OPACS and user privacy.


Here’s a button I’d like to see on our OPACs

(Share my info)

Traditionally, we have been fierce custodians of our patron’s privacy, going to extreme and noble lengths to stop third parties from access to borrowing records and address details. We’ve assumed we’re doing the right thing on their behalf, but….have we actually asked them if they want this??

Now, I don’t want my personal details or record of borrowings and browsing made public. No way. But, then again, I wouldn’t be sharing half the information that people seem to be giving out willy nilly on networking sites like MySpace. People seem to be swappping privacy for connection or some service they want.

I would, however, be happy to have my borrowing patterns and searches shared anonymously, like on Amazon. I’d like to know what people who looked at record x eventually ended up borrowing. (This would be imperfect due to the possible time lag). I’d like to know that people who entered the same search as me also looked at these items during the same session.

MPOW has recently switched on a ratings function on our OPAC. I would be very happy to publically share my ratings with other users. If I was a student, I’d find it very useful if my lecturer publically shared their ratings on library items.

That brings me to another button I’d like to see:

(Item discussion)

One which went to a live chat or forum for an item, then kept a record attached to the item record. (I know this is reality in some places).

I think we need to offer our users public profiles on our library web sites – not necessarily attached to their user details. We could link them, but allow our users to specify what is disclosed. Maybe they won’t want it, but right now we are assuming they won’t without even asking.

And..while I’m raving about OPACS…a question that has been bugging me. Why are we still talking about our OPAC and our library home page as totally different creatures? We know that they have different backends, but do they need to be so separated for our users? Most of the time it’s very obvious that you are in a different “place” when you search the catalogue. Can we make that more seamless for our users?

Maybe there are very good reasons why it is that way, but I don’t think of an Amazon search as a different place to the Amazon home page.I just go to Amazon. Granted, we offer a heck of a lot more than just book stock selection..but Amazon has some extras like their reviews, recommendations, user lists etc.

I think we need to keep discussing why our OPACS suck, but also start talking about whether our home pages suck.


2 thoughts on “OPACS and user privacy.

  1. Thanks Ivan. I think you’re right – the OPAC is evolving and we need to help it evolve to have a social face, as well as mirroring the old card catalogue.

What do you think? Let us know.