PATHFINDER II TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
PATHFINDER II TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
June 2, 1999
BACKGROUND AND CHARGE OF THE TASK FORCE
Pathfinder, the Library's web-based online catalog and resource gateway, runs on a commercial software from OCLC called Sitesearch. Earlier this year, OCLC released a new java-based version of Sitesearch and stopped supporting the earlier version. Moving to the new version gives the Library the opportunity to improve current functionality in Pathfinder, provide fixes for existing problems, and to consider and implement new functionality to serve our clientele.
The Pathfinder II Task Force was charged with assisting the Library Systems Office in making the transition to the new version as seamless as possible for Library users, reviewing and making recommendations regarding user interface, displays, and functionality, and to help plan an introduction of Pathfinder II to staff and patrons.
Our recommendations are in four parts:
1. Enhancements, improvements, and fixes of current functionality: These recommendations have largely been accomplished already or are being actively worked on by our programming staff, and with few exceptions, are the sorts of improvements and fixes which will generally go unnoticed by current Pathfinder users but which enhance the usability of the system. We have noted highlights and noticeable changes.
2. Proposals for new indexes which would allow for improved and more accurate search results: A number of suggestions for improving the accuracy and predictability of search results have come forward which may need broader discussion from Library public services. Implementation of these proposals would not be part of the initial release of Pathfinder II but could be accomplished and scheduled for later implementation.
3. New functionality, which may be Anew@ in concept, or which may require significant programming, or which may require an ongoing commitment from some sector of the Library: We particularly wish to draw discussion towards these proposals which are geared towards making Pathfinder a "one-stop gateway" for basic Library services. These proposed services for UCB students and faculty range from e-mail reference service to do-it-yourself renewals, from access to course reserves, in both electronic and print formats, to being able to search multiple databases with a single search, as well as to route NRLF paging and ILL requests to MELVYL's PIR service.
4. Timeframe for introducing Pathfinder II to Library staff followed by release to the public: We propose an allusers announcement accompanied or followed by a "guided tour" script introducing the major features of Pathfinder II, an earlybird demonstration for staff, and the possibility of adding a link to "Pathfinder II under development" from the Library Home Page to help us uncover bugs or problems before the official public release in August.
The development site for Pathfinder II may be found at:
We urge everyone to take a look at it. Please keep in mind, however, that this is a development site actively being worked on and is subject to periodic volatility and unavailability.
1. Enhancements, improvements, and fixes of current user interface, displays, and functionality:
a. Search and Modify Search screens: The task force reviewed the current interface and recommended that we retain the look and functionality of our current search screens as closely as possible. They do a good job of making functionality and options apparent to the new user and the screens load quickly for offsite users with modem connections. The Modify Search screen was enhanced by making limit and additional search options more obvious.
b. Search Results Display: When displaying the results of a search, the new Sitesearch uses a separate frame to show a summary of the search, another for the records retrieved, and also a frame for saved records. Pathfinder II uses this Sitesearch provided frames display. In addition, Pathfinder II retrieves twenty records at a time rather than ten, improving efficiency for offsite modem users.
c. Saved Records: Users can now save several records at a time, eliminating the need of waiting for the screen to repaint after selecting each record to be saved. A choice of formats for saved (or emailed) records has been added, allowing users to choose brief, full, or with full text included. A AClear Saved@ button has also been added to clear all saved items at once.
d. Sort by Uniform Title: This additional sort option for search results will be particularly useful for users of music and other special collections. The uniform title also now displays in the brief results screen as well as in the full record display.
e. Recent Acquisitions Lists: Pathfinder II provides a convenient way for users to search for items recently added to the GLADIS database within the most recent one, two, or three months. The search may be for a large array of options such as subject, language, or author, and limited by Library location or publication format. The results can then be sorted by any of the sort parameters available, such as title, author, call number, date of publication, etc.
f. Holdings Information in Melvyl A&I Databases: Holdings are now available on demand in all applicable databases, except PsycInfo where holdings come automatically with the record.
g. Citation with Full Text display from Melvyl A&I Databases: The old version of Sitesearch would not allow a citation to accompany the full text of an article. In Pathfinder II we have been able to partially resolve this problem: if the user=s browser is Netscape, the citation will now accompany the full text. Netscape is the Library's standard supported web browser available at all public and staff pc's. We are still working with OCLC to find a way to display the citation with Internet Explorer.
h. URL phrase searching: this index is fully functional in Pathfinder II, allowing users to perform exact url phrase searching with punctuation and get accurate results.
i. ANot@ option for limits added to search screens: A Anot@ option is now available on the Quick and Full Feature Search screens when limiting by location, format, etc.
