Review #10: How Users Search the Library from a Single Search Box

Paper cranes
Origami Cranes – Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In the article, How Users Search the Library from a Single Search Box, written by Cory Lown, Tito Sierra, and Josh Boyer, the general consensus is – we’re lazy…and spoiled.  Google has destroyed us!

Acknowledging the massive difficulty in incorporating the complexity of existing library systems within a single search box, the authors have failed to resolve the issue, merely concluding with the same tired strain of “The library search experience must be designed carefully to balance user needs and expectations with the capabilities of library information systems.”

This is exactly what practically every article in LIS concludes when it comes to providing users access to to library and research services.

The research this article was built on followed the same methodology I must have seen in a hundred other articles – create software that follows all search queries and generates a log of what users looked at and what links were clicked – but this time, we’ll make it a small box on the home page!  That will generate ground-breaking insights into how our users access our services!

(And no, I do NOT consider their claims of building an “application-specific log file” as substantially differing from other studies.  Same box – different wrapping paper.)

In using NC State University’s model and incorporating a unified search interface that links to everything within the library, the authors sought to create a radically different design that simplifies the search process yet gives the user more power as now they can access…EVERYTHING!  Why is this considered daring and groundbreaking now?  The question that should have been asked is “Who decided that fragmentation was a good thing to begin with?”  Why are library systems so entrenched in the way things have been done in the past?  What if the past systems were never good to begin with?

I think I’m tired of complexity masquerading as an indication of quality or depth in the field of LIS.  If a schema doesn’t suit your needs – add to it!  If a library isn’t serving the needs of its community – add a plethora of trendy services like coffee bars or social club spaces!  Make it bigger!  Give them more choices!

More is not always…more.  Sometimes it is too much.  As George Sand stated: “Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius.”


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