University of Calgary

How do you search for books?

UToday HomeJune 28, 2011

By Lauren Spencer

Explore the visualization touch screen project prototype on the second floor of the MacKimmie Library Link until June 30. Photo by Alice Thudt
Explore the visualization touch screen project prototype on the second floor of the MacKimmie Library Link until June 30.
Photo by Alice Thudt

Graduate students in the computer science department are using an interactive touch screen in the MacKimmie library to study how digital technology can enhance search processes at public libraries.

Alice Thudt and Uta Hinrichs, under supervision by Dr. Sheelagh Carpendale, are studying exploratory browsing more than targeted searches. They’re interested in how the public makes use of the interactive video screen and they’re videotaping the encounters for further analysis (all video data is kept strictly confidential and only available to those researchers directly involved with the project).

“The interactive display we have installed at the library consists of five interlinked visualizations that each offers a unique perspective on a digital book collection,” says Hinrichs . “Our intention is to enable a similar open-ended ‘browsing the shelves’ experience that people may be familiar with when they visit a library or a book store.“

“Through the use of information visualization, we aim to entice curiosity and a playful, open-ended approach to information browsing,” says Thudt. “Our visualizations provide different access points and exploration pathways through a book collection, highlight different, sometimes unconventional, relationships between books, and provide multiple pathways for exploring book collections. In the long run, we hope to support unexpected, serendipitous discoveries.”

The five search areas are by cover colours, time frame, similar subject (or key words), author and page count. The interactive touch screen makes the exercise both fun and playful, while the concept has applications for both business/research and reading for pleasure.

The public is invited to stop by the interactive station to experience and explore the visualization touch screen project prototype. The station is located on the second floor of the MacKimmie Library Link at the top of the escalator and is “open” from 12 noon – 3:00 pm through June 30.