User perspectives on NextGen catalog features



Since the development of the online public access catalog (OPAC), there has been discussion about what constitutes a next-generation (NextGen) catalog. In the last few years, many user-centered features have been included in both vendor and open source NextGen catalogs. What is lacking, though, is a study of user perspectives on the usefulness of these features in searches. Examining these perspectives will provide insight important to future the development of NextGen catalogs. In this study, 98 library science students reviewed the features of the AcquaBrowser, Encore, VuFind, and Scriblio systems. Participants used a 10 point scale (1=low, 10=high) to rate the helpfulness and desirability of user-centered features such as the simple search box, advanced search options, results sorting options, enriched content, user contributed content, faceted navigation, relevance ranking, spell checking, word constellations, word clouds, recommendations for similar items, external links, and other Web 2.0 features. Overall ratings show the advanced search option to have been the most helpful and the recently added items feature to have been least helpful, while faceted navigation was the most desirable feature and the recently added items feature was the least desirable. For all features included in the study, except the advanced search option, the average desirability of the features was rated higher than the average helpfulness. Additionally, more detailed findings, including users' comments about NextGen catalog features, are reported.