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Fifteen recommendations are offered for the improvement of online catalogs within the categories of closer connections to the users' work environment, SDI, downloading, reform of LCSH, enhanced search capabilities, and linking with other bibliographies and text.
Recognition. of the achievements of the first ten years of the MELVYL online system of the University of California occasions an excellent opportunity to examine what needs to be done in the next ten years of online catalog design and development. What follows is a personal selection of improvements not only for the MELVYL system but for online catalogs generally.
The online catalog has two quite different kinds of impact. For all who visit the library, it is a different sort of catalog, with a keyboard, screen, and a new way of searching that replaces passive trays of cards.
A different impact arises with the growing proportion of library users whose work habits and working environments have changed to include routine use of computers. For these persons. the option of remote access to the library's catalog has constituted an important new extension of library service. Not since library catalogs were (infrequently) printed and distributed in book form in the nineteenth century has this kind of catalog access been possible. This second impact is selective, an enhancement of service for those whose work habits and equipment enable them to benefit. Library automation to improve library service within the library is clearly useful. However, the ability of the library to arrange for access from outside the library to materials stored electronically, such that users with suitable equipment and skills can use these resources by themselves, constitutes a much more substantial extension of library service.
Because people have moved to a personal computing environment for their work, they need the provision of online access to the online catalog, online bibliographies, and any other online resources because the effective performance of their work is based on access to electronic records. Their work is constrained if such access is not provided. For this reason library automation, hitherto based on factors internal to the library, should now be associated with and paced by the parallel shift in the "task environment of the people the library serves. Once library users begin to work electronically, they are hindered by the lack of remote access to an online catalog and to materials in electronic form. This close coupling of library development with changes in users" working styles requires a new perspective. Any serious agenda for automation in library service should include enhancements designed to bring service to where the users are and into their personal working (and computing) environment. Our first four agenda items are in this class.
The Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) is the notification of library users of selected, newly received items relevant to their personal interests. SDI is a well-established practice in small, specialized libraries but is labor intensive and, therefore, rarely found in large libraries. The idea of SDI has found new currency outside of libraries as "information filtering." The (largely independent) developments of electronic mail and of online library catalogs can be combined to provide automatic SDI if the catalog has an "AND LOADED SINCE [date]" search limit capability (as the MELVYL system does) or can achieve a similar effect through, for example, record ID numbers in consecutive order.
One feasible approach would be along the following lines. A library user's SDI profile can be expressed in terms of an online search statement (e.g,. FIND SUBJECT CATALOGS, ONLINE) and identified by the user's electronic mail address (e.g., …