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Ok, so this is less of a mofo-ery story, though there is an element to it, perhaps.

Recently we had a little workshop for all us circulation clerks on how to use the library's new catalog, iBistro. Personally, though I've been working at this library for a year now, I've never had much to do with the catalog. Looking stuff up through the hold system has been more than enough for me.

But I was kind of excited to go to this workshop because of a peculiar thing that happened to a co-worker of mine---something I was hoping the people at this workshop could explain.

One day during our break time, a co-worker and I sat down to look up some harmonica music (I have no idea WHY we were looking this up anymore, but there must have been a reason). So we open up iBistro and type in "harmonica," as part of a "words and phrase" search.

And what do we get in the "You Found Titles in Categories" sidebar on the side?




So, naturally, we go and click on "forestry," and it sends us to an innocuous Indigo Girls cd. We look at the Catalog Record, and what do we see? Nothing. There's no song titles with "forest" in them, no dedication to "forestry," nothing. Some of the instruments are made of wood, sure, but that's as close as we get.

So we went back and tried searching for "harmonica" within all the other libraries we're connected to, and there is is again: "forestry." We clicked it, and we got...

Rock CDs. Older ones too, like Cream, Lynard Skynard, Gemini and Muddy Waters. Now that actually makes sense. All of these CDs have---you guessed it---harmonicas in them somewhere. But you know what they don't have? FORESTRY.

So we tried something else. Most of these music CDs had highlighted subject terms like "rock music 1971-1973" or somesuch. So we tried searching for "rock music" under a "subject" search. And what pops up again? Forestry!!!

And when you type in "forestry" as either a "words and phrase" or "subject" search, you don't get rock music or harmonicas! You just get forestry books.

So what the hell is going on?

I asked this of the tech department people who were giving us this tour of iBistro, and thier response was "well, you see, you have to be a little 'librarianistic' when you search"---i.e., you need to be more specific (the "you dumbass" was implied). They then did a much more specific search, and easily found harmonica music. "Forestry" never came up in their Categories sidebar, and I looked like an ignorant twit.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I pretty much am an ignorant twit in comparison to these seasoned professionals. I'm not even close to a real librarian---I'm just a circulation clerk. I don't know damn a thing about how databases really work. And yes, I realize that we probably should have tried to search for harmonica music more specifically, and we probably would have found it easily if we did so.

But is it too much to expect that when you type that sort of general search term into a catalog, you should get something back that at least resembles said search term? Or is this normal for a library catalog, and I'm being a twit? If anyone could explain this, I'd really appreciate it.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2009 06:05 am (UTC)
They could have at least told you how you were getting forestry from harmonica!
I've used iBistro myself; I don't know if I've trained myself always to use very specific searches but i've never seen anything that odd before!
Mar. 30th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
I don't know IBistro from Adam, but this sounds like a bad authority record or group of authority records, and a bogus explanation.

I just went to a random library with an IBistro PAC, and typed in harmonica. And damn, there's forestry. And if I click on that, I get Lynrd Skynrd. How about that.

So how does this tech plan to teach all your patrons across all your libraries to search IBistro "Librarianistically?" By telepathy?
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
The authority record thing is what popped into my head too. Hmmm!
Mar. 31st, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
I went to my library's iBistro and got the exact same result as you, except Trick Pony first, then Lynrd Skynrd.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:37 am (UTC)
My library doesn't use IBistro but that sort of error is pretty common with our catalog too. I think my favorite was a kid's shark book coming up while I was looking for some variety of Shakespearean Cliffnotes.

Not to mention the month where I could only find a third of the Stephen King books in the system. Still no idea what was up with that.
Mar. 30th, 2009 10:06 am (UTC)
This makes me wonder how a patron will be able to find what they're looking for. I've found that most library users don't think "librarianisticly" and are going to run into the same issues you did.
Mar. 30th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
That's just shitty database design. Nothing "librarianistic" about it.
Mar. 30th, 2009 12:09 pm (UTC)
I am a librarian and that is dumb. There's something screwy going on here, and it needs to be fixed so the non-"librarianistic" general public can use the catalog.
Mar. 30th, 2009 12:30 pm (UTC)
I'm curious as to what happens when you conduct the same search in your ILS. (If you're using iBistro, you must be using Sirsi Unicorn Workflows or Symphony. A 'words or phrase' search is the same as 'general'. Although iBistro always earches as a 'browse' search, whereas in the ILS you have the option to do a 'keyword' or 'exact' search.) Because iBistro and your ILS are searching the same database. If the search results are the same, then you've got a bigger problem.

