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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

LouFind improves library online search

Published: February 5, 2010
Section: News

Library and Technology Services has released a beta version of LouFind, a high-tech and progressive way to search the Brandeis library catalog online.

This new search engine is more like Brandeis Scholar, an LTS tool for searchin through academic journal articles, than the older Louis Online Catalog that it may one day replace. It allows its users to categorize and refine search results, and to narrow down the books that they can look through for any given search. It also has a link to export book information to systems like RefWorks, Endnote and Zotero for automatic MLA and APA citations. Finally, it gives users the chance to tag certain books as favorites.

But the service’s most innovative new function is the ability to text a book’s location to its users’ phones. Students will no longer have to write down long call numbers on tiny scraps of paper, but can instead search the library in satellite signal space.

“It might be the end of old catalog cards,” said Dave Wedaman, director for Research and Instruction at the library.

“We think it’s going to be more intuitive for the users. When you search you get more what I like to call contextual info,” he said. “[And] we would love to see everybody tagging things in our collection.”

The project was available for use in late December, and the library has started advertising for the new semester. Now it will be hard to miss the posters for the system up all over the library with the blurbs like “omg! text your call #’s!” flashing on the screen over the main Goldfarb computer cluster.

“We’re seeking feedback from the users,” said Tania Fersenheim, manager of Library Services and leader of a team that focused on the new technological aspects of LouFind. “Our goal is to have LouFind be our main catalog. Louis will still be around, but it will be de-emphasized,” she said.

The LouFind Web site calls for community feedback. Students are encouraged to send messages to the system’s organizers, who will then respond.

Lois Widmer, associate director for e-research and leader of the more public side of the project, explained, “The idea is that we can get suggestions and do something about them. Louis was more locked down.”

So far feedback seems positive. For example, Sarah Hartman, a staff member who works behind the counter in Goldfarb, said, “I like it a lot. One of my favorite things about it, that you could not do with Louis, is that you can tell just by the initial entry whether something’s checked out. You don’t have to click on the call number.”

Students can access LouFind through a direct link on the Louis Online Catalog page or by going to