Optimal Design Considerations for Web OPAC Interfaces

Speakers will examine the advantages and disadvantages of current OPAC interfaces, and general principles and practices based on their research. They will evaluate moving from character-based to web-based OPAC as well as updating existing web-based OPAC. They will also look at the impact of web search engines and online bookstores on user search behavior and expectations. Alternative OPAC interfaces representing academic, public, and school libraries will be demonstrated.

Jamshid Beheshti
, Ph.D.
Director of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, McGill University
Elaine Toms,
Associate Professor, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto
Johan Ragetli,
Library Information Analyst, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
Stephen Sottong,
Engineering, Technology, Computer Science and Psychology librarian, California State University, Los Angeles
Scott Breivold,
Media, Communications, & Arts Librarian, California State University, Los Angeles

Program followed by the LITA Internet Resources Interest Group Meeting

1. The One-Stop-Information Search: What we can learn from Web search engines
Speaker: Elaine Toms
The process of looking for information is, in general, well understood; an activity formerly the prerogative of information professionals it is now practiced by the masses. Yet, many studies have shown numerous adverse results, e.g., about 50% of queries on a typical intranet do not match the system response. Part of the problem is that search interfaces have changed little in thirty years, and in fact are a retrograde step when compared with the capabilities of databases in the 1980s. The defacto search box has become an artifact of most web-based systems, but those boxes are woefully inadequate -- like giving a person a sharp stone with which to built a house. Using recent empirical work, this presentation will discuss the requirements for search interfaces and how they affect the development of digital library interfaces.

2. Joint OPAC Design Project
Speaker: Johan Ragetli

This presentation will describe a recent and ongoing OPAC design project using iPAC software from epixtech.  The main goal of the project was to customize the look and operation of the OPAC that was suitable to all partners, using vendor-provided system tools and other custom features. KPR operates a shared catalogue with the local public library and local catholic school board in a unique three-way consortium, which moved to Horizon software and iPAC in May 2002. It was launched with a single default profile, out-of-the-box, which was subsequently modified for each location. Critical tasks involved designing one interface for the Consortium and additional interfaces for each location. Each location should have the ability to limit a search by location, and the interface should be suitable for the general public, school users, children and adults.

3. OPAC Interface Design
Speaker: Stephen Sottong & Scott Breivold
Two members of the California State University, Los Angeles Web Team will discuss how the LibraryÂ’s catalog pages were developed.  Using the Innovative Interfaces (Innopac) product as their “back end,” learn how the design of the web-based library catalog evolved and how the interface was modified to address problems discovered in patron usability testing sessions.  They will also demonstrate how the various screens of the CSULA Library catalog were simulated with JavaScript and Dynamic HTML. The resulting pages maintain a constant look and feel and are cross-browser compatible. 

4. The Future of OPAC Interfaces
Speaker: Jamshid Beheshti
Online catalogues have evolved over the years from character-based search engines to relatively sophisticated Web-based gateways.  The prevalence of digital documents and the growing number of digital resources, however, have created new challenges for interface designers of OPACs.  This presentation will examine the problems, and potential solutions for developing creative interfaces for OPACs with the aim of reducing syntactic and semantic knowledge required by the users for retrieving information.


Jamshid Beheshti
holds a bachelorÂ’s degree from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, MasterÂ’s and Ph.D. degrees from University of Western Ontario, Canada.  He is the Director of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at McGill University, where he has taught for the past eighteen years.  His teaching areas include information technology, information retrieval, and bibliometrics.   

Dr. BeheshtiÂ’s publications have appeared in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Information Processing & Management, and Education for Information among other international journals.  He has co-authored an electronic multimedia CD-ROM book.  He has also presented numerous papers in international conferences in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia.  His current research is on automatic classification and interface design for information retrieval.

Elaine Toms is Associate Professor, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto. She has previously worked as a teacher, librarian and database manager. Her primary research area is in information interaction -- examining how people access and use information and how tools should be designed for effective use. One of her current research foci is the search interface. 

Johan Ragetli graduated from Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, University of Western Ontario. Currently, he is the Library Information Analyst for Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board in Peterborough Ontario.  His responsibilities include administration of library systems, automation of school libraries. He is also the Technical Services and web and electronic services development team leader. 

Stephen Sottong is the Engineering, Technology, Computer Science and Psychology librarian at California State University, Los Angeles.  Prior to becoming a librarian he was an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry.  In addition to writing on Web page design, he has written extensively on the technical difficulties associated with e-books.

Scott Breivold is the Media, Communications, & Arts Librarian at Cal State LA.  In addition to running the LibraryÂ’s newly created “Music & Media Center,” Scott is the liaison to the departments of Art, Communication Studies, Music, and Theatre Arts & Dance.  As a member of the LibraryÂ’s Web Team, he served as leader of the design sub-group for the team's recent Library web redesign project. 

For more program information, please contact: Holly Yu

University Library
California State University Los Angeles
5151 State University Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Tel: (323) 343-4993
Fax: (323) 343-5600
Email: hyu3@calstatela.edu