The OPAC and the LMS

This week I was treated to lecture by Simon Berron and Andrew Preater from Imperial College London. It concerned the issues surrounding procuring a library management system (LMS) and procuring a user interface software and customising it.

During the lecture, I did get distracted by the fact that Imperial College London should be shortened to ICL, and kind of wondered if they haven’t, because it’s so similar to UCL. But other than that, I was drawn into the issues that surround procuring and using LMS’. They include considering the expertise of the staff, whether the LMS’ strengths will play to the strengths of the organisation, how easy it will be for the staff to use and understand, and whether the transfer of records will be smooth.

I also learned that procuring an LMS is a different exercise from procuring an OPAC. This means that if we get a customisable software, we can change the layout and the fonts used. We can add facets and include additional information.

For example, SOAS are using an open source software called Vufind. They were able to edit and manipulate the code so that they could improve the visual aesthetics of the OPAC and most importantly, improve the user experience (XP). The OPAC should work seamlessly with the LMS and display information in a logical, creative and easy to understand way. This way, users can get the most out of the system by getting access to the information that they need.

As I am starting to focus my interest in how users interact with a user interface I have noted some important features that need to be considered when designing a user interface. They are:

    • What are the users of that institute like? (Are they formal, casual, academic, hobbyists? This changes the nature of the interface.)

 

    • Thus font size and type are important. It has to suit the users and the institution.

 

    • Having images of the items retrieved in a search will help users identify the item.

 

    • Alignment of the different sections will help keep things neat, tidy and streamlined. Users will focus more on the information than on the design.

 

    • Layout of sections is crucial. If a section is not prominent or too prominent or in a place a user wouldn’t look for it, it can be difficult for users to navigate.

 

    • Knowledge of the language is very important especially if wanting to provide information in other languages. Use of an expert is the best thing and do not use google translate.

 

    • You have to think about what the user wants to know first. For example, usually on an OPAC, the user wants to know the title, the author, the location of the item and how long they can borrow it for.

 

    • Is it accessible to those with visual requirements? Performing accessibility testing will enable you to fix any issues the site has with modifying any features that are inaccessible to some users.

 

    • Would infinite scroll be better? I think so, but the back button/feature needs to place the user where they left off and not at the beginning. Some sites still don’t do that and you can end up right at the beginning, and no one wants to start again. Searches within searches would help users to narrow down their search.

 

With these pointers, I think any organisation should be able to design a site that would enhance the UX of its users. However technical staff/systems librarians would need to have the expertise to modify the code of an OPAC in order to make a real difference, if the original style of the OPAC bought does not support the aims of the institution. This is especially if it is an open source software.

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