At the 2011 BYU Family History Conference Robert Kehrer, FamilySearch product manager, said that the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) has been rechristened as “the FamilySearch Catalog.” The name was changed because FamilySearch is gradually adding holdings from family history centers.
Whatever you call it, FamilySearch recently brought the contents of the new catalog—the one on www.familysearch.org—up to date with the old catalog—the one on classic.familysearch.org. Did you know the new catalog was not being kept up to date? I was surprised when I found out. Kehrer said they are in the process of putting together a system to update the new catalog nightly but it isn’t in place yet.
That’s not the only reason to keep using the old catalog.
Kehrer was quite apologetic about the state of the new catalog. “Our implementation of the FamilySearch catalog on the new website is not complete,” he said. “There are some very key features that are not yet implemented.” He listed several for us. Here are some shortcomings that bug me:
- The results for a place name search in the new catalog returns all subjects containing the place name. In the old catalog, it returns available records by type.
|Expected Results for Utah||New Catalog Results for Utah|
Utah - Archives and libraries
African Americans - Utah - History
- The old catalog had a built-in gazetteer, including "View Related Places."
- The old catalog had references for place names that no longer exist.
- The old catalog formatted film results in table format.
- The old catalog formatted and structured information in easy to read format.
- The old catalog call number search returned all titles starting with the specified call number.
- The old catalog sorted results alphabetically.
- The old catalog made it easy to create a URL from a film number.
- Kehrer mentioned some problem with periodicals that I wasn’t aware of.
Kehrer said FamilySearch will “keep the old catalog up until we get those features in.” Are there other catalog features you want added to the new catalog before FamilySearch shuts down the old one? Leave a comment below with your list and I’ll make certain he sees them.
Kehrer said that FamilySearch has tested and refined a great catalog design that he thinks “will delight you.” The old catalog design had a lot of “click depth.” The new design is meant to make it much “shallower.” I take this to mean that it takes a lot of mouse clicks to find what you want in the old catalog and Kehrer has a new design that takes fewer clicks.
I’m not in a position to know why FamilySearch would try to write their own catalog when there seems to be companies that specialize in catalogs. These companies probably have dozens of fulltime programmers that work full time on cataloging software and will do so year-in and year-out long after FamilySearch calls it quits on their catalog. Catalog companies know all the nuances. They’ve learned all the hard lessons. They keep up with the state of the art in library science and in technology. They amortize development costs across dozens of libraries. Why would FamilySearch think it can singlehandedly do it better and cheaper?
On the other hand, I don’t like 90% of the library catalogs I’ve used. OK, FamilySearch. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Go ahead. Delight me.