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World Digital Libraries: An International Journal (Print)
Vol.7(1)  June 2014
Print ISSN : 0974-567X
Online ISSN : 0975-7597

Online Public Access Catalogues of Selected University Libraries in Delhi: An Evaluative Study

Margam Madhusudhan :
Assistant Professor, Department of Library and Information Science University of Delhi, Delhi – 110007 (India), Email: mmadhu@libinfosci.du.ac.in
Shalini Aggarwal:
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Library and Information Science University of Delhi, Delhi -110 007, Email: shalini1740@gmail.com
DOI: 10.3233/WDL-120112


This paper provides a comparative analysis of the functionality of three different Online Public Access Catalogues, i.e., LibSys, VTLS’s iPortal, and Troodon ILMS acquired by study university libraries in Delhi with the help of a specially designed evaluation checklist. The various features of the OPACs in seven university libraries (University of Delhi,  Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University,  Jawaharlal Nehru University,  Delhi Technological University,  Jamia Millia Islamia,  Indira Gandhi National Open University, and Jamia Hamdard University) are evaluated. The evaluation approach taken was similar to that of Margam and Aggarwal with minor modifications. It comprises 214 dichotomous questions with 145 features in 12 broad categories.

The study explored different features of OPACs, of which page layout is the highest scored feature and Web 2.0 based OPAC feature is the lowest. Location map and series hyperlinks, meta-search, comprehensive search limits in publisher and place of publication, spell check software facility and additional help to remote users, image of book covers, relevancy ranking, reviews, user-added tags, tagging, RSS feed from the search, citation creator, customer written reviews “email this link”, etc., are some of the features lacking in all the surveyed OPACs. The highest scored OPAC is the LibSys-based OPAC of Jamia Hamdard University with 61.68 per cent and LibSys of Jamia Milia Islamia is the lowest scored with 41.58 per cent. The findings of the study prove to be a useful source of information to librarians, especially university librarians who are planning to introduce OPACs and also for the software vendors who wish to improve the functionality of their OPACs.

1. Introduction

Catalogues are the windows to the collection of a library, containing the bibliographic details of a particular document, which informs the user about the holdings of the library. The primary function of a library catalogue is to direct the patrons to the needed material. Catalogues of an increasing number of libraries can now be searched online, known as Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), which is of special importance to the library users. Today’s online catalogues typically access machine-readable records for books, journal titles, theses, and audio visual material and also indicate their circulation status, and/or make reservation for them. Some libraries allow patrons to request items from another library on inter-library loan via the OPAC. Patrons’ library registration details and borrowing information are also available in the OPAC. In other words, OPAC is an interactive search module of an automated integrated library management system (ILMS) (Husain and Alam 2006) and functions against a background of alternative information gathering technologies. As a result, it is likely to remain at the centre of library operations for the foreseeable future as the primary automated point of connection between the library users and those information resources which the library owns or otherwise wishes to promote (Wells, 2007). Connecting the web with the online catalogue is a natural and unavoidable goal for libraries today. These are called Web OPAC, which is similar to OPAC in searching and browsing. The main difference between the two lies in the global usage as Web OPAC can be searched from any corner of the globe.

2. Review of Related Literature

Evaluation criteria for OPACs have been developed mainly through comparative studies. The report by Hildreth (1982) appears to be the most influential one. Indeed, the framework presented in the report has shaped subsequent efforts in evaluating OPACs (O’Rourke 1987; Salmon, 1993), although the research was not intended as an evaluation of the 10 OPACs studied (Hildreth 1985). For evaluation, O’Rourke (1987) created a checklist of 95 questions divided into five categories, viz., operational features, access points, search features, display features, and user assistance features. These five categories could reasonably serve as evaluation criteria for OPACs. Later, Cherry (1998) developed guidelines to evaluate OPAC display designs for web-based OPACs in Canadian academic and public libraries. His checklist was limited to four aspects, namely, display design and covered labels, layout, text, and instructional information. Babu and O’Brien (2000) developed a checklist more pertinent to the functions and capabilities of present day web-based OPACs. The checklist covered interface and searching capabilities, such as search types, search strategies, access points, display options, entry structure, external links, services/facilities, output capabilities, and layout. Surprisingly, this checklist paid no attention to display aspects, such as labels, text, and instructions. Ibrahim (2005) merged the checklists of both Cherry, and Babu and O’Brien, and reproduced a rather comprehensive checklist useful for evaluating not only the display designs, but also the features of web-based catalogues that too with minor modifications. Kapoor and Goyal (2007) redesigned the checklist. Further, Mahmood (2008) developed a comprehensive checklist to assess the features of OPAC with the help of previous studies and incorporating IFLA (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institution’s) guidelines for OPAC display. Luong and Liew (2009) developed a comprehensive checklist based on the checklists of Cherry, Babu and O’Brien, Ibrahim, and Mahmood. Later, Margam and Aggarwal (2011) developed a more comprehensive checklist based on the previous checklists, comprising 174 dichotomous checkpoints and categorized in 11 broad categories. This checklist paid no attention to Web 2.0 features, such as RSS feeds, tagging, open URL, citation creator, etc.  Further, Aggarwal and Margam (2011) redesigned the check list with 195 dichotomous checkpoints in 12 categories incorporating Web 2.0 features in the OPAC. The evaluation approach taken in this study is similar to that adopted by Margam and Aggarwal (2011) with minor modifications done hitherto.