2. Proposals for new or improved search indexes to increase accuracy of searches and reduce the Atoo many hits@ problem:
Please note that the proposals in this section would not be part of the initial public release of Pathfinder II. If approved, they will be scheduled for later implementation in consultation with public services for the most appropriate timing.
a. ARelators@, which describe the roles of personal, corporate, and conference authors and names. An example would be a personal author such as Benjamin Britten who could be a composer, conductor, performer, or an associated name or collector. If we had an index of relators, it could be possible to do a search for personal author: Britten, Benjamin and role: conductor. Other considerations for relators are the possibilities for sorting search results by these Aroles= and how to display them.
b. Personal and corporate author indexes: Reindex so that Aauthors as subjects@ are no longer included. When searching for an author as a subject, users would perform a subject search rather than an author search.
c. Simple author index: An additional author index of Amain authors@ only, which would exclude other authors and added entries.
d. Simple title index: An additional title index which does not include series, uniform titles, or added/other titles.
e. Uniform title phrase index: Reindex to treat uniform title phrases like subject phrases, linking all the subfields together when searching rather than allowing subfields to be searched individually.
f. Arabic and Hebrew titles and names: Research possible solutions to the problem of better handling the varying ways in which articles are treated in these languages so that search results can be made more accurate and complete.
3. New functionality:
Other features and services which could be provided through Pathfinder II are suggested here. These suggestions would enable Pathfinder to provide a one-stop gateway for basic services to UCB students and faculty, such as access to course reserves and do-it-yourself book renewals. As a starting point for discussion, we have identified the targeted audience for each recommendation and an estimate of the impact on programming resources and/or other resources within the Library.
---- Functionality requiring minor to moderate programming:
a. AAsk-a-question@ reference service: The Teaching Library has offered to sponsor an email reference service available through Pathfinder. In order to qualify for this service, UCB students and faculty would be required to logon to Pathfinder, just as they do to receive Baker and other extended services and access. Then by pressing a button, the logged-on UCB student or faculty member could fill out a web form which would be received and answered or forwarded appropriately by Teaching Library staff.
Very minimal programming is needed to create the web form. Guidelines and an ongoing commitment to this service from the Teaching Library and/or other Library reference providers would be required.
b. Cross-database searching: The new Sitesearch has built into it the capability of simultaneously searching several databases. The Task Force recommends a limited application of this functionality geared towards UCB undergraduates and generalists, users who often do not have specialized functionality needs and who may not be familiar with the variety of commonly used article databases available or how to choose among them.
An example of what this cross-database searching application might look like can be found by accessing Pathfinder II at the following url:
and choosing the ADo a Cross DB Search@ option.
Offsite access to this option is limited to UCB students, faculty, and staff. Databases included are the most heavily used Melvyl A&I databases which share common functionality, search, and limit options: ABI/Inform, COMP, MAGS, NEWS, and PsycInfo. These databases are already accessible individually in Pathfinder; the only difference is that with the cross-database searching feature, a student can search all of them with a single search rather than have to repeat the search in each one. The most commonly used search indexes and limits are included in the Quick Search screen. More complex searches and options are available from the Full Feature Search screen. Result sets are sorted by database, and records in each results set may be sorted by date, title, or author. Records may also be saved or e-mailed in full or brief format, and can include full article text at the user's option.
Since cross-database searching is built into the new Sitesearch, programming efforts would go towards customizing and refining.
OCLC is focusing considerable development attention to cross-database searching in Sitesearch. One feature it is working on is for the software to be able to eliminate duplicate hits and merge the results into one list rather than yield separate lists of hits in each database.
c. Item-level information: Pathfinder currently does not provide item-level information unless a volume has active circulation information attached, i.e., it is on active reserve, is currently checked out, or on hold, etc. With a moderate analysis and programming effort by the Tandem group and most likely a relatively minor programming effort from the Pathfinder group, it would be possible to supply the following item-level information on request at the click of a button:
a. loan period information for non-circulating, 2 hour, same day, one, or seven day materials, and
b. NRLF barcodes for stored materials.
A number of active Pathfinder users have requested the above.
d. Linking to remote Z39.50 databases: Sitesearch allows us to link to remote Z39.50 databases and search them using the Pathfinder interface, allowing undergraduates and less experienced users to search new databases in a familiar environment. Access to these additional databases is easily limited to UCB students and faculty only. We already provide this access to a number of Melvyl databases and could do so with other databases as well if desirable, such as those provided via SilverPlatter. Some, but not all, members of the Task Force saw potential value in exploring this additional access via a familiar interface to licensed databases which are appropriate for and yet under-utilized by non-specialists. The Task Force therefore recommends this proposal be referred to the Public Services Council or other appropriate body for greater consideration.
