The site should smell like a musty book.
March 21, 2011 12:58 PM   Subscribe

The US Library of Congress has updated their site to be more user friendly. Collections are now very easy to explore. All of the fun of wandering around a library without leaving your chair.

Other interesting pages on the LOC site:

See what happened Today In History.

The LOC now provides access to a trove of musical history via their Music Treasures Consortium.
Mozart's "Concerto di Cembalo".
Johann S. Bach's "Festo Visitationis Maria".

Well, there goes my afternoon.
posted by kensch (11 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I find this post interesting.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

All the fun I am having looking up things with the search word "hoax" -- nifty!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:12 PM on March 21, 2011

Man, this looks great, but I'm not sure what they did on the back end.... I've been dying for the search on American Memory to do half the stuff that Google does or have any sort of sorting of results or even some super-basic social stuff like being able to save a list of content on the site (I see and signed up for MyLoC, but can't see a way to save anything to it from American Memory), shopping cart, anything. I don't see a way to search their multimedia collections for just images or just sound recordings.

They seem to have some sort of federated search working but looking for something like, for example, Walker Evans shows no way to find works by him across all the differnet "buckets" of content. I even went in through the Digital Collections link and then tried to track down the Walker Evans photos from "Let Us Now Priase Famous Men" and the first results I found were entries in the LoC catalog, at least I think s because I got a "All available connections to the Online Catalog are currently in use" Searching from the main page for a known item in the American Memory collection doesn't find that item, so while surfacing more of the collections is great, and a huge improvement, search is still doing only so-so on recall which is sort of important.

I don't claim to know what they did here or how, but I'm not entirely sure that this is a deep down improvement instead of some window dressing and moves towards [but not actually getting to] more federated searches between all fo their digital and non-digital collections. I know the LoC is a giant boat that is nearly impossible to steer, but each time they redesign I'm hoping for better search and just getting better design. Sorry to be a crabby internet person about it, I love the LoC and use their site at least weekly, but I'm still finding it pretty low-down on teh usability scale for real researchers who want to do cross-disciplinary stuff without having to actually go to the library.
posted by jessamyn at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Perhaps because I am old;perhaps because I am not very bright--I still find the site (perhaps becaue it contains so much) still not as accessible as I think it ought to be.
posted by Postroad at 1:20 PM on March 21, 2011

It looks like it's going to be killer for people who want to browse and make happy discoveries, but still somewhat frustrating if you're visiting the site with clear goals in mind.
posted by ardgedee at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2011

Homepage redesign press release.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:38 PM on March 21, 2011

The US Library of Congress has updated their site to be more user friendly.

Huh. I thought they were going for user hostile. So long as you are the right kind of user I guess you are OK.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:45 PM on March 21, 2011

Oh that press release was written by Matt Raymond who left the LoC as Director of Communications on March 11. I hope that's just a coincidence.
posted by jessamyn at 2:13 PM on March 21, 2011

Oh wow! I'm not joking when I say this has made my day.

While I share the same concerns as Jessamyn, the fact is that archives providing online access have to decide between heavily curated, in depth levels of metadata required for research or fluid, unmoderated, library-esque systems that appeal to the casual browser. Whichever tack they take, some do it well, others get it oh-so-wrong.

As a trainee film archivist I use online moving image gateways frequently. The biggest trouble I come across boils down to bad web design. It pains me to see so many good institutions receive funding for wonderful digitisation and access projects, only to waste it on badly designed interfaces because some archive managers do not understand online platforms.

The end result is that the most beautiful and awe-inspiring collections remain isolated and unknown. I only recently discovered that the huge collection of Edison's Kinetoscope paper negatives, held at the Library of Congress, have been made accessible.
posted by dumdidumdum at 2:58 PM on March 21, 2011

posted by clarknova at 4:12 PM on March 21, 2011

I'm currently in library school so thanks for calling this to my attention!
posted by fiestapais at 6:32 PM on March 21, 2011

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