3. University Libraries

A university library, therefore, inevitably becomes an intellectual arena and a place for knowledge. It acts as a meeting place of enquiring minds of researchers, faculty, and readers. In a university, teaching is a part of research; and the latter is unthinkable without a good library, hence it occupies a place of significance in any university. Therefore, the library can enhance a university’s reputation by providing access to world-class information resources and services, and helps to stimulate research by promoting collections and services widely. It also plays a pivotal role in ensuring the success of higher degree of research and the university.

At present, there are eight universities (both central and state) functioning in Delhi. Except Ambedkar University, which is a new university and does not have an OPAC search facility, the remaining seven university libraries have functional OPACs. This study gives a brief idea about the features and components of OPACs of seven university libraries in Delhi.

3.1 University of Delhi (DU)

The University of Delhi (popularly known as Delhi University) is a premier university of India. It was established in 1922 (http://www.du.ac.in/index.php?id=505). The University Library, known as Delhi University Library System (DULS), is one of the oldest university library systems in India comprising 15 libraries. DULS has become the trend setter in university libraries in Delhi. It is using Troodon, an Integrated Library Management System (ILMS) developed by Comtek Services Pvt. Ltd, a Delhi-based private limited company established in 1991.

3.2 Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)

IGNOU was established in 1986 (http://www.ignou.ac.in) as a Central University. The Central Library of IGNOU, known as Library and Documentation Centre, is fully automated with the help of LibSys, an ILMS developed by a New Delhi based software company, Info-Tek Consultants Pvt. Ltd established in 1984.


3.3 Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI)

JMI became a Central University in 1988. In Urdu, Jamia means ‘University’ and Millia means ‘National’. The University Library, known as Dr Zakir Husain Library, is the Central Library of Jamia Library System and is fully automated using LibSys.

3.4 Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)

JNU, established in 1969, has recently set up a Cyber Library at the ground floor with 200 computers for the students. The library uses Chameleon iPortal, an ILMS created by VTLS (Visionary Technology in Library Solutions).

3.5 Jamia Hamdard University (JHU)

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JHU was established in 1960 (http://www.jamiahamdard.ac.in). Jamia Hamdard Library System contains a Central Library and six faculty libraries. The Central Library of the university was named as Hakim Mohammed Said Central Library in 1992. The library is automated with LibSys and is actively involved in acquiring quite a large number of resources in conventional and non-conventional forms.

3.6 Delhi Technological University (DTU)

Previously known as Delhi College of Engineering (DCE) (initially established with the name – Delhi Polytechnic), DTU came into existence in the year 1941 (http://www.dce.edu/web/Sections/ About/ history.php) to cater the needs of Indian industries for trained technical manpower. DCE was renamed as Delhi Technological University (DTU) on July 2009. The Central Library of the DTU caters to the information needs of the students of various branches of engineering. The central library is fully automated and provides the facility of OPAC to its users using LibSys ILMS.

3.7 Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU)

The university was established in 1998 (http://www.ipu.ac.in), and has a University Library re-christened as University Information Resources Centre (UIRC). The university library was initially established at the Kashmere Gate Campus (in September 1999) of the GGSIPU, but now it is relocated to its Dwarka campus. The prime responsibility of the UIRC is to supplement the educational and knowledge needs of the students, researchers, and its faculty members. UIRC has been automated with the help of Troodon.

4. Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study was to evaluate the OPACs of university libraries in Delhi in order to:

  1. know the different features of the OPACs maintained by university libraries under study

  2. identify and organize the criteria for evaluation of OPACs from the previous studies

  3. evaluate the OPACs of university libraries under study with specially designed checklist

  4. compare the OPAC features in totality among the libraries under study

The present study is confined to seven OPACs of university libraries in Delhi. The selection of the sample was done on the basis of the functional OPAC facility provided to their respective users at the time of the study. Table 1 presents the OPACs of the selected university libraries in Delhi.

The structured evaluation checklist was designed keeping in view the stated objectives and literature available, so as to examine the various features and components of OPACs of libraries under study. It comprises 214 dichotomous checkpoints with 145 features, categorized as 12 broad categories.

5. Data Analysis and Interpretation

Testing of the checklist took place from 15 February, 2012 to 15 March, 2013 with the help of specially designed evaluation checklist. The analysis was based on the functionality features of OPACs of the studied university libraries. Consistent results were obtained during the evaluation period. The responses were received from the evaluation checklist of 214 dichotomous checkpoints in 12 categories. Each time a cell (i.e., specific feature in the checklist) is checked (marked “√”), one point was assigned to the OPAC concerned. Each category has a set of related questions. The responses of each category were analysed with the help of tables and figures followed by interpretation of data.

