HOLLIS Unveils New Search Interface

A trial version of the University Library’s new search interface was released last week, featuring improvements like a simpler search box and expanded data breadth, according to Tracey D. Robinson, head of the Office for Information Systems in the University Library.

The new version of the Harvard Online Library Information System—commonly known as HOLLIS—displays a color-coded “word cloud” that offers links to related search terms and a column that allows searchers to refine searches based on topic, format, language, and genre.

“The Web search arena has been experiencing major changes,” said Robinson of the need for the modifications. “Search engines like Google Book Search and Google Scholar were gaining attention, and we felt that our online catalogue was looking antiquated.”

The new system takes advantage of social-networking Web site features, such as options to tag items and write reviews, in an attempt to make the HOLLIS network more user-friendly, Robinson said.

“In Hollis Classic, you had to explore more to get what you were looking for. Now, the expanded search is right at your fingertips,” said Laura F. Blake, the interim head of Research Services at Widener Library.

While discussion about updating HOLLIS has been going on over the last two years, the University Library Office for Information Systems officially bought the new software only a few months ago. The HOLLIS Classic system, implemented in 2002, will remain in place during the testing stage of the new system.

Released last week to librarians, and on Tuesday to the University community, the new system will be constantly updated based on feedback from users, Robinson said.

By the fall of 2009, the new HOLLIS will allow readers to sift through different types of media—including visual, audio, and various archives—from a single search field. Currently, users must switch pages on HOLLIS to search different types of sources.

“Our goal is to expand the scope of data, so you can have different sources made available to you in your search,” said Robinson.

Students have commented on the new system’s visual appeal and search facility.

“It’s important for Harvard to have a professional web presence,” said Lange P. Luntao ’12. “The old HOLLIS was not professional and seemed out of date.”

But learning to use the new system may be difficult for frequent users of HOLLIS Classic.

“The system has a learning curve,” said Blake. “The tool is more user-friendly for new users, but for those of us who have been using HOLLIS for years, including library staff, it is more of an adjustment.”