Search trees are a set of paths with branches or choices that enable a system to carry out the most sensible search approach at each stage of a search. A new design for subject access to online catalogs enlists search trees to identify the characteristics of end‐user queries for subjects, control system responses, and determine appropriate subject‐searching approaches in response to the subject queries users entered. The purpose of this article is to identify characteristics of the most difficult user queries and recommend enhancements to the new subject‐searching design to enable it to produce useful retrievals in response to the wide variety of queries users pose to online catalogs. Online catalogs governed by search trees are more effective than the users themselves in selecting subject‐searching approaches that would produce useful information for the subjects users seek. The enhanced search trees presented and tested in this article enlist subject‐searching approaches that are not typical of the functionality of operational online catalogs. Design and development is required to upgrade existing online catalogs with search trees and new subject‐searching functionality to be successful in responding with useful retrievals to the most difficult user queries.
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