5.1 Searching Features

Searching features refer to various types of retrieval techniques offered by a system in question for finding out an intended document by matching with the terms specified in the query.  This function enables the user to formulate his/her information request and offers a range of search types from basic to advance. Searching functionality constitutes the largest group of evaluation criteria in this paper. Thus, searching features group with 58 checkpoints is the broadest of the entire 12 categories that act as a tool to assess the capabilities of OPACs. The searching features vary from one to another and represent the extent of customization. Due to their variability, in different OPACs, each OPAC stand distinct from the rest.

Table 2 reveals that most of the OPACs under study received high scores in assessment of their searching capabilities as they offered users with choice to search through 20 conventional access points. Among this, GGSIPU and JH scored 10 points each, followed by IGNOU, DTU, JNU, and JMI scoring nine points each. DU scored least with eight points in this area. Basic search feature was common in all OPACs studied, whereas, advance search facility was found in 71.42 per cent library OPACs.  Interestingly, both LibSys and VTLS–based OPACs offer several types of additional searching facilities, which actually are “an advantage over the linear search provisions present in the earlier forms of catalogue” (Ansari and Amita 2008). From Table 2 it is clear that majority of the OPACs studied provide search facilities using Boolean, Truncation, and Phrase, apart from search via conventional access points. It is quite surprising to find that Phrase search facility was not seen in OPACs of GGSIPU and DTU.

Another unique feature offered is of proximity operators, which act as a powerful information retrieval feature or as a factor in the relevance ranking (Smith 2000). It was found in all the OPACs studied.

Hyperlinks in a bibliographic record are quite useful as they enable easy searching and location of a desired document, while helping in further exploration of the library stock. The checklist identifies eight sources of hyperlinks, of which title and author are commonly found with variation from library to library. The much wanted feature of providing location map of the desired document as hypertext link in a bibliographic record has not been seen in any of the OPACs studied and the same is true with regard to the series. The importance of hyperlinks in series can be assessed from the fact that these hyperlinks can help in exploring other related works of a series. Though hyperlink in call number was offered by Libsys-based OPAC of DTU, but its benefit could only be extended in finding the number of copies of a specific document. The hyperlinks in edition and imprint were found to be the exclusive features of VTLS-based OPAC of JNU. The only advantage of this new type of hyperlink in imprint (Place of publication, Publisher, and Year) is that any book can be searched by its place of publication, which is generally not provided by other OPACs. In short, more the number of hyperlinked access points, more will be the information retrieved and that also in less time.

Bibliographic record is organized into separated fields so that an OPAC can facilitate searching of each field separately, for e.g., searching by title, author, subject, etc., which according to Cybrary cataloguers is termed as Field Directed Searching. This acts as a very powerful tool, especially for beginners. Surprisingly, field directed searching facility is very common and is found in all of the OPACs studied. The only difference is that some OPACs, such as Troodon had provision for searching the fields separately, whereas, other OPACs based on VTLS or LibSys offer a single platform, named as basic or quick search, for all the fields with the facility for customizing the search blank provided as per the desired field being searched.

Another important feature for searching a document is called browse, which enables a novice to find his desired document from a database without entering a keyword. He could now surf through the entire list of titles/authors/other fields. This kind of browse search offers two advantages. First, in case the user doesn’t know the entire name or knows only part of a name then he could surf through the list and can get a hint with respect to exact name. Second, a new user can easily able to know all the available books in a subject, which he otherwise wouldn’t have even heard off. In other words, browsing is a natural and effective approach to many information-seeking problems and requires less effort and knowledge on the part of the user (Yu and Young, 2004). Interestingly, all the OPACs under study offered browse searching using authors and documents’ title, while 71.42 per cent of the OPACs offered browsing features through subject, publisher, call number, and journal title. The OPACs of DTU and JH supported browsing using place of publication, while OPAC of JMI offered browsing for new titles, but none of them provided browsing for series and by type.

Multimedia search enables information search using search queries in multiple data types, i.e., submitting search queries not only as textual requests, but also through other media. More than half of the OPACs studied (57 per cent) are providing multimedia searching facility.  Boolean operators and keyword searching in the record is very common and is found in all

the OPACs studied. Unique features provided to the university library OPACs are course reserves and new items searching as 43 per cent and 71.42 per cent, respectively.

It is important to note that when the methods of subject enhancement of OPAC are considered, retrieval performance and the potential requirement for multilingual access to information are also considered. Natural language translation is not yet capable of covering full range of subjects, which are present in the catalogue of a large general library. The alternative of having a translator to create enhanced content indexing of all documents in several languages is unlikely to appeal to many institutions. Only OPAC of JH provided the language translation facility for Arabic and Urdu related item searches. On the other hand, 42.87 per cent of libraries’ OPACs have provision for single search interface.

