Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) [ELIS Classic]

Authored by: Kevin Butterfield

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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In one form or another, from a mental list in the mind of the librarian, to book catalogs, card indexes, and online information retrieval systems, some type of meta access has existed to guide library users through library collections. Over the last 40 years, these constructs of paper and wood evolved into Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs). When the catalog shifted out of drawers and off of three by five cards to become a networked, universally accessible entity, its role in the library shifted as well. The OPAC competes with the World Wide Web, metadata registries, search engines, and more sophisticated database structures for attention. Amongst this assortment of access mechanisms, the purpose of the OPAC has become muddled. The OPAC has now become one information source among maOnline Public Access Catalogs (OPACs)ny and one of a number of portals for accessing library collections and beyond.

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