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August 28, 2008

PITTCat becoming PITTCat+

Big changes in the PITTCat online library catalog are in test mode this fall and slated for full availability as PITTCat+ in spring.

The changes are aimed at making searches more intuitive and more akin to the web-based search results that users are accustomed to seeing on Yahoo or Google, for example. The goal is to allow the user to get relevant results easily without the need to come up with the perfect search, said Jeff Wisniewski, University Library System web services librarian.

In many cases, users will find themselves directed to the new catalog through links from ULS web pages or can try the new version at

PITTCat+ eliminates the need to search for books and other materials in one database and separately for articles, as has been the case to date in searching ULS holdings. “It’s now a more holistic approach,” said Wisniewski, adding, “Users just want stuff relevant to their search and don’t care where it comes from.”

PITTCat+ searchers will see a “discovery cloud” of related terms pop up when a search term is entered, enabling them to better frame their search.

Further search refinements can be made with a single click, enabling users to narrow their results by parameters such as the format — book, photo or archived material, for example — by language, publication date or by location. For instance, a user sitting in Hillman Library can limit the search to materials that are physically on hand in that building, while an online user in a remote location could search only for materials that can be used electronically.

For about 1 million of the library’s 5 million volumes, book jacket images are available and will pop up in the search results. Some items also have information such as a table of contents, summaries or reviews attached.

ULS also is developing a “quick facts” box that will search reference databases with links relevant to the search term and deliver brief basic information.

The software is flexible, which enables ULS to add or delete features, Wisniewski said. Possible additions to come later this year could include links to “look inside the book,” options that allow users to create their own bookshelf and “tag” their own items with personal notes or to create lists and share them with others.

Wisniewski said analysis of searches in the system also has shown some users make queries attempting to find basic information such as Pitt library hours or computer lab locations. PITTCat+ will accommodate those queries by returning that information at the top of the results.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 41 Issue 1

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