Yesterday I spent most of the day on the library catalogue. We’re updating our website and I’m trying to pre-package some searches so that customers just click to find the results. I thought it would be neat to have category searches for the magazines. Each branch has their own titles and not all titles are held by each branch – the usual story in a library system with more than one library building. Our magazine supplier also supplies us with a hardcopy list of magazine titles which assigns each magazine to a category. I wanted to match the online list as close as possible with the hardcopy list. You can see where this is going…
I’ll use as an example “Current affairs”. There are 12 titles listed in the “Current affairs” category. Consumer, the Guardian weekly, Investigate, Mana, Metro, New Internationalist, The New Yorker, NZ Today, North and South, Spectator, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair. A diverse range of titles. I didn’t expect to get them all in the first couple of searches. What I didn’t expect was the number of irrelevant results that would come up as well. My first search gave me over 100 results for a grand total of about 6 titles from the list.
Picture me sitting in front of the monitor. Gobsmacked. Alternately puzzled and frustrated by the inscrutable workings of the catalogue. Each iteration of the search gave me slightly different results for a net gain of 0. (I would gain some titles from the category list and I’d lose about the same number.)
Just before 5pm I cracked it. At least, I cracked one part of the search. I didn’t have to be limited by the number of boxes that the interface was offering me – I could create the searches in the boxes. So, rather than politic** or world** or socia** in the three boxes I could do politic** or world** or socia** in one box then or econom** or histor** or consum** in the next. It was a revelation.
I’m sure someone is going to say “I could have told you that.” I’ve probably even read it somewhere. It never hurts to share it again though – you don’t have to be limited by the number of search boxes!
If you’re interested, my final search string is (politic or worl** or socia** or econom **or consum** or moheni) + and not (geneal**or arach**or trav**or agri**or cycl**or brit**) + and not (bank** or budg** or region** or teen** or transp** or rodney or bbc) + limited by Magazine format. It’s not perfect. There are vagrant titles appearing and it doesn’t get everything (in some cases I can’t figure out why. ) It’s the best I can do. (I came up against a character limit otherwise I would have added more.)