Friday, 18 February 2011

How it looks from the reader's point of view

We exist for the reader, not the other way round.

Do we operate in a cosy vacuum sometimes, so focused on getting the job done, that it's as if we are seeing the end user of what we do - the reader - as if through the wrong end of a telescope?

I like to think that working in the reading room, dealing with day to day enquiries, keeps me grounded.

This was brought home to me due to a query I raised with the head of serials cataloguing for Oxford University, no less.

This was what happened: I was cataloguing a serial which had had three different incarnations with slightly different titles. It had been High Pavement Chronicle, then High Pavement and Peas Hill Chronicle, then High Pavement and Christ Church Chroncle.

So if you are creating a professional electronic catalogue record, you create 'linked entries' within the record, so that anyone looking up one of these journals can see this relationship.

My practice is to create the links, then check they work by going to the user-end interface of the catalogue, looking up one title and seeing if one title does indeed lead to another.

It didn't work in this case.

I revisited the record, checked if all the tags and codes were correct. They appeared to be. I racked my brains for what was wrong.  Finally, I admitted to myself I couldn't solve it and contacted the expert.

She maintained the links worked perfectly - what was my problem?  We discussed it by phone. During our conversation it became clear that she checks the links by checking the admin interface, not the user's interface.  'Because this shows it works,' she said, but then had to admit it didn't.

So I like to feel I proved a useful point here:

What does it look like to the reader/user/customer?

We exist for them, not the other way round :)

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