“Information Visualization for the Future Generation Catalogue” – ASIS&T Webinar

On Sep 20, Prof. Charles-Antoine from McGill’s School of Information Studies was invited by ASIS&T (Association for Information Science and Technology) to present at the webinars “Information Visualization for the Future Generation Catalog”. Prof. Julien talked about the benefits of Information Visualization (IV), The Visualization Process, Current Library Catalogues, IV for Library Management, the barriers in libraries and the expectations for future generation catalogue.

It is a good learning about the development and potential of information visualization in academic space, as well as a good reflection and reminder about how to make information more accessible to the public.

The Benefits of Information Visualization

Prof. Julien pointed out the benefits of IV are to help users easily find, analyze and connect the information matters to them, also “makes the data accessible to all users, not just those who possess advanced analytic skills” (Chen, 2017), which is in line with the viewpoint of how the networked information economy improves the practical capacities of individuals (Benkler, 2006).

ASIS&T Webinars - “Information Visualization for the Future Generation Catalogue”


Today people tend to actively search, analyze, learn and communicate information as individuals, no matter what kind of technical and academic background they have. This is one of the biggest impetus for today’s social progress because everyone is trying to make a difference. Therefore, the improvement of information visualization of the library catalogue, making the information more discoverable, accessible and usable will be very meaningful for the society from every aspect.

The Barriers and Gap

In the presentation, Prof. Julien shared some screenshots of several library catalogues. Surprisingly, many of them haven’t changed a lot for the last ten years. If we think about how the internet evolves in the last ten years, it is actually hard to believe the stagnation. Prof. Julien explained it majorly from a technical perspective. From data parsing/filtering, mining to front-end design and development, it requires complicated skills and massive collaborations to conduct all the works.

NCSU Libraries (the standard) 2007 vs 2017U of Washington - 2007 vs 2017

Obviously, there is a gap between the world of business and academic. Separate the two and keep them independent may benefit the academic integrity, but is that hindering the process of making information more accessible to everyone? As Prof. Julien mentioned, in the current library catalogues, “the relationships between topics are ignored”, and “a small number of the most popular search queries accounts for a disproportionate amount of the overall queries”, thus it there anything the academic organizations can learn from the business world, such as using meta tag and user-generated tags? Or is there any way we can leverage the power of peer production like the practice of Wikipedia?

Google Books Library Project is an ambitious attempt although it seems doesn’t go well now and facing some controversial accusation, but maybe it is worthy if they can improve the query functions with their expertise. In the current era, libraries may need to go out and try to involve the public into their practices of creating or communicating information. For example, the Library of Congress turned to Flickr to present its photographic heritage material which receives surprisingly massive views. “This practice leads to image collections searchable and viewable through an identical interface for each institution and favored by the public.” (Dalbello, 2009) For library catalogues, the “social cataloging” website Goodreads might be a good place to learn and cooperate.

The Future

“We believe that the OPAC (online public access catalog) is dead. (Kortekaas, Kramer, 2014)” is an outstanding headline of one of the presentation slides, Prof. Julien further mentioned and cited “We will move away from an institutional catalogue and set of subscribed databases to ‘managing our imprint on shared global discovery systems’.” (Booth, S McDonald, B Tiffen, 2010)

Integration and globalization are two terms and trends happening in almost every industry, then how will they look like in libraries? We can see some libraries are exploring the ways of information visualization for their catalogues or library management system, although it is not perfect yet. As in anywhere else, the rule of “a little progress each day adds up to big results” should also be applied to here.

Laatest Generation CataloguesHarvard Library Explorer

It may be worthwhile for libraries to reconsider and redefine its relationship with its information or collections, and the relationship with the public. If the goal is to make the information more accessible to everyone, then the public should be able to participate the practices of creating information visualization – because that’s the spirit of the internet.



[1] Chen, HM. (2017) Information Visualization Meets Libraries. – Library Technology Reports.

[2] Benkler, Y. (2006). “Introduction: a moment of opportunity and challenge” in The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets andFreedom University Press, 1–18.

[3] Dalbello, M. (2009). “Digital cultural heritage: concepts, projects, and emerging constructions of heritage,” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA Conference, 25-30 May, 2009.)

[4] Kortekaas, S., & Kramer, B. (2014). Thinking the unthinkable – doing away with the library catalogue. Insights.

[5] Booth, M., S McDonald, B Tiffen. (2010). A new vision for university libraries: towards 2015. – VALA2010 15th Biennial

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