Regular users of our online catalogue will have noticed that we’ve recently given the catalogue a make-over and moved it to a – hopefully more memorable – new address http://www.catalogue.wyjs.org.uk.
Local responses to the 2009 PSQG Survey of Visitors to UK Archives confirmed our own suspicions that many users found our old catalogue difficult to use, so I took the decision to release the new catalogue early. Initial feedback is good, although one customer reports being unable to access the site at all beyond the initial page – if anyone else has experienced this, please get in touch with further details, because we’ve been unable to replicate the error here. We’ve had a few other requests for further enhancements, many of which were already on our ‘to-do’ list, so I thought it might be worth documenting some of the known problems, and our development plans here:
- Since going live with the new catalogue, we have discovered that the basic search (top right hand of the window) is set to search only the title and description fields of each record by default. Many people use this field to search by Finding Number for specific collections or items, so this modification has been requested from our web developer. We also intend to relabel the ‘search’ button to ‘search catalogue’ to distinguish this from the general website search. In the meantime, you can search for specific Finding Numbers by using the ‘Advanced Search‘ options.
- The persons and place options, under ‘Advanced Search‘, search a separate ‘authority file’ of names and places, and may therefore retrieve fewer hits than putting the same terms into the ‘Any Text’ box under ‘Advanced Search‘. I appreciate this may be confusing, particularly for family historians looking for personal names, so we will monitor feedback, and may decide to remove these separate search options.
- If your search generates, say, 1000 results, and you eventually find something interesting half way through and click to see the record, you can explore the collection whence it came, which is excellent. But when you click to return to your search results, it throws you back to the first ten rather than the one which attracted particular interest. I appreciate this could become quite irritating if you are just browsing through the catalogue, so I have passed this observation back to the software developers, although any code change may require national user group support.
- Enhanced support for digitised images in the online catalogue. As well as working on the new online catalogue, Jenny in the collections team has simultaneously been working on an upgrade to the latest version of the database which supports our online catalogue. Version 9 of CALM has much improved facilities for linking to images and other digital documents. Jenny is currently working on guidelines for staff for linking images to CALM, and you should begin to see the results in the online catalogue very shortly.
- A bookmarking or ‘shopping basket’ function, which would enable users to create their own ‘wish-list’ of documents they would like to see.
- Direct ordering of documents (for searchroom use) or copies from catalogue descriptions.
- Persistent identifiers for catalogue records, so that you can link straight to individual item descriptions from other webpages.
What’s in the catalogue?
We’ve had a few queries about the completeness of the catalogue content. All collections held by the service have a general description in the catalogue including title, covering dates and brief description of contents. An increasing number of collections are also listed down to individual ‘item’, and around 60,000 new entries are added to our catalogue each year. But there are plenty more collections to go before coverage is complete! Increasing the quantity of collections information available in our online catalogue is a service priority.
A particular query relates to the Yorkshire Archaeological Society archives, which currently appear in the West Yorkshire Archive Service catalogue. The YAS archives are no longer administered by West Yorkshire Archive Service, but we have retained their data in our catalogue, as currently they have no separate online catalogue of their own. However, I am aware that the data we hold from the YAS is out of date, and has some gaps in it. I am currently working with the archivists at the YAS firstly to obtain an up to date version of their data, and secondly to enable them to work towards a separate catalogue of YAS collections. In the meantime, you can contact the YAS directly with specific queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would welcome further suggestions for catalogue enhancements – please leave your comments below or email email@example.com.