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Unlocking INNOPAC Secrets for Patrons

Coordinator:
Marcia Rogers, Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Presenters:
Ming Heraty, Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Angelynn King, University of Redlands


Marcia Rogers opened the session by introducing the presenters, Ming Heraty and Angelynn King, both of whose presentations were focused on using the text-based catalog. Her interest in this subject arose as she was planning an in-house refresher training session for existing staff. The realization that staff in different departments had different ways of searching (i.e., tech services staff was not accustomed to searching in public mode, as library patrons do) helped her realize that this training would be useful for patrons as well.

Ming Heraty supervises the Information Desk at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. At the library, there is a cluster of twelve terminals near the Information Desk, and others are scattered throughout the library. The Information Desk staff does not do “librarian magic,” but rather is there to assist and instruct the patrons on using the catalog. The staff member gets up and goes to the terminal with the patron, and shows the patron how to do what they need to do (e.g., limiting searches and placing holds). For example, a lesson on limiting may demonstrate the difference between a subject search where s=breast cancer and another search using s=cancer and then limiting by words in the subject using s=breast.

There are three ways to instruct on how to use the catalog: person to person, in small patron classes, and refresher sessions for staff. Most instruction is person to person, with staff from the Information Desk helping the patron directly. The Arlington Heights Memorial Library has a small computer learning center that is used for group instruction. The staff sessions are held at lunchtime, and have been very popular with staff members, who are “hungry” to learn more.

“Innovative Searching Exercises” is a handout prepared for one of the staff refresher sessions. There are samples of limiting in a number of ways, searching for new materials, and searching for song titles, short stories, and plays. The last page of the handout shows how access points that have been created for use by technical services staff or reference staff can also be used by other staff or patrons. For example, a patron can search by publication date as well as by date the item was added to the collection.

For one-on-one training, public libraries have a high learning curve since patrons are from all age groups with varying experiences and computer skills. In general, when it comes to placing holds or limiting, it takes three times before the patrons learn it. The first time, you show them how to do it and the patron possibly learns it. The second time, you show them again because, although they know it is possible, the patron has forgotten how to do it. By the third time, the patron is able to do the search alone.

Handouts such as “Online Catalog Tips No.1 and No. 6” are used in the small class sessions. A small computer lab is used for these sessions, and the best student to computer ratio is one to one. The current handouts are going to be revised. Some ideas for future versions include sections on “How to find a song title” or “How to find a short story.” While patrons in general don’t use the handouts, it is hoped that by revising the handouts and doing them differently that use will increase.

Angelynn King is a reference librarian at University of Redlands. It is an academic library with six librarians and twelve non-professionals. There are approximately 2,000 students at this small university with a relaxed atmosphere. Most students have used an online catalog before, so there are few novice users. Training uses the online catalog as a jumping off point, to provide skills that can then be taken to periodical databases or the Web.

There are two general rules of searching. First, help is available. Second, when in doubt, read the screen.

The handout entitled “Teaching the OPAC: Portable Skills for Patrons” outlines the five basic steps of searching any online source: find, refine, show, write, and get. Some aspects of the find step include using access points, keyword vs. subject searching, using wildcards (such as k=wom?n or k=crim*), and using Boolean operators.

The second step is refining. Subjects are usually too big or too small. If a subject is too big, the patron must limit to narrow the search. Boolean operators AND and NOT will narrow the search.

The third step is showing the results of the search. There is a hierarchy of information in different formats – citation, bibliographic records, abstract, etc. It may be possible to sort the results so the list is in a different order.

The fourth step is to write. Many patrons are disappointed when the full content is not completely available on the screen. At this point, they must write down, download, or print the relevant information in order to retrieve the item.

The final step is to get it from its physical location. This may be from the shelf, a full text database, microform, or another library, which may require an interlibrary loan request or a road trip. Patrons are told, “The online catalog is not a vending machine. Think of it as looking up restaurants in the yellow pages. Most of them do not deliver.”

This five-step process can be used with any online database. This training works best with smaller groups and not as well with larger groups. This information is covered in one session that lasts an hour and 15 minutes. A second session covers periodical indexes, and a third session covers the Web.

Questions and discussion followed. Some of the issues discussed included the importance of using keyword searching first, the benefits of maximizing the use of the contents notes field, the use of local entries for subjects in the 4xx fields, and the challenges of working with faculty and teachers on assignments.


Recorded by: Janet Ryan, Hillsdale College

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