May 19, 2024

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Jackie Dooley says:

    Ok, so how do you want us to refer to those thingies? :)

  2. How about ‘Computer that finds stuff for you’ or CTFSFY for short

  3. Molly Clark says:

    Thank you! I received my MLIS in 2000 and I have never felt comfortable using the term OPAC. Always felt like I was doing something wrong when I just called it the catalog.

  4. Next step: getting rid of the ILS all together!

  5. Emily Clasper says:

    Yes, yes, a million times yes!

  6. Dear Roy, Patrons in Leiden are perfectly happy with the OCLC catalogue in use: And yes, of course we include journal articles, abstracts (50% selfmade) and e-docs in the catalogue. And yes, of course, we have more to offer ( And yes, the collection of ASC Leiden is small (200,000 items in the catalogue). But >160.000 searches in this (“old fashioned”) catalogue in one year (with >40,000 clicks to full text) is good value for money. Best, Jos Damen (Leiden, The Netherlands)

  7. Richard Pearce-Moses says:

    I’ll confess to my biases up front: I’m an archivist and a librarian, and I’m the founder of the Charles Ami Cutter Fan Club. OPAC v. library catalog is not a big deal. I hate jargon, so I’d be happy to abandon the former for the latter.

    But I’ll quibble with your statement, “We have much better finding tools that cover not just the books and journals in our collections, but articles and so much more.” Google plays an important part in my research. But at some point, I need to dive into a different part of the information ecosystem that Google doesn’t seem to find. The library catalog is a robust tool, in part, because of controlled access points. But journal articles? I find the journal databases a disaster, where noise grossly outweighs signal. (Maybe it’s because I’m often searching for information about ‘archives’ as a discipline, but that term is used in many other contexts.) And getting full text of the articles is often a challenge due to licensing, even though I have access to many thanks to the University System of Georgia. I’m better off scanning titles of articles in journals and searching within the journals’ sites themselves to eliminate noise.

    Ultimately, the richest source for me is nothing automated, per se. It’s chasing footnotes that I find, article by article, then asking those wonderful folk at ILL to get me a copy of the articles that sound good.

    • I agree wholeheartedly! This is the difference between real research and faux research. Sadly, even professors seem to be getting away with the faux version, so why should anyone else be concerned?

  8. You’re kidding, aren’t you, Roy? Discovery tools are better than library catalogs? Finding books, articles and who knows what in a single is the best of all worlds? What about the metadata we have spent eons developing and which most discovery tools blithely ignore (though EBSCO is actually working on this problem)? I deal with students on a weekly basis who absolutely do not need to be buried in masses of search results. They don’t know the difference between a book and an article most of the time, and they really do well with the library catalog and journal databases separated out, at least as long as we teach them how to opitimize these tools. My main complaint with library catalogs is that their software development has not kept up with the likes of EBSCO, etc. in journal databases.

    The library catalog has a lot of life in it yet if we can stop for a moment from our relentless pursuit of the keyword on the way to a confusing pile of results.

  9. I find it interesting that everyone is assuming that the death of the ILS means we will not be replacing it with a BETTER tool. No, everyone assumes that we will only rely on that already in existence. How about we think a little bigger? The Integrated Library System had its purpose but information description has gone much further and it has not kept up. There are savvy librarian coders who have been working away on something more flexible that will truly use the new information we have been collecting with metadata and FRBR (BIBFRAME on it’s way).

    Another plus for replacing the ILS with something with better search capabilities across platforms is that maybe it will be in librarian’s hands and will TRULY be what libraries need. A library product created from top to bottom by librarians.

    So, instead of automatically clinging to that which does not serve us well because it is ‘the best we can get’ let’s look forward to what could be and support those doing it!

    • I agree with Melissa, which is what I meant by saying that their development is behind. There needs to be a better tool, but discovery search as we now have is is not that better tool, but in many ways a less helpful one.

  10. Phil Garcia says:

    I get the argument but I think this all depends on the type of library you work at, the setting, and the level of users involved. I’ve worked in public, academic, and specialized libraries, in each setting the staff and patrons used the catalog in very different ways.

    Why would you want to rely on other entities/companies to determine how people search? I would never make the assumption that outside interests are aligned with my users needs.

  11. Couldn’t agree more.

    Website users don’t distinguish between ‘catalogue’ and ‘website’. Unfortunately, most LMSs force this way of looking at things on libraries, so we have to shunt customers off to a separate website whenever they want to reserve or download a book.

    This is the single most confusing part of our customers’ online experience, and for other library services. Check your website search logs for proof.