Contextual Background Information

Session 1 FAQ

More Information on Help Resources and Feedback

As you go through the site, do keep in mind that there are several new resources to draw upon:

1. FAQs in the right-hand sidebars of many pages

2. In-context help – marked by a blue question mark icon throughout the site

3. A feedback box at the bottom of the page. This is present on every page of the catalog when a user is logged in. Using the feedback box, users can report unexpected or counter-intuitive search results, as well as other problems with the OPAC’s functionality and ease-of-use.

All feedback related to the catalog is aggregated by BiblioCommons across all participating libraries to guide online feature modifications and enhancements. All comments that relate to a user’s account or his or her in-library experience are sent directly to library staff.

Why does BiblioCommons require users to register?

For the sake of simplicity.

Other OPAC products require users to log in using their library card barcode numbers, which are often extremely long and difficult to memorize. BiblioCommons requires registration so that every user can be assigned a username. These usernames are easier to remember than long strings of digits, and they’re customizable.

Why is age requested?

A birth date is not required to register. To protect minors, the messaging feature on the site is restricted to patrons 13 years of age and older. If a patron doesn’t provide his month and year of birth, the site will assume he is a minor and block his ability to receive messages from other patrons. Age is not used for any other purpose.

Why is the system showing a wrong age. What can I do about it?

If a patron notices that her birthdate is incorrect, she should contact someone at the library to have it corrected. It cannot be modified through the BiblioCommons interface.

Who is BiblioCommons?

BiblioCommons is a Toronto-based company that has developed a technology platform to transform the OPAC from a searchable inventory system to an engaging social discovery environment. The BiblioCommons application allows for faceted searching and user commenting and tagging. It enables rich connections around library collections — connections between the users and the content, conversations, and communities they’re most interested in.  With BiblioCommons, libraries can incorporate much of their website content directly in to the OPAC. This means placing valuable guidance directly in the path of users, providing tools for refining content and distributing user interest.

Session 2 FAQ

Smart Search Background Information

BiblioCommons smart search has been developed specifically to handle search attempts like these in ways a user would be likely to expect. It does this by executing keyword queries in ways that attempt to emulate common mental models of searchers. In general terms, relevance is established by:

1. Priority by Type of match

“Exact” matches against the full search string string are ranked ahead of “transformed” matches (e.g. parent vs. parenting) or “partial matches.”

2. Priority by MARC field in which matches are found

Title and Author are given priority, with Subject next. All other fields follow. (Priorities have been established by analyzing the frequency of search types within OPAC search logs.)

3. Probability “Boosts”

For example, there are many books called Twilight. BiblioCommons boosts to the top those results which have the highest likelihood of meeting a user’s needs. This probability is determined by a combination of factors, including publication and acquisition date, format, copies held, and circulation.

Smart Stemming Background Information

Stemmed results are sometimes reordered slightly to give precedence to the unstemmed original search term. If, for instance, a book has “Climbing” in its title, it might be ranked higher in a search for “Climbing” than it would be in a search for “Climb,” even though it would be present in both result sets.

The BiblioCommons stemming algorithm will also automatically ignore suffixes on nouns when they make little or no difference to the noun’s meaning for the purpose of the search. For example keyword searches of “Parent” and “Parenting” will return result sets that are nearly identical. The slightly different quantities of results are likely due to the presence of the last name “Parent” in the library’s collection, which would never be matched to “parenting.”

Session 3 FAQ

Broaden Your Search Background Information

In the first “phase” of search, BiblioCommons delivers results that match against Title, Author and Subject fields (including Contents Notes). But it does not include fields rarely searched for by end-users: publisher, notes, etc. The Broaden your search link is always available, making it easy to expand to a more exhaustive result set when a user has not found what he or she is seeking.

Session 4 FAQ

What’s Boolean?

A Boolean search uses parentheses to group terms and “operators” such as AND, OR, or NOT to limit the search results. A Keyword Anywhere search for “potter” NOT “harry” would find titles by Beatrix Potter but not about Harry Potter. On the Advanced Search page, this could also be entered as “Anywhere:(potter) -Anywhere:(harry)”. Similarly, “(Contributor:(mark twain) OR Contributor:(samuel clemens)) -Title:(tom sawyer) -Title:(huckleberry finn)” would retrieve titles by Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens but not the titles, Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn.  You can use the search editor box on the Advanced Search page or the drop down menus to help construct these more sophisticated queries.