The recent trend of incorporating databases and OPACs into a single search reflects the necessity of expanding information resources and simplifying access to resources, i.e., meta-searching (Yu and Young 2004). Meta-search systems employ a variety of methods to display results to end users and help libraries craft front-end interfaces for their e-resources, thus allowing users to search multiple resources simultaneously. Surprisingly, none of the OPACs studied had a feature of meta-search. Another possible trend seen today is the usage of visual OPACs that are becoming more popular in present day library OPACs. The main benefit is that they provide the user to switch their interface from text to graphic, so as to enable them to see their searches. A visual OPAC also provides images of book covers, excerpts of chapters, video clips, audio files, magazine articles, and website addresses. Astonishingly, none of the OPACs studied have provision for visual map facility, which helps users to understand the online catalogue and the relationships of search terms found in it.

Faceted navigation is uncommon in many of the OPACs studied. It is found in 43 per cent of the OPACs. This finding attested the findings of the recent study with varying percentage conducted by Hofmann and Sharon (2012). The study showed that around 33 percent of academic libraries are using a faceted interface. However, none of the surveyed OPACs provided thesaurus search feature.

As already apparent from the OPAC LMSs of the various university libraries, Libsys software offered various types of searching themes through its interface, such as simple search, advanced search, additional search, and ISBN search, as compared to the search options in other ILMSs. Evaluation of all the seven university OPACs indicated that LibSys-based OPAC of JH scored higher, i.e., 60.34 per cent in searching features category, followed by VTLS-based OPAC of JNU and LibSys-based OPAC of IGNOU with 53.44 per cent each, while  Troodon-based OPAC of DU scored very less in this category (39.65 per cent). Seven OPACs scored 205 points, while the average score was 50.49 per cent.

5.2 Search Limits and Strategies

Search strategies are approaches that are adopted by users while conducting searches on the retrieval system. The second step after deciding about the type of search to be adopted for searching a document is to set limits to the details of the document, so that the information about the exact document matching our needs can be retrieved in a lesser time. This implies that before proceeding to document search, a user actually makes search strategies (i.e., making various combinations to reach/find the exact document) as to how he will proceed/work with database so as to retrieve information about the right document soon. In such a scenario, to save the time of the user, a provision of a search limit should be an essential feature in OPACs (Babu and Tamizhchelvan 2003).

Table 3 reveals that the mean percentage of scores received by each OPAC is 68.75 per cent. LibSys of JH scored maximum points, i.e., 14, followed by DU, DTU, and IGNOU with 12 points each. In contrast, JMI scored only 7 points, which is half of the same ILMS-based OPAC of JH.

Refining of initial search, option for search history, and provision for item search are common features and are found in all the studied OPACs. Interestingly, 85.71 per cent of the studied OPACs offer to limit the search by year of publication through specific year and range of time periods as either before, after or between, during which a document had been published. The provision for comprehensive search limits, such as publisher and place of publication were not found in any of the surveyed OPACs, except in Troodon-based OPAC of DU. Search limits and strategies category clearly indicate that LibSys-based OPAC of JH received maximum features, whereas OPAC of JMI received minimum features.

5.3 Access Points

Access points are the main hints or key themes that decide how to search the information in an OPAC. In simple words, access points act as key points for finding or locating a document, under which a bibliographic or authority record may be searched. OPAC allows searching of library materials by various access points, such as author, title, publisher, year, media type, keyword, etc. Users may narrow down their searches to specific library collection. They can also refine the search within search results. OPAC also allows bonafide users to place online reservations if material is not available for check out. It is clear that OPACs have certain inherent advantages over conventional catalogues. The principal advantage is that they can easily be made to provide a much greater range of access points.

Table 4 clearly indicates that five out of seven OPACs offered access points ranging from 56.52 per cent to 69.56 per cent. As anticipated, author, title, and year of publication are the common access points found in all of the OPACs studied. The poorest frequency was found in access of LCCN, imprint, cross references, and notes/abstract.

Access point’s category clearly indicates that the Troodon-based OPAC of GGSIPU received maximum features, i.e., 69.56 per cent, followed by LibSys-based OPAC of JH with 65.21 per cent. In contrast, Troodon-based OPAC of DU and LibSys-based OPAC of DTU received lowest access features (47.82 per cent each) and need to compete hard.

5.4 Bibliographic Display

The bibliographic display in an OPAC shows information about items belonging to the library’s collection. The effectiveness of an OPAC’s bibliographic display affects the user’s understanding of the bibliographic description. Users use bibliographic information to identify, select, and obtain library resources (Mi and Weng 2008). Once the information searched is retrieved, next step is to choose the requisite document from the hits reported. It is the bibliographic display of the information contained in that specific hit which enables the finder to know the circulation status and other details about the document (such as, call number, accession number, etc.), which are unknown to him so as to make it possible to search the document at its place within the library premises. It also has provision for long/brief bibliographic display along with the provision to customize the display screen.

Table 5 reveals that the mean percentage of bibliographic display is very high, i.e., 63.63 per cent. The provision for long bibliographic display, library structured format, and number of hits retrieved are common display formats found in all the OPACs studied. In contrast, bibliographic records with image files of book covers feature are invisible in all of the OPACs studied.