But if we're talking about patron searching -- they probably aren't even going to notice the categories listed on the right. They're only going to pay attention to the results list.

(And my iBistro catalog doesn't produce the same error.)

Edited at 2009-03-30 12:31 pm (UTC)
Mar. 31st, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Off topic, but your icon? I love it.

/slinks away
Apr. 6th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
Awww, thanks! Glad I'm not the only Jekyll fan out there! ;)
Mar. 30th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
our local public library system switched to ibristro sometime in the past year, and I was doing some searching (for budget documents). I was so befuddled by the results, I called the reference desk, and the librarian had to admit he had no fucking clue what was going on either. And futhermore, admitted that it the display I was seeing (I assumed it was test records brought over that hand't been deleted), were, according to iBristo reps, displaying properly. No one understood them or knew what they were for.

We bitched about horrible ILS design for the next half hour.
Mar. 30th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
what a tool. his inability to explain a glitch in his system does not make you a twit. you weren't asking why you couldn't find what you were looking for, you were asking why you found things you *weren't* looking for. i *am* a librarian and have come across such nonsense and not been able to make sense of it. *rolls eyes on your behalf*
Mar. 30th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
I bet they didn't have the first idea of why you kept getting forestry when you typed in harmonicas, so they bullshitted like crazy and made you feel dumb, so you wouldn't think they were dumb.
Apr. 1st, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
I thought the entire reason for having these databases was to make them easier for the patrons, most of whom don't have library degrees, to find stuff!

I work in Tech. Services, but would never tell somebody at Circ. or Ref. they were twits. I feel just as idiotic at Circulation as they do here in Tech. Services. What goes around--
Mar. 30th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
As a librarian-in-training (whose taken reference and cataloging classes) and as a patron of a library that uses iBistro -- from both sides of the coin I will just say that I HATE IT WITH ALL THE BREATH IN MY BODY.

I find the design clunky, the search mechanisms to be bloated and ease of use non-existing. There is no real easy way to get what you want, even by looking for it directly. For example, I wanted "House of Eliott" television series and the first hit via my particular library was for "The Tudors" -- which ws strange because that was also the first hit when I searched for "head first" -- a book series that I knew existed("Head first php/sql," "head first html" and etc). What was even stranger is that I searched for "House of Eliott" at home and "Head First" at the library itself, so it was not residue keywording lurking somewehre. The "go back" option doesn't work really -- as it doesn't go back. I have to use the back key on the browser (regardless of IE or Firefox) to redirect to the main search page. This is just terribly designed and doesn't do keywording OR direct word searchign well.

So the guy in question is a douche bag and this is a terrible OPAC.

P.S. I did not use quotes in the search itself, just to denote in this entry they were titles.

Edited at 2009-03-30 03:56 pm (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
The Burbank CA library system uses iBistro. I've never seen it from an employee's point of view, but I can definitely tell you that from the patron point of view it sucks.

Of course, it could be worse. The Pasadena/Glendale system evaluated the wide world of library software several years ago and ended up (for some unknown reason) picking the one system that NOBODY LIKED. In fact, it was completely out of the running till someone from the company had meeting with the main IT guy. And all of a sudden the last pick was first, and all I can say is, no matter how bad iBistro is, Sirsi Dynix is worse. For the staff, for the patrons, for everyone. It's a brain dead system that has only the advantage of corporate owners who know how to send out just the right salespeople.
Mar. 30th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
nah, try exlibris. The system that can't sort by call number because it recognizes everything as a number, and not a call number. That, until version 16, couldn't handle cross-references, making subject searching useless. The system that works entirely by tables and cross reference itself (it doesn't have a bib record in it, rather it builds on everytime you need something), so it can't de-dup records, leading patrons to wonderfully repeating records like this (http://alephprod.binghamton.edu/F/K9TEHC97PFV8RFKKRGRMSL5NHQME67YJ77E25YSGCHUIX42I9P-71029?func=find-e&find_scan_code=SCAN_TTL&request=hamlet&local_base=BNY01&adjacent=N).

Or gives them error screens like this:
Number of hits Request permutation (No Adjacency)
375268 Keyword= for
110 Keyword= wole
979580 Keyword= the
579 Keyword= bel

Yeah, because THAT helps.
Apr. 1st, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
Actually, iBistro is a Sirsi Dynix product :)
Apr. 1st, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
Oh boy, so it is! I never wanted to look closely enough at the Burbank Library's terrible web site to see who was responsible for it. :)

Talk about your doubleplusungood!
Mar. 30th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Hmm. If it brought up an Indigo Girls CD...I was originally thinking that it twigged on their song "The Wood Song" for some reason.

