Despite widespread use of Internet search engines, the online catalogue is still the main pathway to the collection of a particular library. The use of Internet search engines does, however, have implications for user expectations around the online catalogue, and search strategies when using the online catalogue. There is much research on online catalogue use that predates search engine use, and there is a need for more up-to-date research, particularly on the use of online catalogues in public libraries. This paper reports on an analysis of transaction logs of end users of the online catalogue of a large public library in Australia, the State Library of Victoria. It compares searches over four years, taking into account the search settings and search strategies and looking at search success, including the reasons for search failure. The paper also introduces the concept of abandonment rates to online catalogue search, defining a metric that adds to the useful information that can be determined from transaction logs. The paper uses the findings as the basis for its concluding recommendations for how public library users can be assisted to find what they are looking for on the library catalogue.
LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal, Vol. 20, no. 1 (Mar 2010)
Copyright © 2010 Vivienne Waller. This article appeared first as: Waller, V. (2010). Accessing the collection of a large public library: an analysis of OPAC use. LIBRES, 20(1). the published version is reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.