Biblionarrator

In today's information environment, yesterday's catalog technology won't cut it. Biblionarrator is a new type of catalog system that addresses the shortcomings of Integrated Library Systems, discovery layers, and traditional databases for catalogs.

Today's bibliographic catalogs build on more than two millennia of tradition, from Callimachus' Pinakes in the third century BCE to Conrad Gesner's Bibliotheca Universalis in the sixteenth century and from Charles Cutter's 1876 Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalogue to the Paris Principles of 1961 (not to mention The Philobiblon of 1345 or Fredson Bower's 1949 blockbuster Principles of Bibliographic Description). Though there have undoubtedly been dead ends in this tradition, the trend of bibliography has been one of continuous advancement from the chaotic and obscure to the ordered, understood, and accessible, a trend which C & P is proud to contribute to today.

Integrated Library Systems such as Koha have been an increasingly central component of library and collection management since the development of MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) in the late 1960s. As MARC reaches its semi-centennial, however, the limitations of the format, and of the Integrated Library System model in general, are increasingly apparent. In order to address this, libraries are adopting "Discovery Layers" on top of their ILSes to provide the users with a user experience that is closer to what users have come to expect from Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia. Unfortunately, most discovery layers translate the limitations of the ILS into an attractive interface while obscuring some of the most useful features of the traditional catalog: browsability, serendipity, and context.

Biblionarrator is a new type of catalog system being developed by C & P Bibliography Services to address the shortcomings of both Integrated Library Systems and the current crop of discovery layers. By emphasizing relationships between records, Biblionarrator helps users understand the collection and find what they need, even if they don't quite know what that is when they sit down to search. Like other discovery layers, Biblionarrator provides a keyword searchable, faceted interface. Unlike most other discovery layers, though, Biblionarrator integrates non-bibliographic information directly into the catalog. Contextual information about authors, places, and concepts can be loaded directly into the catalog from authority files—such as those provided by the Library of Congress—and enriched with the fruits of scholarly labor to help users understand why a particular person or concept may be the one they are looking for—or one in which they have no interest. Once they have found a landmark, users can explore the catalog either using traditional results pages or with maps that show the relationships between their landmark(s) and other records in the catalog.

For collections looking for a complete catalog solution, Biblionarrator offers additional benefits in the form of narrative cataloging and the ability to handle objects of any type, be they books, coins, computers, or even just bits. Cataloging is complicated, and most objects do not fit neatly into the little boxes that traditional databases demand. Biblionarrator recognizes this fact, and allows the cataloger to compose descriptions with as much (or as little) detail as the item deserves without giving up control over the user's experience of the description, or being forced to adapt her description to conform to the computer's limited understanding of the relationship between (for example) a pirated 1852 Dublin edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the 1896 American edition that pirated the Dublin edition's illustrations.

For more information about Biblionarrator, please contact us or see the Biblionarrator website.

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