Digital presentation of library material is of utmost importance in our current information environment. However, in their current form, library catalogs are not necessarily ideal for exploring the rich content offered by libraries. The Visual Navigation Project aims to improve upon this situation by means of three project streams, described next.
First of all, the “Visualization” stream of the project creates new visual navigation prototypes for library collections, using some of the library infrastructure as its basis. Second, the “Physical Interaction” stream of the project aims at exploring new ways of interaction in the physical library space. Third, the “Continuation” stream of the project refines and extends the existing subject search application and underlying infrastructure, increasing its value for both end-users and library personnel.
By using this multifaceted approach, outcomes of the project may be useful at several levels: by creating and evaluating new visual navigation opportunities, by improving existing infrastructure, and by experimenting with these approaches in a physical library setting. The main focus of the project is on the physical and electronic book collections of the library, but we also evaluate the feasibility of applying developed project tools to other important library collections, such as research articles.
Stream 1. “Visualization”: Visual Navigation
In the internet age, users have become accustomed to Google-style searches, using few keywords to rapidly retrieve results, and library catalogs increasingly mimic these streamlined search approaches.
However, this approach severely limits the ways to perform open-ended book browsing, and reduces the chance of serendipitous “chance” encounters with engaging information. For this project, we take some inspiration from previous “physical” ways to access information in the bookshelves. Would it be possible to offer these types of interaction in digital systems, and can other novel ways to access information be achieved?
Using the infrastructure of the third project stream as a backbone, we will create new interfaces for book browsing and navigation (for both physical and electronic books), making use of the opportunities that the data structures and hierarchies of our subject vocabularies offer. Hence, we will create prototypes allowing for “visual” ways to browse the collections of the Science and Medical Library, and potentially also other libraries, moving beyond current interaction paradigms.
Stream 2. “Physical Interaction”: Experiments towards new ways of interaction in a physical library space
Project stream 1 and stream 3 address user needs and new ways to support them, and they build on existing work and infrastructure. The second, “physical interaction” stream experiments with novel ways of interaction with the library’s book collections, especially taking into account the physical library space.
As shown in various projects conducted in the Science Library before, such as BookMotion, as well as the Samling 42 book browser, integrating digital tools into the physical space of the library can be used to engage library visitors and passers-by. The solutions developed in stream 1 and 3 of the project may be integrated in this environment. In this context, we also collaborate with the professor and students conducting an INF2260 project related to the Science Library, and a Master student in Informatics and interaction design. The Science Library has acquired a touch table which can be used by the students for their project, and integrated in the library space.
Stream 3. “Continuation”: Extended Emnesøk
The locally developed Emnesøk (subject search) application provides a different approach to finding or discovering physical books and e-books than the standard catalogue search (Oria). Emnesøk is tailor-made for subject searches and integrates deeply with the different subject vocabularies available as open data.
As part of the Visual Navigation Project, the Emnesøk infrastructure may be extended with more vocabularies, especially the multilingual MeSH vocabulary, and also WebDewey and the on-going mapping effort from Humord and Realfagstermer to WebDewey. In addition, the interface could be enhanced and usability improved to make it more attractive to the general user.