Thursday, August 18, 2011

The FHLC is No More

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
Utah - Archives and libraries - Bibliography
Utah - Archives and libraries - Directories
Utah - Archives and libraries - Inventories,…
Utah - Archives and libraries - Periodicals
Utah - Bible records
Utah - Bible records - Indexes
Utah - Bibliography
Utah - Biography
Utah - Biography - Indexes
Utah - Biography - Societies - Periodicals
Utah - Business records and commerce
Utah - Business records and commerce – Dir…
Utah - Business records and commerce - History
Utah - Cemeteries – Indexes

African Americans - Utah - History
Album quilts - Utah
Architecture, Domestic - Utah
Asian Americans - Utah
Baptist Church - Utah
Baptists - Utah
Blacksmiths - Utah
Businessmen - Utah - Biography
Cache Valley (Utah and Idaho)
Cambodians - Utah
Camp Floyd (Utah) - Records and correspondence
Catholic Church - Utah
Catholics - Utah
Cattle trade - Utah
Chinese – Utah

  • 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.

7 comments:

  1. Dear readers,

    Per feedback from Sandra T, I have explicitly called out the "see related places" feature of the gazetteer.

    -- The Inisder

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  2. I cut and paste catalog entries into a bibliography, and into search lists for individual counties where my ancestors lived.
    In Old Catalog, one could go into print, block and paste, and films with multiple reels would have a hard return after every reel. Presentation of the call numbers was easy to track.
    In New Catalog, a step has been eliminated so that the screen with the text in print form never appears, and the file is sent directly to the printer. Copying directly from the catalog displays films all in a single paragraph with no hard returns. Displaying the pasted entry in a form which is easy to read when pulling film requires inserting hard returns after each film number. For entries with multiple reels, this can be quite time consuming.

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  3. I hope they improve the "Print Preview." On the old catalog, the "printable version" was easy to print and reduce if I needed to. Now, I get large fonts, double spacing and lots of wasted paper. The only way around it is to copy and paste.

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  5. The Catalog should be broader than what items exist physically in the Library in Salt Lake City. The Catalog should have entries for all in-house items that are on FamilySearch Historical Records (I do not mean databases that are indexes to external databases). For example, "West Virginia Births and Christenings." The Wiki article on this database group does not specifically list its components. There is no Catalog entry for it, although there are Catalog entries for some of its parts. There is no way for the ordinary Wiki contributor to add a full list of what is included in the database group. If one does enough surname searches one can eventually discover most of what components of this database are in the Library, but some elements are evidently not in the Library.

    Doing this will enable improving the linkages between Catalog, Wiki and searchable Historical Records.

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  6. I miss the citation format that the old catalog used.

    I also liked the table format. It was much easier to use when there were multiple films that I needed to track.

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  7. I'd like the ability to create a wish list of films to order at a later date.

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