Thursday, March 23, 2017

Would like to see the library catalogue (Tropicat) easier to locate

From the suggestion box:

I would like to see the library catalogue (Tropicat) easier to locate rather than hidden away in "Books, DVDs and More". This is especially so for the younger library users that may be unaware of the library's rich physical resources.

Library response:

We have had this idea suggested to us on occasion in the 5 years (or so?) since we stopped referring to Tropicat on our home page. We had several reasons for doing so, the most important was that our usability testing (done with undergraduates and based on the ideas of Steve Krug 'Don't Make Me Think' and the methodology described in his 'Rocket Surgery Made Easy') showed clearly:
  • That the term 'Tropicat' held no meaning for the vast majority
  • Even those that understood that it was our librarian label for 'catalogue' (yet another library term) didn't realise it was what you searched to find non-book resources like journals and videorecordings
At the same time One Search (Summon TM) had become an easy way to search not just the 'catalogue', but also journal articles, ResearchOnline @ JCU, LibGuides, NQHeritage, our suite of databases and even the fulltext of books, like you were searching Google, with one simple search.

We are format agnostic - we believe the value and utility of the content are the prime considerations (its ROI if you will). The container doesn't doesn't detract from the value, but it can hamper the utility, as anyone who remembers closed reserve collections of print materials will attest.

So we put One Search on the home page with a simple 'Start Here' label. It does everything the catalogue does and a lot more beside - plus in One Search a simple click on 'Library Catalogue' filters your search results to only be those items found in Tropicat.

Fundamentally our mission is to aid the teaching, learning and research activities of the university, and the evolution of those activities means print books are just one part of the increasingly diverse information needs of our clients. Meeting those needs has meant our acquisition of resources has had a major evolutionary shift - to the point where 95% of our materials budget is spent on online resources. Tropicat was never designed to manage that sort of content (either administratively from our perspective, or in delivery from your perspective).

So, while we freely acknowledge that for a certain set of needs Tropicat is the answer, ours was a 'greatest good' approach - particularly for clients unfamiliar with libraries and library resources (an additional rationale being that those who were familiar had the skills to dig down to the catalogue if that was what they required).

Those could be considered brave decisions at the time, but usability testing afterwards, and the use of analytics, have shown us that they were the right decisions for the majority of users.

But usability and the user experience (UX) are a constantly changing feast that requires constant monitoring, analysing and testing with a view to heuristically improving our web presence.  Feedback like yours aids that process, thank you for taking the time to make a suggestion.


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