The study described in this paper aims to identify the progress made in the efforts to model current online public access catalogs (OPACs) after the next generation catalog (NGC) in academic libraries in the USA and Canada.
A random sample of 260 colleges and universities was selected from Peterson's Guide to Four‐Year Colleges 2009, an estimated 10 percent of the total population of 2,560 listed academic institutions. A checklist of 12 features of the NGC was used to evaluate the OPACs of the 260 libraries in the sample. The authors took as the OPAC that which the library linked to as its “catalog,” even though some might be more properly considered “discovery tools” or “discovery layers.” Some libraries used more than one OPAC interface simultaneously; in this case, each OPAC was analyzed separately. In the case of several institutions using the same consortial OPAC, only the first instance of the OPAC was analyzed. About 15 percent of the institutions (n=40) in the sample either did not have web sites or did not provide access to their online catalogs. In all, a total of 233 unique instances of OPACs were analyzed. Data were collected from September 2009 through July 2010. The findings can be extrapolated to the population at the 95 percent confidence level with a confidence interval of ±3.
While bits and pieces of the next generation catalog are steadily working themselves into the current catalog, academic libraries still have a long way to go. About 16 percent of the OPACs in the sample did not show any advanced features of the NGC. More than half of the libraries (61 percent) had only one to five advanced features in their OPACs. Many of those with six or more NGC features were discovery tools. Only 3 percent of the OPACs in the sample (n=8) demonstrated seven to ten out of the 12 functionalities of the NGC, and they were instances either of WorldCat Local or Summon. The weak areas were federated searching, relevance based on circulation statistics, and recommendations based on patron transactions.
This is the first and only study on a large scale conducted thus far that evaluates the progress towards the NGC in academic libraries in the USA and Canada. The findings help academic librarians to recognize and pin‐point the weak links in implementing a true next generation catalog.
Yang, S.Q. and Hofmann, M.A. (2011), "Next generation or current generation? A study of the OPACs of 260 academic libraries in the USA and Canada", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 266-300. https://doi.org/10.1108/07378831111138170
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