Enhancing the OPAC

Enhancing the OPAC: Tagging the Catalog and Keyword-in-Heading Searching

Shawn Carraway, Midlands Technical College

Michael Bowden, Harrisburg Area Community College

Michael Bowden and Shawn Carraway presented on two major customizations they made to their OPACs

Both presenters work with SirsiDynix Unicorn but regardless of vendor any system should be able to, and want to impliment these ideas.

Michael presented first on “Keyword in Heading” which he defines as a cross between a keyword search and browse authority search, and which allows the user to do a keyword search on the headings fields. The reason he set this up is because he feels students are not familiar with LCSH searching.

The search page is located at:


Michael pulls out heading from Sirsi into a separate MySQL database every night after the subject headings are compiled.

The search interface then uses a keyword in browse field from which a php search retrieves a subject heading list that the user can then choose from. Works the same for titles, authors, and series.

Shawn Carraway

Catalog is at: http://www.lib.midlandstech.com/

Set up a system in the catalog to allow students to tag records via del.ico.us for several reasons:

  • Felt it provided a better way for students to find materials.
  • Wanted to involve users, let them actively participate in the Library
  • Allows them to organize the information in the way that makes sense to them.
  • It also allows them to help each other.
  • Make tag clouds
  • Changes as language changes
  • Good way to make quick lists – especially professors
  • Compliments, not replaces MARC

How does it work?

Students have to log in with their regular username and password – not anonymous. Then they click to tag a record and the tag is saved in a separate database that connects via a key to the item record.

Possible Problems?

Foul language? Not really, she personally monitors the tags

Misspellings and typos? Not really, she personally monitors the tags

Confusion – i.e. gum, soda, etc. – she leaves it.

Despite popularity among students, some Librarians are still opposed. “Guys in Ties” are very supportive but will draw the line if it is misused.

There was then a discussion on privacy questions, which basically concluded that there is no issue with the materials and students although Shawn still is divided on the privacy issue.

A participant asked why they did not use LibraryThing. Shawn felt the tag clouds, and tagging works too differently, the database does not have enough academic books and would not allow the students to tag, and would therefore defeat the primary purpose of engaging students, which really is the primary purpose of the innovation.