2019-10-25 - I remember that a library staff person somehow found this rant and replied with a decently helpful/explanatory comment (on the long gone site).
If there's one thing I hate about the library, it's that the search functionality you can use to find books REALLY SUCKS. In fact, when I think of the Bismarck Public Library, the foremost image in my mind is the island of computers, all with that dreaded search interface displayed on the screen.
Anyone remember the days where if you entered "Ernest Hemingway" you would get no results? That's right, you would only get a list of the books he wrote if you entered "Hemingway, Ernest." Just one of the many things that contributed to the general poorness of the system. While this seems to be fixed now, it is representative of the silly things one must put up with.
Another frustration of mine is searching for the books in a series. I used to read a lot of Star Trek and Star Wars books, most of which are part of a series. Sometimes these series number well over 100 titles. One would think a library would have an easy way to find out which book is next in the series (maybe to encourage more reading--just a thought). Nope. Go ahead, try it: http://www.odinlibrary.org/ Basic search has no drop down for searching for a series, but advanced search does. Does it possibly return a list of the "Star Trek" series which the Fargo Public Library (for example) has? Would I then be able to click on the name of one of the series (maybe "Star Trek: Voyager") and view all the titles of that series in numerical order? Nope. It returns a list of all the Star Trek books the library has, inconveniently ordered by title, alphabetically.
So, as I did almost weekly between the ages of 12 and 17, one has to go to the library, find a book towards the end of the series, look inside the front cover, note which book they haven't read yet, and go search by title. Which may or may not work, because the search doesn't automatically look for "Conquerors" when a search for "Conqueror" is entered. At least NDSU search (which is a whole other case of poor functionality) does this. It can be quite comical actually, especially if you enter 4-letter words that start with "f".
As it is, searching for things on the Internet is WAY easier than in the library. Probably that's because webpages are structured in a fundamentally different way. Or that web designers customize their sites to be more searchable. But there is definitely room for improvement. If I were some sort of search engineer working at Google right now, I would be dedicating my 20% time to figuring out a better system for this. Then Google could sell this to libraries across the world, much like their Search Appliance. Or even give it to them for free, and display ads next to the results. I'd be willing to look at ads if I was able to find what I wanted.
So, later today I'll be heading down to the library, in search of a book that has all the others listed inside the front cover. Hopefully I can check out a book on the same day that I get a new library card...