9.407 GUIs

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Thu, 21 Dec 1995 19:45:14 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 407.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Don Fowler <don.fowler@Jesus.oxford.ac.uk> (52)
Subject: Re: 9.401 on GUIs

[2] From: Roger Brisson <rob@psulias.psu.edu> (32)
Subject: GUI OPACs

[3] From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk> (16)
Subject: Re: 9.401 on GUIs

Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 10:17:26 +0000 (GMT)
From: Don Fowler <don.fowler@Jesus.oxford.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.401 on GUIs

Isn't the day of the proprietary front-end for ANY OPAC coming to an end?
The obvious way to handle user-interface is through WWW pages, which can
then economically offer the same facilities world wide, to any platform
with an available browser. The underlying engine can then take any form,
and if it changes in any way modifications to the front-end are a trivial
matter of a few lines of HTML or some simple CGI programming: and the
OPAC can be integrated with other information sources seamlessly. In
theory, there could be a performance hit, but I doubt very much that that
would be true in practice.
But I'm a user, not an expert.


* Don Fowler, Fellow and Tutor in Classics, Jesus College, Oxford OX 1 3DW.*
* Don.Fowler@Jesus.ox.ac.uk, Telephone (01865) 279700, Fax (01865) 279687. *
* Home Page: http://Jesus.ox.ac.uk/~dpf/ *
* Classics at Oxford: http://info.ox.ac.uk/~classics/ *

Date: Thu, 21 Dec 1995 10:04:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: Roger Brisson <rob@psulias.psu.edu>
Subject: GUI OPACs

Leo Robert Klein has hit on some long-standing issues in the development of
library technology. Indeed the GUI OPAC has been around for several years
now, with companies like NOTIS (now a part of Ameritech), Dynix, and Geac
showing their products at technology fairs since the early 90s. Perhaps the
most relevant problem is one of simple economics: the cost to upgrade
mainframe hardware/software, network infrastructure, and installing the 100s
of GUI-capable personal computers for public use has been up to now
impossible for the vast majority of libraries to meet. While looking at the
bottom line of how much this technology will cost, administrators have
rightfully asked whether the GUI is really bringing us that much as far as
improving OPAC capabilities. As we know the question of the value of the
return for investing in computing technology is currently a very hot topic
in education, and libraries are very much a part of this debate (in this
regard I would recommend reading The Trouble With Computers, by Thonas
Landauer). The answer is by no means obvious, and administrators must weigh
the perceived strategic advantages carefully when looking at budget outlays
that may run into the hundreds of thousands after all is said and done.

There is little question that a GUI front end is a more intuitive, more
powerful way of querying a database for novice or casual users, which is the
case for a large percentage of academic library users. As Klein implies the
big question is what it will bring for 'power users', and I think this will
depend on what features are incorporated into a library's OPAC GUI. The
client-server technology that a GUI represents is undoubtedly an effective
means of distrubuting computing power, and there is a lot of potential for a
GUI front-end: sophisticated boolean searching, specifying the type and
arrangement of lists one wishes after a search, client end massaging of the
data one retrieves, bibliographic citation creation, sending the results to
one's email address, incorporating Web searching into one's OPAC use (going
directly from a MARC record to a desired URL, etc.), and so on. It actually
sounds much like the promises made when the first IBM ATs came out some 10
years ago, but I do believe the circumstances are much more conducive to
producing real results than at that time.

Roger Brisson

Date: Fri, 22 Dec 1995 00:08:17 +0000
From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.401 on GUIs

> [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.

Perhaps Charles Hildreth has little exposure to the young. My children and
their friends are already accustomed to a wide variety of GUIs (if one
includes all the computer games they sample from the free demo CD-ROMs that
come with many magazines these days). They need little prompting when
encountering something like the Encarta interface and search engine for the
first time. And with the advent of Java, they are discovering sophisticated
GUIs on the Web as well. So to their generation, the computer catalogs used
in today's libraries will not just seem to be old-fashioned, underpowered
and difficult to use. Like old Atari games gathering dust in the attic,
these catalogs will appear to be of little interest or value, unable to
inspire even a flicker of curiosity. That will be a tragedy.