Tuesday, May 4, 2010

FamilySearch Beta Library Search - FAIL

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The FamilySearch organization recently highlighted their FamilySearch Beta site to the genealogy world, so I went to take a look at it and see if it accesses Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) items in a user-friendly way.

Nope - it doesn't - it's a major FAIL in my opinion at this point in time (yes, I realize it's a beta site...but common sense should prevail on a beta site). Here's why--

Here is the home screen for the FamilySearch Beta site:





I want to look at the FHLC, so I could choose "Library" from the top menu or "Library Catalog" from the "Discover Your Ancestors" menu. I chose the "Library" item from the top menu and saw the Library page:




The "Library" page has a link for the "Library Catalog" in the right sidebar (it goes to the same page as the "Library Catalog" link on the Home page). The "Library Catalog" search page looks like this:




The user has the choice of "Place names," "Last names," "Year range," "Titles," "Author information," "Subjects," "Call numbers," "Film numbers," and "Entire Catalog (beta)".

I chose "Place names" and put "Dodge Wisconsin" in the search box, as shown above. The results page for Dodge County, Wisconsin looked like this:




There were 130 results for Dodge County, Wisconsin, with 50 shown on this first page. There is no hierarchy here - the items appear to be randomly listed. There is a list of Topics, Availability and Languages in the left column. I was looking for the record by Clara Turner on Cemeteries and Churches of Dodge County, Wisconsin and found it lower on the first page of matches.

The Library Catalog record for this resource looks like this:



The page provides the author, format, title, and publication information. The format notes "Books/Monographs/With Film" but does not provide the Family History Library call number for the book or the Microform number for the Microfilm.

The online Family History Center Catalog listing for this same record on the older "Classic FamilySearch" site looks like this:




This "classic" listing provides quite a bit more information, including the FHL Call Number of the book on the shelf and the Microfilm number in the FHL microfilm drawers or for ordering at a local Family History Center.

I like the list of topics on the left-hand column of the Results page - it is probably the most useful part of the results page if there are more than ten or so matches on that page.

I really cannot believe that this new Library Catalog system does not list the book call number or microfilm number. Isn't the purpose of this Library Catalog, for a user like me, to be able to find this work on the shelf or in the microfilm drawers at the FHL, or to be able to order the microfilm at my local Family History Center?

This is a MAJOR FAIL in my book - I hope that they get this fixed before the classic FHLC interface goes away.

Readers with a good memory will recall that GenSeek.com was being developed by FamilyLink.com in order to access Family History Library Catalog items, and other repository and online resources, in a modern web page environment. Wasn't GenSeek.com going to be the best genealogy web site in the genea-universe? I posted about using the GenSeek application on Facebook (which was a Beta development) here back in September 2009. It didn't look like this FamilySearch Beta Library Catalog application - I complained then that it had a book call number but no microfilm number!

Some astute readers may be asking "whatever happened to GenSeek?" I asked a FamilyLink.com person at the WorldVitalRecords.com exhibit at the NGS Conference last week directly, and received the answer to the effect that "GenSeek has been put on hold for now, we're working with more immediate issues right now." Huh? Another FAIL IMHO.

UPDATED 5/5, 7 p.m.: Dan Lawyer of FamilySearch Labs commented on this post today, saying:

"Thanks for your thoughts on the Family History Library Catalog Feature. I agree completely with the things you've pointed out. As someone involved with the project (in other words, I work for FamilySearch) I'm happy to report that what you're seeing in the current beta is not what we plan to release. Just like nobody wants to use a bathroom that hasn't been plumbed in or framed, no body wants to use this feature in its current form. The shortcomings you've identified are in the plan but just not finished yet."

That is good news for all of us. Thank you, Dan, for the quick response!

14 comments:

Tamura Jones said...

Randy,

I mentioned the continuing GenSeek delay in my recent WebTree no more article about the demise of WebTree. I note that FamilyLink seems to divest itself of less profitable projects by abandoning or selling, is focussing on the profitable ones, and is very busy promoting its new FamilyLink Plus subscription, and conclude that FamilyLink seems to be focussing on profitability.

- Tamura

none said...

I completely agree that the site falls short. Searching by surname brings up multiple duplicate results. Worst of all, trying to refine the search by Year of Birth or Birth Location inevitably brings up "No Results". This happened so often that I finally tested it in databases where I knew the results existed, but still received "No Results". -Lori

BeachWriter said...

Thanks for posting this, Randy. I was starting to believe that I was doing something wrong because I couldn't get anything useful out of the beta site. I feel better now.
Richard

research paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

Dan Lawyer said...

Randy,
Thanks for your thoughts on the Family History Library Catalog Feature. I agree completely with the things you've pointed out. As someone involved with the project (in other words, I work for FamilySearch) I'm happy to report that what you're seeing in the current beta is not what we plan to release. Just like nobody wants to use a bathroom that hasn't been plumbed in or framed, no body wants to use this feature in its current form. The shortcomings you've identified are in the plan but just not finished yet.

-Dan

Martin said...

Completely off topic, but today on http://filioagnostic.blogspot.com/ he posted about Dodge Co. Wisconsin. You guys might want to trade notes. Was there a migration from western Mass. to Dodge county?

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Leonard said...

I'm not sure if you take questions on FTM. If not, can you direct me to someone who does (other than the company itself)? If so, my question is: I notice that the the reference on facts taken from public member trees do not reference a specific tree - only "Ancestry.com, Public Member Trees (Provo, UT, USA....". Am I missing something? Is this a source that will ever help anyone else find the record? It seems too vague to me. Thanks much.
-Lenny

Leonard said...

I'm not sure if you take questions on FTM. If not, can you direct me to someone who does (other than the company itself)? If so, my question is: I notice that the the reference on facts taken from public member trees do not reference a specific tree - only "Ancestry.com, Public Member Trees (Provo, UT, USA....". Am I missing something? Is this a source that will ever help anyone else find the record? It seems too vague to me. Thanks much.
-Lenny

Tamura Jones said...

Paul Allen just did a blog post in which he admits that he once again led FamilyLink to the financial abyss.
http://www.paulallen.net/why-this-entrepreneur-is-having-a-sleepless-night/
He says his VP of marketing will be "turning on a ton of paid marketing channels". I fear that the plain English translation of that bit of marketrese is yet more spam from FamilyLink :-(

Anonymous said...

FYI... the site has been updated and some of the issues you raise have been fixed (call number and film number are now displayed as you can see here ).

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