at anything on the screen past the results list. When I point out facets I have never got the impression that they'd noticed them on their own.

As a librarian--helping students out, I find them extremely valuable--especially when I'm searching a topic I'm unfamiliar with.