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An Online Public Access Catalog or OPAC (aka iPAC for Internet/Intranet Public Access Catalogue) is a computerized online catalog of the materials held in a library, or library system. The library staff and the public can usually access it at computers within the library, or from home. OPAC terminals began to replace card catalogs in many libraries in the 1980s. Since the mid-1990s, these systems have increasingly migrated to Web-based interfaces. OPACs are often part of an integrated library system.

In its most simple form, a library's OPAC could consist of nothing more than a simple index of the bibliographic data cataloged in the system. More complex OPACs offer a variety of search capabilities on several indexes, integrate rich content (book covers, video clips, etc.), and offer interactive request and renewal functionality.

In the past, libraries made their catalogs available to users outside the library via means of a Telnet interface, usually accessible through a direct dial-up interface, or across the Internet. Today, most integrated library systems offer a browser-based OPAC (aka iPAC) module as a standard capability or optional feature. OPAC modules rely on pulldown menus, popup windows, dialog boxes, mouse operations, and other graphical user interface components to simplify the entry of search commands and formatting of retrieved information.


[edit] Visual OPACs

Visual OPACs are becoming more popular in today's media centers. Visual trends in the concept mapping software have made their way to Library media centers because children would not use a text only OPAC. Among the most popular visual OPACs are Follett's Visual OPAC, Accent or Athena from Sagebrush and Mandarin's Visual Catalog. Each of these catalogs provides the user to switch their interface from text to graphic being able for them to see their searches. A visual OPAC also provides images of book covers, excerpts of chapters, video clips, audio files, magazine articles and Web site addresses. A visual OPAC provides friendlier access for children and comes to good use for ESL students, beginning readers, and special needs students. It will help them to understand the online catalog and the relationships of search terms found in it.

[edit] The Next-Generation Catalog

See Also: Library 2.0

In recent years, ILS manufacturers and increasingly open-source library software developers have begun creating new search applications for bibliographic data. These so-called next-generation catalogs may include some of the following features not found in traditional OPACs:

  • faceted search and browse
  • relevance ranking
  • tag clouds
  • reviews and social bookmarking
  • persistent URLs
  • 'more like this' suggestions

[edit] See also

[edit] References

Brisco, Shonda. Visual OPACS. Library Media Connection, Nov/Dec 2006 vol. 25 issue 3, 56-57.

[edit] External links

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