9.401 on GUIs

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Wed, 20 Dec 1995 21:51:44 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 401.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Leo Robert Klein <kleinl@is2.nyu.edu> (22)
Subject: Scream and Holler

I read with interest the article "The GUI OPAC: Approach with Caution" by
Charles R. Hildreth in PACS 6:5 (1995). In it, the author casts doubt on
the value per se of Graphic User Interfaces for the OPAC. Instead, the
author argues that equal or greater attention should be paid to the search
capabilities of the database behind the interface. (Since I'm probably
completely mischaracterizing the article, please see
http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v6/n5/hild6n5.html). I couldn't agree more.

However, I cannot understand how such tools as icons and
direct-manipulation devices (read mice, touch screens, etc.) can be so
easily discounted when the whole world has shifted over to their use. I
cannot understand how our OPACs have up to now so successfully resisted
their incorporation. Anyone looking at the face of a new student dragged
into the library at the beginning of the semester for the Library Tour,
will know that it's anything but joy that flashes on that student's face
when she first confronts the computer catalog.

To sit on the incorporation of these "user-friendly" tools while we rethink
how the OPAC goes about its business is to delay yet further simple (ok,
cosmetic) changes that could improve the user-database interaction using
point-and-click and icon/button-oriented technologies that in many cases
are already ten years old. Talk about glacial. At this rate, R2D2 will be
serving coffee at Starbucks by the time we get around to putting buttons on
our OPACs.