Library Catalogs of the Future?

This week has been an exhilarating and exhausting experience–Ruth, my partner in library adventures, and I have been part of our district’s three day training for Follett Destiny Library Manager 7.5.  We are absolutely thrilled :-) with the new circulation software our district has purchased for all of us—our new web-based circulation software provides our patrons access to the catalog at home, and it is loaded with many powerful features to help us better manage our collection and catalog.  We were fortunate to be trained by a former media specialist, Ann Shaver!   I love that our students can now browse our catalog from home, plus our district purchased a “state standards” search feature/enhancment that is fabulous—this is a tool that will help us with collection development AND help us demonstrate how our collection/library supports instruction and student achievement.

As I was both basking in the glory of and recovering from our training and first live day with Destiny in my comfy big chair here at home, I happened upon this thought-provoking article by Chris Harris at School Library Journal called “A New Word for Catalog.”  Harris first tries to unpack the term “catalog” and then raises this provocative question:

What if we could turn the library catalog into a library portal? Stop acting as a pass-through and become an experience! One of my favorite catalogs to look through comes from Williams-Sonoma. In addition to the surrogate records for their products, they provide an enhanced experience that includes recipes that show you how to use the products. An experience is probably best defined here as being a destination. You don’t just go to the catalog as a pass-through listing of surrogates, but you linger for original content as well. In fact, you may return even after acquiring the “real thing” to make further use of the original content. Amazon.com has created this through reviews, favorites lists, and “you might also like” suggestions. Returning to the Amazon catalog has a purpose and a meaning.

I was just saying to Ruth today how cool it would be if an OPAC could make book suggestions to students in the same vein as Amazon!  What do you librarians think about this concept?  I feel that Destiny is as cutting edge as it gets in terms of current school library OPACs, but do you think that something along the lines of what Harris envisions is a real possibility in five to ten years?  Do you think that this type of OPAC could have a significant impact in how our students use our libraries?  Does anyone know if Follett has something like this in the “development” works for the future?