The interfaces of national bibliographies share many properties of both library OPACs and bibliographic databases in general. Numerous studies of OPAC interfaces and their usage exist including several critical of current OPAC design (e.g. Borgman, 1996; Calhoun, 2006; Yee, 2006) and some including design improvements (e.g. Bates, 2003; Calhoun, 2006).

Bibliographic databases were primarily designed for end-users rather than librarians. Interfaces therefore need to be:

  • Simple (Google’s popularity as a search tool has had changed users’ expectations of searching and for interfaces and made them less tolerant of complex systems)
  • Clear (End-users do not want to use systems requiring lengthy training)
  • Tolerant of mistakes (End-users usually do not search a catalogue frequently enough to memorize any unique characteristics

Librarians themselves have become critical of traditional OPACs and are attempting to respond to users’ requirements. There have been many attempts at creating improved interfaces, e.g. via re-use of bibliographic data to present users with increased options for search refinement and to enable user participation via crowd sourcing of information. Examples include:

Systems designers are increasingly aware of the requirement to support browsing for:

  • Users with unspecified or very general information needs
  • Navigation within large result sets (e.g. via ‘faceted’ browsing in which results are arranged and presented by facets such as genre, form, language etc.)