Interestingly, DTU, JH, JNU, and IGNOU library OPACs have the number of records per display limited to 10, whereas the DU and GGSIPU library OPACs display 20 records at a time.

The circulation status is shown on the same screen with a call number found in VTLS of JNU and LibSys of IGNOU. The fourth part of the checklist (Table 5) indicates that the highest scored OPAC is of JNU with 90.90 per cent and the least scored OPAC is of DTU with 45.45 per cent. The results also indicates that VTLS-based OPAC of JNU has twofold features as compared to LibSys-based OPAC of DTU.

5.5 Output/Services/Facilities/External links

Output/services/facilities/external links constitute the second largest group of evaluation criteria with 36 checkpoints among 12 categories. This category of features helps to evaluate the inbuilt capacities of the system, with software in specific, so as to assess the amount of help extended to end user for taking down the relevant information details along with the extra exposure provided in making the end user aware about more online sources. In other words, output provision is usually a list of bibliographical records with some holding information, which may be listed alphabetically or by publication date, so that the user can able to determine the usefulness of individual items without consulting the items physically (Margam and Aggarwal 2011).

Once the desired document’s bibliographic information is displayed on the screen, the reported results are sorted to get the documents arranged in a logical order to allow easy display. All the similar documents get arranged together so that the user can check the availability in case of multiple copies. Once selected, user can get details displayed either on his/her email or mobile, or as printed hard copy for future reference. Moreover, if a copy of the desired document is not available within that particular library, the access to Z39.50 gateway enables him to search for the copy in other libraries connected to Web OPAC. In short, enabling federated searching and interface with circulation system helps a person to decide about visiting a library or not in search for the document. If the users’ details are available with the library, in that case the copy can be sent home.

Table 6 depicts that on an average only 35.71 per cent of the various conversion features were provided by the surveyed OPAC interfaces. Among these, the maximum were supported by JNU, DTU, and IGNOU based OPACs. In general, the gap between the studied OPACs is large. The difference in the features supported by the highest scoring OPAC with 44.44 per cent and the lowest scoring OPAC with 8.33 per cent is quite large.

Author, title, and classification are top three facilities for sorting records provided by six out of seven OPACs. In contrast, sorting records by popularity and subject facility is unseen in any of the OPACs studied. The facility for sorting records by descriptor, publisher, corporate source, ISBN, accession number, and conference location is available in Troodon-based OPAC of DU and GGSIPU. Output provision is found in all library OPACs with provision for saving/printing of results. The user can specify fields while printing or downloading retrieved results. He can also select which records from search results to print or download. The provision for exporting/downloading of retrieved records and transmission of retrieved records through e-mail was found to be very less; only VTLS-based OPAC of JNU has these features. Around 42.85 per cent of OPACs have facilitated links to access through Z39.50.

In terms of services/facilities, all seven library OPACs had the provision for renewal, reservation, or exchange of documents on ILL (Inter Library Loan). Some even provided the facility of online mailboxes to collect user’s suggestions and comments. Only three out of seven library OPACs have facilities for interface with circulation system and provision for ILL, renewal, reservation, and online mailboxes for collecting user’s suggestions and comments. It was found that LibSys-based OPACs of DTU and IGNOU, and VTLS-based OPAC of JNU provided the latter two facilities.

OPACs provide the ability to search other databases/library catalogues via federated searching with the help of external links. Links to free sources selected on the internet (URL) were found in the VTLS-based OPAC of JNU, whereas links to e-journals and e-books were found in the OPAC of DTU. Surprisingly, links to book reviews and table of contents (TOCs) were not found in any of the OPACs studied.

None of the OPACs scored more than 45 per cent in output/services/facilities/external links category. The highest scored OPACs were of JNU (VTLS) and LibSys-based OPACs of DTU and IGNOU with 44.44 per cent each. The lowest scored OPAC was of JMI (LibSys) with 8.33 per cent. The finding clearly indicates that the general gap between highest and lowest scored OPAC is quite large.

5.6 User Assistance

OPACs are not self-explanatory; hence help for searching them should be a standard feature. OPACs have to provide assistance to the users by in-built help messages or direct staff assistance or both, in order to enhance the optimum use of OPACs. More assistance a system can provide to the user, the less likely the user will feel helpless when interacting with the OPAC and provide fail-safe measure to keep patrons on task towards the OPAC.

Table 7 shows that six out of seven OPACs studied scored 78.33 per cent in user assistance provided to end users, except JMI’s OPAC that needed improvements in terms of friendliness between the users and the OPAC. The average percentage of user assistance features provided by the seven OPACs was 72.86. Among the 10 features, only three features including abbreviations avoided in textual information, instructional information free of jargon, and options clearly separated from the information, were found in all library OPACs studied. In contrast, spell check software facility and additional help to remote users are two areas which are lacking in all of the surveyed OPACs. This finding is of significance as supported by studies conducted by other scholars, namely Kumar (2011), Wilson and Given (2010), and Morupisi and Mooko (2006). They found that the user faced common problems with spellings while using the OPAC. Spell check software can help in this regard. If a search term is not spelled correctly or nothing is found in the OPAC in a keyword search, the spell checker suggests the correct spelling or recommends a term that may match the user’s intended search term. For example, a modern catalogue may generate a statement, such as “Did you mean . . . ?” or “Maybe you meant”. This may be a very popular and useful service in modern OPACs (Yang and Hofmann 2010) and hence, OPACs studied require inculcation of the same into the OPAC system for their better use in future.

