Music Information Seeking Opportunities and Behavior Then and Now

Music Information Seeking Opportunities and Behavior Then and Now

Kirstin Dougan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0270-8.ch003
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This Chapter provides a summary of the challenges faced by music searchers and a chronological overview of how music information seeking capabilities and resulting user behavior in library settings have changed over time as bibliographic control tools have evolved from card catalogs to online discovery systems. It revisits some of the studies reviewed by King in 2005 and also evaluates studies done in the decade since, identifying trends in music information seeking behavior. Finally, it looks briefly at recommendations for music requirements in catalogs and specialized interfaces.
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Card catalogs were the descriptive and discovery tools for library collections for decades. They provided very focused entry to a physical collection via controlled access points (author, title, subject). In music libraries it was not uncommon for librarians to try to meet the disparate needs of their users by creating supplemental stand-alone card catalogs to provide additional access points such as record label. Browsing in the card catalog could only occur in a limited manner. While searchers were able to skim cards surrounding their starting point, there was very little opportunity for finding materials that might be related to one’s query, but for which catalogers had not supplied similar subject headings. Therefore, because subject headings could only go so far, card catalogs were well suited for known-item searches, but they were somewhat less helpful for searches wanting to do broad searches for items about a topic.

In the 1980s, card catalogs representing the physical library collection were widely replaced by online catalogs, bringing more discovery opportunities for researchers. New access points were available, as MARC-formatted records provided additional fields that could be indexed and searched, such as publisher, date, and so forth. Not only could library users search on individual indices, they now also had the added power of being able to combine fields in their searches (Author and Title, Author and Date, etc.). Over time, OPACs also began to incorporate the option to perform keyword searches across both indexed and non-indexed fields, such as notes fields. While librarians could see the great usefulness of keyword searching, they continued to espouse the value of performing precise searches using specific indices when possible.

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