For discussion purposes, an example of a Z39.50 SilverPlatter database can be found by accessing Pathfinder II at:
clicking on AChoose a Database@ and selecting AGeography@ from the list of individual databases to search. Note the options available from the Quick vs. the Full Feature Search and the Set Limits screens. In addition, the AWhere@ button on search results screens allows users to get local holdings and availability information - something not possible in the native SilverPlatter interface. It should be observed, however, that many specialized databases provide functionality in their native interface which is not part of the Z39.50 protocol. Since Pathfinder=s access to these databases is via Z39.50, it cannot necessarily provide all the functionality of the native interface and this clearly needs to be taken into account if considering possible candidates for Pathfinder access. It will always be necessary to provide a direct hotlink to the native interfaces from the Pathfinder search screens to allow easy and transparent access to specialized functionality for those who need it.
Required programming effort is likely to be moderate depending on the database. The effort is much smaller for databases similar in structure to the Melvyl A&I databases.
e. Call number searching: Call number searching is often used by reference staff as well as patrons for at least two common purposes: (i) to obtain a list of titles in call number order, allowing one to do a pseudo-subject search or to Abrowse the stacks@, and (ii) known-item or Aexact@ searches. These present two different programming issues.
i. Providing a call number list accompanied by titles in a display similar to GLADIS would likely take a moderate programming effort. As with all other Pathfinder searches, call number searches could be limited or combined with other indexes to make the lists even more useful to patrons.
ii. Exact call number searches would require programming behind-the-scenes normalization routines similar to those of GLADIS so that whatever the patron types in can be interpreted and massaged by Pathfinder to yield accurate results for known-item call number searches. This would likely be a moderately large programming effort.
f. Paging requests for NRLF materials and titles held by other UC campuses: Enable UCB patrons to submit requests for materials through Pathfinder to MELVYL's PIR service. ARequest@ buttons could be added to appropriate screens so that a logged-on UCB patron could easily page materials from NRLF or other UC campuses. Preliminary investigation with CDL suggests that with a moderate programming effort, Pathfinder would be able to Apackage@ these requests and submit them to MELVYL, thus allowing Pathfinder users to seamlessly access an existing service.
---- Functionality requiring significant analysis and programming:
g. Do-it-yourself renewals and inventories: Enable UCB patrons to check their inventories and renew their books via Pathfinder. The vast majority of book renewals are done by patrons without staff mediation - during the first half of this fiscal year, staff renewed approximately 50,000 items whereas patrons renewed approximately 365,000 items for themselves.
This is also large effort which would require considerable analysis and programming from both the Pathfinder and Tandem groups.
h. Course reserves gateway: One-stop access for UCB students and faculty to course reserves by providing a link and perhaps patron-authentication for electronic reserves as well as a catalog of reserve readings held in Library locations.
Course reserves would be a large effort requiring considerable analysis and programming from both the Pathfinder group and the Tandem (GLADIS) group.
---- Functionality whose programming requirements and feasibility are yet to be analyzed:
i. Highlight searched words in results.
j. Improve display of diacritics and special characters.
4. Introducing Pathfinder II to Library Staff:
We propose the following timeframe to introduce Pathfinder II to our public services and teaching staff, allowing them to get familiar with it and develop or revise instructional materials before Pathfinder II is released to the public in August:
As soon as possible:
a) Roundtable and Cabinet discussions to decide functionality to be included in the initial release,
b) An allusers announcement inviting staff to take a look at the development site, accompanied or soon followed by a "guided tour" suggesting sample searches which will highlight the most important functionality, and
c) A link to "Pathfinder II under development" from the Library Home Page, inviting the public to try it out and comment, giving us a greater opportunity to discover problems and test the new version of Pathfinder under a broader set of circumstances before it replaces the current version of Pathfinder.
By mid to late July:
d) A demonstration earlybird for Library staff focusing on the most important changes, as well as an overview of the basic functionality and characteristics of Pathfinder for those who may not be very familiar with it.
Early to mid-August, at least one to two weeks before Fall semester classes begin:
e) Pathfinder II is publicly released, replacing the old version of Pathfinder.
The Teaching Library is already starting to prepare for Pathfinder II by planning "training the trainers", sessions. As we get closer to the Fall semester, we will also need to consider how to fold in a "sneak preview" of Pathfinder II in summer session classes so that users newly trained in Pathfinder won't be thrown by cosmetic changes when we switch to the new version. Since care has been taken to keep the interface as close as possible to the current version, this should be a relatively easy task.
Thank you to all who have assisted the Task Force with concrete suggestions, bug reports, wish-lists, and thoughtful responses to our many many queries.
Pathfinder II Task Force, 6/2/99
assisted by the LSO UNIX programming group: Campbell Crabtree, Janet Garey (Head), Giulia Hill, Nancy Lin