Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


Johns Hopkins University Press


One of the presumed advantages of next-generation library catalogue interfaces is that the user experience is improved—that it is both richer and more intuitive. Often the interfaces come with little or no user-facing documentation or imbedded “help” for patrons based on an assumption of ease of use and familiarity of the experience, having followed best practices in use on the Web. While there has been much gray literature (published on library Web sites, etc.) interrogating these implicit claims and contrasting the new interfaces to traditional Web-based catalogues, this article details a consistent and formal comparison of whether users can actually accomplish common library tasks, unassisted, using these interfaces. The author has undertaken a task-based usability test of vendor-provided next-generation catalogue interfaces and Web-scale discovery tools (Encore Synergy, Summon, WorldCat Local, Primo Central, EBSCO Discovery Service). Testing was done with undergraduates across all academic disciplines. The resulting qualitative data, noting any demonstrated trouble using the software as well as feedback or suggested improvements that the users may have about the software, will assist academic libraries in making or validating purchase and subscription decisions for these interfaces as well as help vendors make data-driven decisions about interface and experience enhancements.


Copyright © The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Library Trends 61:1 (2012).



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