Keyword Anywhere vs. Smart Search

Here’s a very detailed explanation of the difference between Smart Search and Keyword Anywhere.

As mentioned in Session 2, BiblioCommons’ Smart Search uses a two-phased search process. The first stage matches only the fields that people use most: title, author and subject fields, in addition to language and format. With your search results you have the option to Broaden Your Search. This second-stage query expands the scope of your search to include other, more rarely-used fields.

Advanced Search’s Keyword Anywhere, on the other hand, searches all fields at once, including local notes, publishers, and so on.

Why does BiblioCommons make this distinction?

Smart Search is designed to provide quick, accurate results for the kinds of everyday searches that we see thousands of users completing in our search logs. This is precision. Both Broaden Your Search and Keyword Anywhere (from Advanced Search) delivers breadth of results. This is recall.

Why does precision matter if the relevance ranking is good? Why not just put the best matches at the top and leave in the rest, like Google does?

Because, unlike Google, we present faceted results. These facets allow you to further explore your results and your topic. The more irrelevant records that are included, the less useful these facets will be. So, greater precision in results means greater relevancy in facets.

Why would I use Broaden Your Search?

When the results you have received are too narrow. For example, a Smart Search of “Random House” will retrieve results with that term in the title or subject. But it won’t retrieve all titles published by Random House. Broaden Your Search would allow you to retrieve titles with “Random House” in any field. You would, of course, use the Advanced search’s Publisher field to find only titles published by Random House.

Session 5 FAQ

How quickly does BiblioCommons store information about activity on my account?

Account transactions such as holds and renewals are done in real time. User-generated content added to a title is immediately visible, but may take up to 20 minutes to be searchable, because it needs to be indexed. For example, a tag added to a title will appear on the title record immediately, but a search using that tag will not immediately return the title.

Session 7 FAQ

Tips For Creating Useful Tags

Tags are important not only for your own reference, but for other users of BiblioCommons who might want to use them as the basis for a search. Here are a few basic guidelines to ensure that the tags you create are as useful to others as they are to yourself.

  • Avoid multi-word tags, unless the words absolutely will not make sense in isolation. For example, “New York” or “financial planning.” Tags like “Funny and Sad” or “Italian Cooking” should be separated by a comma, since associated titles can then be found under either. And facets allow users to combine tags on the fly. Try searching for the tag “Funny”, for example, and you will then be able to drill down further on those that have ALSO been tagged “Sad.”
  • Avoid tags which overlap with existing metadata. You don’t need to tag things by format, for example. So instead of creating a personal tag of “books from dad,” you can simply tag the item “from dad” since you can later use the format facet to limit “from dad” items to books!
  • Don’t tag like a librarian! Use plain, natural language that complements the existing headings. “Juvenile literature” might be the correct subject heading, but for tagging purposes, better terms would be: “kids”, “childrens”, “pre-school”, or “tween.”
  • The more the better!

Session 8 FAQ

Community Credits Background Information

Community Credits are awarded for the following reasons, in the following amounts:

A user adds a tag, rating, comment, summary, quotation, or any other one-off piece of information to an item record: One point.

A user creates a list with five or more items: Five points.

Community Credits are intended to serve as encouragement for users who might need it. They provide give a sense of continuity and accumulation to contributing to BiblioCommons. Frequent users can feel as though the effort they’ve put into curating their Shelves has amounted to something, even if other community members haven’t been outwardly encouraging.

Community Credits also enable BiblioCommons to run periodic contests for users. These contests treat each Community Credit as the equivalent of a raffle ticket. Users with greater numbers of credits have greater chances of winning than users with lesser numbers of credits. Winners receive library-related prizes. Our last grand prize winner elected to receive $1000 in gift certificates to three of his favorite book stores.

Session 9 FAQ

When should I make a list as opposed to just tagging?

When you want to express judgment, rather than simply categorize.

Before answering this question in detail, let’s take a look at a few examples of good list ideas:

The BEST Vampire Novels

Helpful Resources for Working Mothers

Books for people who liked Harry Potter

Each of these (fictional) lists expresses a certain type of judgment that applies to every single item included. Tags tell users what an item is, but lists can tell users what items are like.

Use tags to quickly categorize items for easy findability later on. Use lists to tell other users why, exactly, an item is worth finding to begin with.