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I’m losing patience

Time to disable the "new" catalog

I would like to propose that it is time to totally discontinue the "new" catalog for the following reasons:

1. It appears that no one is working on correcting its fatal "no records found" flaw.

2. My opinion is that the entire premise of the "new" catalog search model is unworkable. Trying to use "Google" type search methods to a relational database that already is filled with "intelligence" is like throwing out the baby and the bath water. Typical Internet searches are designed to work without the availability of an intelligent relational database, but they can never achieve the power of SQL on a relational database.

3. The place listing that loads in real time while entering in the "new" catalog is not based in the reality of getting hits, hence the "no records found" problem. Moving on with the "new" catalog would require constant maintenance of the pre-fetch list, and the world is a very big and very complex place that trained library catalogers are best qualified to parse. Not only that, the catalog needs to deal with the place problem over all historical time.

4. Patrons in the FHL can be redirected to the "old" catalog when they express there is a problem finding something, but those accessing through the Internet will probably just give up when they get "no records found" for top pre-fetch "Berlin, Germany."

5. Going directly to the "old" catalog is the simplest solution to the long-standing problem.

6. The newpaper says FamilySearch is losing programmers. Let's Do Something now to give the patrons the best shot at our collections.

If the graphic designers want, let them create a new cataloging landing page that fires off the same SQL that the "old" catalog now uses. Modern look with solid functionality. I don't think this is necessary, but perhaps others think that aesthetics is important.
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    The question is a thoughtful one, and deserves more comment.

    The function of the search form for the FHL catalogue is, of course, to locate the catalogue entries. We might ask what the new search form does (correctly) that the old form doesn't do, and vice versa. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? How can the disadvantages be eliminated and the advantages preserved?

    The big advantages of the old search form, in my opinion, are (1) the helpful pointers for the user, so that alternate place names will lead you to the correct entry (our thanks to generations of librarians for their insight and attention to detail), and (2) the "related places" feature, which frequently leads to important sources that we wouldn't have noticed any other way. The big advantages of the new search form, if there are any, escape me.

    Beyond the search form, there is a huge opportunity for improvement in the content of the catalogue entries themselves. An enormous amount of useful bibliographic information is simply not there, even though we know it is clearly visible in the books and microfilms. I have always wondered if there isn't another repository known only to the librarians that records the rest of the details.

    The elusive improved functionality of the new search form might have to do with an interface with a "new" database format. If that's the case, it would be fair to ask whether the new database format is living up to expectations. If not, it should be redesigned.
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  • I just tried out a search for the parish of Monkwearmouth, County Durham. In the old version of the catalog(ue) a long list of results appears. In the new version, there appears no option than to accept the name "England, Durham, Monkwearmouth", whereupon (after hitting Search) the message "No results found" appears. What you have to know is that you must put "Monk-Wearmouth" ( with a hyphen) in the Place Name field to get the desired results. Who would think of that, when the name is never hyphenated - except in FamilySearch?

    Probably lack of results for other place names relates to similar reasons.
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    The new Catalog omits significant descriptive information for some (or many?) microfilms that was included in the old version. For some microfilms this is crucial -- such as a microfilm of a notebook in a State Archive, but the microfilm is entitled "XXX County Birth Records (year-dates)" so where there are transcripts posted -- as there are -- viewers think the mess is actual County Records instead of stuff copied out of genealogy books by an unidentified person (oh, there are some extracts from actual County records).
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