Anyone who has heard me speak in the last decade or so has likely heard my mini-diatribe against the acronym “OPAC”. Besides being impenetrable jargon, it is thoroughly anachronistic. It owes its life to an extremely brief period of modern librarianship when we had automated circulation systems that didn’t have a publicly available instantiation. That is the only explanation for the “public access” part of “online public access catalog”.
And then we saddled ourselves and the library literature with this monster for decades to come. We are still trying to shake this mistake.
Long ago I swore to never use that term again, and waited for everyone else to follow. And I waited. And waited. I’m done waiting. I’m going to go after it with hammer and tongs. Again.
Not only am I to kill off the term, but I’m endeavoring to bury the thing itself deep. I’ve even said this before, well over a decade ago. Not that you listened to me then, mind you. But perhaps I have your attention now. “Most integrated library systems, as they are currently configured and used,” I had asserted, “should be removed from public view.”
My point was that although we may have been justified at putting them in front of the public in the early days, we have no such justification any more. Not when we have much better finding tools that cover not just the books and journals in our collections, but articles and so much more. But more importantly, as studies like that at Utrecht University have pointed out, information discovery has left the building.
So it’s time to move on. Take that anachronistic library catalog and turn it back into what it really only ever was — an inventory control system. That’s right, put it back into the back room where it has really always belonged. And stop saying “OPAC”. For cryin’ out loud. Just stop.