August 20, 2004


I like my local public library. It doesn't hurt that my neighborhood branch is one of the coolest buildings in town. Since I've been riding the bus to work, I have a ton of time to read, so I've become a fairly avid library user.

But, I'm starting to find their online catalog a bit wanting at times. Some semi-random ideas for improvement:

  • I'd like to be able to schedule (approximately) when I get books on hold. Sometimes I'll get three or four books at once, making it hard to make it through all of them before they're due back.

  • Sometimes I'll search for a book and come up with nothing--not only do they not own it, but they don't even list it in the catalog. I just stumbled upon the Interlibrary Loan form, so this is an option. But, they should put a link to this on every search page: "Can't find what you're looking for? Request it here..."

  • I'd imagine that users used to Amazon and Google will find the search interface a bit more daunting. Granted, library catalog search, as a concept, has a long history, but perhaps the library catalog vendors could take a few pages from the playbook of these search experts. Offer sorts based on popularity, or predefined "best bets" picked by library staff. More powerful and intuitive search refinement...all sorts of fun stuff.

Okay. Enough of this rant.