Posts Tagged ‘nypl’

NYPL’s disappointing new catalog search

I have to say the NYPL has disappointed me with their new website.  Their new search functionality was supposed to make it easier to find items because you only had to search in one place across all catalogues.  I have to say it has not only made searches more difficult, it has also shown inaccurate and incomplete results that were not the case with the old system.

For example, I have just been selected to be a Kiva Fellow for 6 months in Latin America, and since it’s been 10 years since I lived in Spain, I need to brush up on speaking, reading and writing in Spanish.  So I have decided to take some workshops by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and classes, read Spanish novels and on the suggestion of my last workshop teach from Spanish Black Belt, I have decided to read El Amor Tiempos de Colera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez while listening to the Audiobook to increase comprehension and listening skills.  I am also planning to attend a Spanish literature discussion workshop about the short story Viaje a la Semilla by Alejo Carpentier.

Of course, the first place I look is one of my favorite places – the New York Public Library.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of issues trying to search the library catalogue.

#NYPLFail #1

My first search was for the short story.  I searched by Keyword which gave too many results.  I then narrowed my search to Title and found the short story by Alejo Carperntier, but when I put it on hold, I didn’t see it show up in My Holds.  I refreshed the page a couple times and still didn’t see it.  Since this is the first time I put something on hold through the new interface and there have been a lot of bugs, my first thought is that it didn’t work.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who placed this book on hold, but it’s time sensitive since I have to read the book before the book discussion.  Did it go through or not?  I guess I’ll have to check back to see.   The worst thing is that I don’t remember this being an issue when I used the old system.  I guess fixing certain things breaks other things…

#NYPLFail #2

I then searched by Title for El Amor en Los Tiempos de Colera.  The search results looked like this:

NYPL search results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera

NYPL search results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera

What are those weird looking question mark characters?  And why does it ask say “Your entry el amor en los timepos de colera would be here — Search as Words”  What does that mean and why do I have to go to another page for the right search results?  What ever happened to anticipating what the searcher meant?

When I clicked on that link, it gave me 11 results for El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera, the last one being an edition of the Spanish language version of the book.  Even the Portuguese version came up before the version I wanted.

When I searched by Author for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera
came up as the first several books many times in Spanish and other languages. I understand that I wouldn’t find the Italian version when I searched by Title, but I’m still confused as to why the multiple Spanish versions didn’t come up.

I think the new NYPL search capability needs work and a whole lot of usability testing before it’s ready for primetime.

Sorry NYPL, I had to comment on my disappointment because I expect better from you.

Infomaki – NYPL market research tool

I discovered Infomaki when I visited the NYPL website one day.  At the top of the page, there was a section signaling for some quick user feedback.

Once I agreed to participate, I got a question like this one.  Once done with this one, I could answer as many as I wanted.  It was pretty fun actually.

NYPL Infomaki sample question about navigation

NYPL Infomaki sample question about navigation

I then discovered NYPL Labs, a section of the NYPL website dedicated to the NYPL digital experience.  There I was able to read more about this innovative user research tool.

As an important note, the group does involved research which requires more thought and setup.   But when they just need a sanity check (for example, if they just want to know where a button on the site should be placed), Infomaki does the trick.


  • they can’t physically test users every day
  • they get a large amount of traffic on their web sites so they get reasonable sample sizes
  • they have an audience willing to help and give feedback

Michael Lascarides from the NYPL Digital Experience Group set up their our own rapid-testing usability laboratory from scratch, which is a difficult thing to do if you don’t have the technical resources, but the idea is simple to understand and possible to create in partnership with a technology provider or a really smart intern.

I wondered if they could anlayze how long it took for a user to decide where to click as a measure of how long it took for people to find what they were looking for on the site.  Sure enough, the tool creator responded to a comment on the blog that the info was captured and could be analyzed similarly to the click location data.

If you want to read more, go to the NYPL Labs blog entry introducing the tool, some usage stats, and an announcement of it going open source.