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EDUCAT  June 2010

EDUCAT June 2010

Subject:

On the importance of Subject Browse lists

From:

"Rinne, Nathan (ESC)" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion List for issues related to cataloging & metadata education & training <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 9 Jun 2010 09:38:59 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (100 lines)

***Apologies for cross-posting***

Hello all,

I recently had a talk with someone about the importance of browse lists.
Thankfully, I had something happen to me just recently that gave me a
good example of their importance.  I'm posting most of what I wrote to
this person here (some edits), although if it provokes comments, I can't
promise that I will have time to jump back in.  : )  If anyone here
would like to try the search out themselves, and see if they can rise up
to my challenge and prove me wrong (I will recant, if need be), I invite
you to so. The catalog mentioned in the message can be located here:
http://library.anoka.lib.mn.us/ 

Enjoy (or not, as the case may be : ) ):

"...sometimes I personally find the browse subject search indispensible.
That doesn't mean I use it all the time, but I find it to be very
helpful at certain times.

For example, about a month ago I wanted to quickly find a non-fiction
children's book about the vocation of detective/criminal investigation
at my local library (Anoka County) for my 5 year old and it took me 10
minutes to do it when it should have taken 1 minute.  I not only used a
regular keyword search for detective (I usually do this, and after
finding a book that is relevant, look at that book's particular subject
headings... and use those to launch into other relevant books), but used
the advanced search functionality to try and pinpoint one good book.  It
was to no avail, because the books it pulled up (hundreds) were almost
all fiction (he's already listened to every "Encyclopedia Brown" in
there!).  It was pretty useless.  

It got worse.  After I had done my advanced search and got my list of
results (again, almost all fiction), I got a glimmer of hope: on the
right side of the screen there was a box that had the following info:

'Try these too...

Crime prevention--Citizen participation. 

Detectives, Children. 

Women detectives 

Animal detectives. 

Private investigators. 

more information: Here are entered works on amateur detectives.'

Not only this, but as I clicked on these options, more of these "Try
these too..." boxes with different terms showed up, with seemingly
useful headings!  The problem was, that if I clicked on, for example,
the "Private investigators" heading seen above, it did not give you all
the titles under this heading only (i.e. Private investigators, period)
but also gave me all the headings that had "private investigators" *as a
part of it*.  In other words, I got all the immense amounts of fiction
again: and this time, not just fiction for the kids (stuff with the call
number J, or, E, or EJ, which often seems to correlate with "juvenile
fiction" and "children's fiction" sub-headings), but fiction in general
as well.  Of course this same kind of thing happened when I clicked on
"Detectives" when that option came up. (and note this: you not only get
all the fiction about "detectives" of course, but stuff like this as
well: "Women detectives--England--Cornwall--Fiction.").  Maybe this
could be easily fixed, but perhaps most libraries these days would not
want this "fixed" (because maybe for most persons who don't know how
these headings can work exactly, vendors and libraries think this is the
best way to help people (but not me : ) ) find stuff).

At this point, it seemed to me that the clear answer was the subject
browse list (which also features prominently the see and see also
headings), but in this case, although their catalog offers browse list
functionality, how much "screen real estate" they give it is debatable
(it was over on the right of the screen, away from the main action my
eyes were fixed on: OK, yes I'm really making excuses for not being as
observant as I should).  So actually, on that day, I did not see the
browse list (I only found it a few days later, after I mentioned the
situation to [a colleague] and said that she was surprised they didn't
have this option [I was not that surprised at the time, and assumed that
they didn't, because I know that [things like] Destiny Quest and some
versions of Aqua Browser do not have it either]) and so, on that day, I
had to slog through hundreds of items that were fiction in until I
finally found something good (and then, I could click on the *relevant*
subject headings I found and find the stuff that I needed).  Again, 10
minutes, when it should have taken 1.    

Actually, maybe my answer in this case did not be the subject browse
list, but in that case, I wonder what the alternative would be.  I can't
think of another good way to have done it (but if you tell me one, I can
check online today) - to have helped me from being unproductive.  : )
Even if I wasn't a cataloger, I'd feel this way. : )"

Regards, 
Nathan Rinne
Media Cataloging Technician
Educational Service Center
11200 93rd Avenue North
Maple Grove MN. 55369
Email: [log in to unmask]

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