User assistance features category reveals that five out of seven OPACs received highest score each, i.e., 80 per cent, followed by JNU with 70 per cent. OPAC of JMI scored the least with 40 per cent. The gap between the highest and lowest scored OPAC was double.

5.7 Page Layout

Page layout is a way of presenting the results on screen, depending on the amount of customization done for the display of output on screen by librarians. This helps users in information retrieval without any difficulty. As observed, page layout includes the order of the bibliographic information, spacing, and consistency in the graphic presentation of information (Herrero-Solana and De Moya-Anegon 2001). The layout of the OPAC screen structure should be simple and pleasant with aesthetic appeal (Margam and Aggarwal 2011) to ease eye movement and improve the clarity of the overall screen (Yu and Young 2004).

It is clear from Table 8 that almost all the OPACs studied received high scores in page layout features category, i.e., 90 per cent and more. On an average they possessed 95.71 per cent of the ideal OPAC layout features.

5.8 Labels

To make the searching easy and user-friendly in OPAC, it is advisable to provide hassle-free and less technical captions to the various instructions and guidelines, i.e., labels of various search options, facilities. The labels for bibliographic display should be consistent and free of library jargon, so that a non-library professional too can understand the terms or information available. In other words, labels help the user to identify the different parts of the bibliographic description (Herrero-Solana and De Moya-Anegon 2001). The OPAC interface normally provides various conversion features, such as support for converting to MARC format or to a local format, exporting and downloading facility for retrieved records, transmission of retrieved records through email, and provision for sorting of retrieved records. Matthews (1984, 1986) discussed format guidelines specified for labels. He asserted that labels should be (i) in uppercase (ii) spelled out as words, not abbreviations (iii) used for all fields (iv) right-justified (v) separated from the text using a colon (:) with at least one blank space (vi) between 12 and 20 characters long, and (vii) displayed in columns. The objective of designing labels with the above guidelines is to ensure that the labels are distinguishable from the text. Not all the labels were free of technical jargon, since some of the OPACs provided the terms, such as Publ., Stmt. Res., ill., col., etc., which are beyond the understanding of a novice.

Table 9 reveals that 90 per cent of label features were found in three OPACs, viz., Troodon-based OPAC of DU and GGSIPU, and LibSys-based OPAC of DTU. Interestingly, VTLS-based OPAC of JNU and LibSys-based OPAC of DTU provided the facility for drop-down or pull down menus. All the studied OPACs, except JNU and JMI, formatted the labels in right justified manner as recommended in the checklist.

5.9 Text Display

The information (text) available against the labels as output should be in a standard format, such as text should be vertically aligned and left justified, so that it is convenient for the users to see. It should also be free from abbreviations so that one does not feel helpless while using it.

 Table 10 explains that the average overall text display percentage was 64.83. Most text features were found in the OPACs studied except limits to the number of hits. Interestingly, items in a set are numbered successively when more items offered by only one OPAC (VTLS of JNU) are displayed on one screen. Most of the OPACs studied were found to be lacking text display features, such as circulation status information and display of total number of items. The highest text display features were seen in OPAC of IGNOU (LibSys) with 84.61 per cent consistent with checklist features, followed by OPACs of JNU (VTLS) and JH (LibSys) with 76.92 per cent each. In contrast, OPACs of GGSIPU (Troodon) and JMI (LibSys) received only 46.15 per cent in this group of features. The gap between the highest and lowest scored OPACs was quite high. 

5.10 Session Filters

Search filters are pre-tested strategies that identify the high quality evidence from the vast amounts of literature indexed in the bibliographic databases. Various kinds of session filters, such as language, format, context, location, nature of content, etc., are used to narrow down the searches or cut down on results displayed after a search.

Table 11 reveals that VTLS-based OPAC of JNU has all types of session filters (100 per cent), as provided in the checklist. This finding supported the results of the recent study by Margam and Aggarwal (2011), where they found that VTLS-based OPAC at IIT Chennai helped in narrowing down the search results by providing all the seven types of filters, as suggested in the checklist. LibSys-based OPAC of JH scored 85.71 per cent features and was ranked second place. Troodon-based OPAC of GGSIPU and LibSys of JMI scored the least with just 14.28 per cent features. The finding clearly indicates that the general gap between highest and lowest scored OPAC is quite large, about 71.43 percent.

Therefore, as indicated, OPACs of DU, DTU, and IGNOU lack greatly in terms of session filters and they need to incorporate some of the essential filters, such as location, language, and format filters.

