A New Face for the OHS Research Library Catalog

July 9, 2019

By Katie Mayer

The OHS Research Library catalog contains information describing collections in the library’s holdings, including documents such as the preliminary draft of the Oregon State Constitution written during the 1857 Constitutional Convention. This image shows the detail of the draft preamble, and digitized versions of the OHS’s draft Constitutional Convention documents are available in the OHS Research Library Digital Collections. OHS Research Library, Mss. 1227, box 1, folder 1b.

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) Research Library holds millions of items in its care, including books, manuscripts, photographs, negatives, films, oral histories, maps, and architectural plans. One of the primary ways to explore the wonderland of our collections is the library catalog, and it recently got a new, sleeker look. Whether or not the library is open, online visitors with all sorts of research questions use the catalog at all hours of the day and night.

Every person who uses the catalog comes to it with a different question but shares the same desire: to find answers. Every search is an attempt to chart a path to those answers through unknown terrain.

But, until last month, the appearance of the catalog homepage hadn't changed in years, and it showed. Its look remained untouched through OHS’s 2015 rebranding and website upgrade and the launch of the library’s digital collections site in 2017. The catalog homepage also contained a daunting amount of text that obscured important details such as links to advanced search options and the library’s contact information. The time had come for a change.

Before and after screenshots of the OHS Research Library online catalog.

On the left is the previous homepage for the OHS library catalog. The right view is the redesigned homepage that launched in June 2019, which is not only easier on the eyes but helps to make researching items in OHS’s library collections more straightforward.

In January, OHS Web Strategist Jay Cosnett and I began transforming the catalog homepage to a simpler design. The page, we decided, should be easier to navigate, display the most important information in plain view, and match the style of other OHS websites. To achieve those goals, we reduced the amount of text on the page and eliminated the lengthy sidebar. For better navigation, we moved the links to advanced search, browse search, and information about the library into a prominent spot at the top of the page. We also revised the homepage text with a handful of search tips to help guide first time users through the catalog. The library's new, streamlined catalog homepage launched in June 2019.

Screenshot of OHS Research Library online catalog search results.

Although the most obvious change to the catalog is the homepage, frequent users may notice subtle differences over the past six months, such as highlighted search results, clearer labeling, and easier-to-find call numbers.

Although the new homepage is the most obvious change to the catalog, it’s not the first, and it won't be the last. The redesign is one part of an ongoing effort to improve not only the catalog’s appearance, but also its content and performance. Frequent users may have noticed subtle differences in the past six months, such as more relevant search results, clearer labeling, and easier-to-find call numbers. We hope these subtle improvements to the catalog will make visitors’ research paths a little easier to traverse — and the OHS Research Library’s collections will become less unknown terrain.

Happy searching.

Categories: Behind the ScenesAudience(s): Researchers

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