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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kathy's Keynote at AquaBrowser Launch at the Public Library Association Conference

This morning I keynoted a lovely breakfast event held by Serials Solutions to relaunch a new SaaS version of its "discovery layer" product, AquaBrowser. Why did they have a marketing speaker at a product launch? Well, Serials Solutions touts AquaBrowser as a tool that can help show how useful and cool libraries can be.

Without getting too technical, these "discovery layer" products sit on top of OPACs to allow search results to appear more like they do in It has plenty of "more like this" terms, a map of related words to click on, lots of color, etc. And the interface is very intuitive, so like Amazon, users can just type in a few words and get a good-looking (but fully relevant) results list. In other words, it takes library-centric, hard-to-search OPACs and makes them work and look more like the simple, public-oriented tools that people like to use.

I am not pitching for AquaBrowser, and it is not the only such product on the market. All discovery layers can help make search more satisfying for everyday people, so they're worth exploring. If you're hearing customers ask, "Why can't the library be more like Google or Amazon?" then you should know that there are products that can help make this happen. (and since they are top layers, they work with any OPAC or ILS.)

After I spoke, Carolyn Anthony, director of Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, talked about her experience with finding, choosing, and using AquaBrowser. She confirmed that the ultra-friendly search functions had indeed excited patrons. Finally, Corrine Kuhl of Serials Solutions took the podium to explain a bit more about the product itself and to cite studies about user search habits that prove the need for such simplifying tools. Kuhl said that tools like this give users a "better perception of your library."

I would like to thank Serials Solutions and its parent company ProQuest for caring enough about libraries and understanding enough about the importance of marketing to have asked me to give this presentation. It allowed me another chance to explain the basics of marketing and to encourage public librarians to do more of it. Great vendors, great event, great audience!

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