5.11 General Features

General features are common features that help to identify the specific OPAC of each university library. These features are distinct and unique from that of the others and act as deciding factors in attracting their respective patrons to use OPAC again in future. General features are grouped with five checkpoints, narrowest of the entire 12 categories, and act as a tool to customize and update the features of OPAC by giving identity to the system of a particular university because of which two or more libraries, in spite of engaging the same ILMS, appear different.

Table 12 depicts that most of the OPACs studied received highest scores in this category, i.e., 100 percent except the OPAC of JMI. The provision of log in/log out instructions, customization of the features as per the library requirements, and display of the name of the catalogue are some of the common features found in all the OPACs studied.

User assistance features category reveals that five out of seven OPACs received the highest score, i.e., 100 per cent. The OPAC of JMI scored least with 60 per cent. The gap between highest and lowest scored OPAC was quite large.

5.12 OPAC 2.0 Features

In today’s collaborative age, Web 2.0 features seem to be essential to empower the users and showcase library services. It seems to be a good idea to implement the advantages of Web 2.0 features into OPACs. OPAC 2.0 is the application of Web 2.0 concept of online catalogue referred to as Next Generation Catalogues (Sridevi 2011). OPAC 2.0, the new incarnation of age old catalogues, is not only user friendly but also technologically advanced. “Two components of OPAC 2.0 enabled by Web 2.0 technologies have emerged–1) Extending the usefulness and search features of the catalogue by harnessing more bibliographic MARC and circulation data for searching and seamlessly incorporating data from other resources 2) Social networking with personalization, and user community tagging and reviewing to provide a richer discovery experience. With an OPAC 2.0, library users may add comments or rating to records of books they have borrowed from the library” (Sridevi 2011).  Table 13 gives an overview of the status of OPACs with respect to OPAC 2.0 features.

The average overall percentage of OPAC 2.0 features provided by the seven OPACs was 13.33 per cent. Amongst the listed 15 features, only five features including customer written reviews, (where the readers of a book/document express their views or suggestions about the item borrowed and read from the respective library), saved items/formats, built in open URL resolver (gives an opportunity to locate an online item via the links provided in the OPAC itself), incorporation of outside content, and accessibility were found in some of the studied OPACs. Most of the OPACs studied lacked OPAC 2.0 features, which helps  in user interaction and input along with the innovations of technology while triggering a wave of meaningful additions to the existing OPAC propelled towards the next generation of OPACs (Sridevi 2011). In contrast, open source software-based ILMS was found to be more sound in OPAC 2.0 features than the regular commercial vendor driven ILMs. A study by Aggarwal and Margam 2011) reveals that 76.4 per cent of Web 2.0 features, such as faceted search, relevancy ranking, user added tags, professional and customer views, email and texting of links, RSS feeds, citation creator, and more like suggestions were found in OSS-based OPACs.

Table 13 clearly depicts that relevancy ranking, reviews (professional), user-added tags (internal), Del.icio.us tagging, RSS feed from the search, citation creator (formats), “Email this link”, etc., are some of the OPAC 2.0 features missing in the OPACs of JNU (VTLS) and DTU (LibSys). These OPACs provide only up to 26.66 per cent of the Next Generation features. Interestingly, breadcrumb trail is a secondary navigation scheme that allows users to establish where they are and act as an alternative way to navigate around the website not found in any of the OPACs studied. In other words, this navigation tool allows a user to see where the current page is in relation to the website’s hierarchy.

OPAC 2.0 features category clearly indicates that OPACs of GGSIPU, DU, JMI, and JH also lack greatly in terms of Next Generation OPAC features and need to incorporate some of the essential features as proposed by Han and Liu (2010), such as mining valuable information from book record databases, integrating other web sites’ book-related information into catalogue interface, permitting patrons to contribute to the book record, and unified search interfaces to include both print and electronic resources. Services, such as Library Thing is an online service that allows members to catalogue their book collections and supplement this catalogue with ratings, reviews, and tags.

5.13 Total Features

Table 14 presents the total scores obtained from the evaluation of different OPAC features of university libraries under study. The maximum score received by each OPAC was 214 points (100 percent). Table 14 reveals that LibSys-based OPAC of JH scored highest with 61.68 per cent, followed by VTLS-based OPAC of JNU with 61.21, LibSys-based OPACs of DTU and IGNOU with 58.41 per cent each, Troodon-based OPACs of DU with 50.93 per cent, and GGSIPU with 49.53 per cent. Surprisingly, OPAC of JMI, though engaging the same ILMS (LibSys) as that of the former OPACs, lagged behind the most with 41.58 per cent scores. Figure 1 presents the snapshot of feature-wise analysis of OPACs.

The study has explored different features of OPACs in 12 broad categories (Figure 1), of which page layout received the highest average score of 95.71 per cent (67/70), followed by the general features category with 94.28 per cent, labels with 75.71 per cent, user assistance with 72.85 per cent, and search limits and strategies with 68.75 per cent. In contrast, OPAC 2.0 was the weakest category with only 13.33 per cent (14/105). Figure 2 presents the total score obtained by the University Libraries studied.

