9.411 GUIs

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 22 Dec 1995 18:53:11 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 411.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Andrew Burday <andy@dep.philo.mcgill.ca> (43)
Subject: Re: 9.407 GUIs

Two replies, on the issue of putting graphical front ends on OPACs.

On Thu, 21 Dec 1995, Humanist wrote:

> From: Roger Brisson <rob@psulias.psu.edu>
> 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

I'm sure this is the most important problem. I would think, though, that
the question of remote access would also be significant. It's an enormous
convenience to be able to access distant library catalogs by telnet, or to
access my own institution's catalogs by modem from home. Perhaps
librarians would be justified in saying that their responsibility is to
scholars at their own institutions, not to those at distant institutions;
but the issue about modem access would remain. At present, their are no
standard, inexpensive ways to use GUIs via telnet or modem. (I suppose
the Web and CGI forms are as close as you come, but I don't think they're
practical for very large databases like library catalogs. And they're
only *pretty well* standardized.) This seems to me to be another serious
problem with GUI front ends for OPACs. Any comments from librarians?

> From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk>
> 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
> 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.

Wow. So it's appropriate to judge library catalogs by the same standards
as an old game of pong. If the only way we can get the children of today
to use a library catalog is to give it a flashy GUI interface, then we
(and even more so, *they*) are in serious trouble. Usability is not the
same as entertainment value. The latter just is not a relevant issue.


Andrew Burday
andy@philo.mcgill.ca http://www.philo.mcgill.ca/
The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.
Jack London, "To Build A Fire"