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Paul Miller


Interesting to see me 'prompting' a discussion on Coke. So do Coca Cola Corp have to pay me now? :-)

I agree that we need variety in our search interfaces, but we need to manage the line between offering choice and creating confusion.

I stand by my earlier point about the need to treat (almost) every user as (almost) a new user. University libraries, although used, are probably only regularly used by a quite small subset of their members. In public libraries, it's even worse.

We grow up with Coke and its varieties. We learn how to choose from the vanilla and the lemon and the caffeine free (we learn that that one is pointless, right?). Even when confronted by a new variety, we have cues and language skills sufficient to work it out. "Vanilla" means something to us in the context of a flavour on the side of a cola bottle.

Most of us don't grow up with library systems, although hopefully many/most of us do still grow up with regular visits to browse the children's book selection. We aren't trained or conditioned to think like a library system. Our cues and signals and expectations don't work.

Just today, I (a reasonably educated, reasonably literate, reasonably library-savvy person) fought a library system I had not used before.

"Title" it said. Not "book title", "monograph title", or equivalent. So I typed in the title of the journal I wanted. Nothing. It took some searching (which I only bothered with because I couldn't believe that this library didn't have the journal in question) to find that "Periodical title" was squirelled away somewhere else.

That was a piece of 'variety' that only confused.

I am not arguing for the abolition of monograph versus periodical title fields and searches. But shouldn't the vanilla (in a different sense to that meant by Coke!) title search have searched both, with options elsewhere for format-specific titles? At the very least, the apparently vanilla title search should have been explicit about the fact that it was actually monograph-flavoured!

Here's hoping that this meaning of vanilla translates equally on both sides of the Atlantic, or this particular comment is going to make very little sense!


I agree.


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