I’m now ready to drool over the new features coming to SOPAC 2.1. John started by telling us what SOPAC was and if any of my reader’s don’t know it’s a social OPAC built using Drupal — and it’s open source so that moves it to the top of my list 🙂 To learn more about SOPAC there are plenty of articles out there and of course a chapter in Library Mashups.
So why do you want SOPAC? John puts it best when he says: “Your web site is great, but when people click on the catalog link, Boom! They’re in the ghetto!” Our websites can be the most gorgeous easy to navigate site on the planet, but then our patrons need to search our catalog and they’re dumped in this horrible mess of a site. So one of the key design directives for SOPAC was that it had to “look good.” Drupal makes that easy because you have access to tons of canned templates and the ability to design your own templates on top of it.
One example of the social capabilities in SOPAC is tagging. Tagging is of course a feature for patrons, but the staff love it too! They’re using it to generate staff favorite lists by tagging things as ‘staff favorite.’ Another staff tag that is used often is ‘better than the book’ to make it clear which DVDs are actually better than the book.
Next there are reviews & ratings like Amazon or other online booksellers. In addition to the community reviews you can get content from Syndetics (a pay service they subscribe to). They even made it so that you can follow the reviews from a specific user – in the case of their library lots of people follow the reader’s advisory librarian’s reviews.
In true social site form, you can create a profile for yourself in the OPAC, complete with avatar and access to content you’ve added to the catalog for editing and deleting. You can also save searches and then subscribe to the RSS feed for that search. In the future they’re going to have a feature where it will automatically place a hold on items that appear in your saved searches!! That is SOOO awesome!!
How then do you connect the website to the physical library? One way they’re doing this is by showing a list of recently returned items on a screen in the library (pulling data from the SOPAC). So you can now see what has been returned recently (that are not on hold for someone else) and ask a librarian for them. This was done because they no longer had room for a ‘returned books’ cart on the library floor. You can also show items that have just been cataloged up on a screen in the library and have it pull data from SOPAC like cover images and show that as well.
One cool feature they are working on is Twitter integration. An example would be tweeting to the catalog to do a search and have the catalog reply with a result. That’s kind of a neat feature that maybe not everyone will use, but it will be used by some, so why not?? Other new features include apps for iPhones and Android that any SOPAC library could configure for their library and make available for download to their patrons.
Totally awesome!!! And of John has just told the audience that Koha 3.2 has a SOPAC connector written – so you can have a completely open source ILS and add on a cool OPAC layer if you’re interested 🙂