I have access to a few catalogs that use ihateBistro and tried searching. Couldn't get the harmonica/forestry result to pop. But as a cataloger...I would know how to check the problem without condescention to my fellow staff.

Edited at 2009-03-30 07:22 pm (UTC)
Mar. 30th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
Boo on all factors - a poorly designed system, and the mofos who told you that it was your fault that the system didn't work. If they give you that crap again, remind them that patrons will be using this and will run into the same problem - and any complaints about those kinds of things will land on their desks.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
I just replicated it in a random iBistro catalog too! Harmonica > Forestry > a few mysteriously selected CDs, including the Chipmunks and Bob Dylan (not together). Weeeirrd. We have iLink, another Sirsi-Dynix product, here at my academic library. It's got the Categories "feature" (I've never found it particularly useful) as well, but that didn't happen in our catalog. Then again, we have little to no popular music recordings, which seems to be what iBistro deems "Forestry".

So now I have a question for any catalogers out there with iBistro experience: How are the "Categories" determined? Because they sure as hell don't seem to be based on subject headings.

OP, you are absolutely correct that library catalogs need to make themselves a lot more user-friendly. And the training tech was an arse who wasn't expecting any actual questions. Yay for you, trying to actually understand how the thing works so you can help patrons.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
That has got to be the WORST response to a legitimate question. "Librarianistic?"

I'm a librarian and my husband is a circ clerk. He knows more about the catalog than I do, frankly. That was a horribly offensive answer by that rep.

It sounds like there is something goofy with the catalog--I'd take it to a higher authority. Do you have a cataloger on site? Could they help you with that?

If you do a keyword search of "harmonica" I would think you get CDs, sheet music and books and maybe films about harmonicas.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
You know, reading the comments here makes me actually glad we're using Horizon, and I really don't like Horizon all that much. (Subject searches aren't very useful.)

I cannot imagine why "harmonica" would give you "Forestry." Anyone who thinks that that's a user problem and not a database/system problem has their head in a very very dark place.
Mar. 31st, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Whoever created iBistro and Sirsi IS a total MOFO. Whenever we have problems and send them to the company we get answers back like "it isn't a feature in the modules you chose" or "we're working on it." This last week we've had error messages over and over...and TODAY of all days--a Monday--we had the system down so they could add new modules and a new hard drive, since we haven't had backup for almost a month. iBistro keeps having errors--and worst of all, I have suspicions that sometimes those people who look at me confused and say "I would NEVER check out that book" MAY be telling the truth and there is an indexing error somewhere.

It's really hard to talk to customers and be certain of anything when you aren't sure that the computer isn't making mistakes.

All I can say is--you can get used to being hung up by your thumbs eventually if there is no other choice. Going to check out that harmonica thing tomorrow at work.
Mar. 31st, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
I am....er, was....a cataloger and I'm reading all these posts wanting to see the MARC records in question. I'm not familiar with iBistro, but the categories sound a bit like something my former employer used and I'd love to see the records to test a hunch.

Sounds like a) whoever was teaching didn't understand your question--librarianistically? really? Even thinking "librarianistically" will find bugs in the system occasionally.

I've just googled some iBistro libraries and unfortunately iBistro doesn't tell me anything that helps me figure it out. The categories look vaguely like Library of Congress Subject Headings but after some digging I'm not sure they are. It sounds like maybe the "rock music" authority record is corrupted, if I had a guess. If you have a cataloging department (and they *aren't* the ones who taught the iBistro class) I'd report to them that you think you've found a bug in the system and explain your searches. If they ARE the ones who taught the class, don't bother, they probably wouldn't take it seriously.

Do all iBistro sites have this horrible picture index subject browse thing? My brain hurts.
Mar. 31st, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
The thing that really annoys me about iBistro is that it is so difficult to pull up anything with a single word title. I do an advanced title search and you would think that the item with only the single word as the title would be the first result but that would just be too easy.
Apr. 1st, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
From using various catalog systems over the years, I gotta say... they all have their flaws. I just don't even wonder anymore when I get weird results. I move on and figure a way to ignore or get around it.

But yeah. That's what it's called... a flaw. Not "Let me see how I can make this your problem instead of our fault." Librarianistic, whatever! He's just trying to cheat at Scrabble.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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