Figure 2 reveals that out of the seven studied OPACs, none of the OPACs got more than 62 per cent OPAC features as per the checklist. The highest scored OPAC is the LibSys OPAC of Jamia Hamdard University with 61.68 per cent, followed by VTLS-based OPAC of Jawaharlal Nehru University with 61.21 per cent, LibSys surmounted OPACs of IGNOU and DTU standing equally with 58.41 per cent each, and Troodon-based OPACs of DU and GGSIPU with 50.93 per cent and 49.53 per cent, respectively.  Surprisingly, LibSys-based OPAC of Jamia Milia Islamia received lowest total score with 41.58 per cent. This great variation in scores especially between the libraries engaging same LMSs can be attributed to the fact that the libraries’ OPACs with highest scored features tend to have a specific team dedicated to either ILMS issues or customization issues, in comparison to lower scored OPACs that have just fewer personnel dedicated to resolve ILMS issues or undertake user-expected customization of their OPACs. The total scores proved to be an efficient and effective means of representing data collected in each part of the instrument.

The results clearly showed that same ILMS used by different libraries varies in number of OPAC features. For example, LibSys used at the Jamia Hamdard University (132/214) and Jamia Milia Islamia (89/214), and Troodon used at the University of Delhi (109/214) and Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (106/214) have variable number of OPAC features. After detailed observation and analysis of different OPACs with the same ILMS, it was found that variation was due to difference in ILMS’s versions and customization adopted by respective libraries. The overall average that OPACs received in features was 54.54 per cent.

6. Conclusion

The evaluation has revealed that the OPACs of the University Libraries in Delhi are lagging behind in exploiting the full potential of OPAC 2.0 features and output features. However, none of the surveyed OPACs received more than 62 per cent features as per the checklist. Moreover, OPACs studied showed differences in the range and complexity of their functional features, terminology, help facilities, and the level of customization that each library had done for each category.

The findings of the study indicate that almost all of the OPACs studied lacked federated search, adjunct thesaurus help offered in few of the OSS based OPACs where the user is provided the option of locating a document by supplementing them with synonyms terms of their search in case the search terms fed are misspelled or erroneous, so as to ease the possibility of locating a document. Other common lacking features were spell check facilities, which seems to raise many questions regarding the facilities provided in the OPAC 2.0 environment. The other prominent features, such as location map and series, hyperlinks, meta-search, comprehensive search limits in publisher and place of publication, additional help to remote users, image of book covers, relevancy ranking, reviews, user-added tags, tagging, RSS feed from the search, citation creator, customer written reviews, and ‘Email this link’ are some of the features found lacking in all the surveyed OPACs. It is hoped that the university libraries in Delhi will attend to the lacunae and develop fully functional OPACs with an aim towards designing a user-centred, self-sufficient, 21st century online catalogue that fits the Web 2.0 model. Page layout is the highest scored feature with 95.71 per cent and OPAC 2.0 features is the lowest scored with 13.33 per cent. The highest scored OPAC is LibSys of Jamia Hamdard with 132 points and LibSys of Jamia Milia Islamia is the lowest scored with 89 points.

 In recent years, ILMS manufacturers and Open-Source Library software developers have begun creating new search applications for bibliographic data resulting into creation of next-generation OPACs that may include faceted search and browse, relevance ranking, tag clouds, professional reviews and social book marking, persistent URLs, ‘More like this’ suggestions, and federated searching. OPACs that offer social applications are becoming more popular in academic libraries. Due to the increase in usage of social applications and other Web 2.0 technologies, librarians must embrace some new innovations that are beneficial to their users and promote the library’s presence as the centre for information retrieval (Webb and Nero, 2009). Another possible trend seen today is of visual OPACs that are becoming more popular in present day media centres. Its main benefit is that they provide the user to switch their interface in OPAC from text to graphic to enable them to see their searches. A visual OPAC also provides images of book covers, excerpts of chapters, video clips, audio files, magazine articles, and website addresses. It helps them to understand the online catalogue and the relationships of search terms found in it. As Bailey (2011) suggested that the librarians must find the ultimate OPAC that will provide, in one place, all the information and services necessary for patrons to search. Such an OPAC would equal the kinds of services that users can find in Google search maps. Therefore, the introduction of the library portals with features of OPACs developed, like the ones available in VTLS LMS, is the ultimate solution to the problem. Another solution may be that the OPAC can be integrated with a general search engine so that users could search information in the web environment (Kumar 2012).

In conclusion, the OPACs studied need to contemplate the functionalities of the next generation OPACs, otherwise the value and importance of the OPAC will be lost. The ultimate goal is that users will be comfortable and confident using library OPACs for their information needs wherever a computer is available and without special training. It is high time for university librarians to address the new users’ expectations with regard to OPACs with ILMS vendors for improvements in subsequent generations and their development. The reason for this could be that in spite of vendors developing new features and options all the time, often the libraries are running a version behind. More importantly, it should be noted that the evaluation of OPAC features is a subjective process and is not intended to defame or discredit any OPAC studied.


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