A Comic Catalog

Are kids and teens bored by your library catalog? Artists are transforming old classics into comic books and publishers roll out new graphic novels by the score. Why not add a similar visual punch to your public catalog?

comiccatalog4

During a mostly unrelated conversation* this morning, my mind wandered and I started imagining a library catalog that provided content as if it were a comic book. Why not? A person searching a catalog is engaged in a dialog. Why not illustrate that dialog in a fun way? The catalog would still do its search magic beneath the surface, but the interface — the Q & A — could be channeled through a random comic book scene.

Let’s say a teen opens the “Comic Catalog” to an illustrated scene featuring two characters. One character has a blank cartoon bubble overhead (or a bubble with prompting words like “Do you have …”). The teen types keywords into the bubble just as he would with a normal text box, but … he’s typing into a comic book! That’s the search box. Cool.

Then he presses ENTER and watches the other character respond with the catalog’s top entry. Other results can appear in a list below, or may be selected and scrolled up into the comic interface.

If you have several dozen images stashed in the catalog’s storage, comiccatalog the randomness of the comic scenes will keep it fresh. If a user wants to play a little, she can scroll through the scenes to find one she likes. Maybe the scenes could appear as upturned comic book pages that she can flip through.

Sure, this is a gimmick, but it’s visual, colorful, and fun. A whimsical interface option might spruce up the catalog. We’re a Polaris library, so I ran the idea by the good developers in Syracuse this afternoon. It’s a busy week for them — their annual user’s conference begins tomorrow — but they listened politely and passed it around their work group.

Sharon Ufer Lavell, our library’s collection services manager with whom I was talking when this idea arose, suggested customizing the user’s avatar or changing the background based on the call number of the top result. A kitchen background might appear, for example. Or a sport stadium. Or a zoo.

I pitched the idea to a school teacher, too. Would the kids gobbling up graphic novels use this? Her immediate answer: “I would use this!”

What do you think? Should we seek a Comic Catalog?

* Our original conversation: Is there an online database out there that provides full-content comic books? Well, is there?

NOTE ABOUT IMAGES: The examples shown here were produced quickly today using a few simple graphical cut-and-paste tools and using images from ComicStripGenerator.com.  Maybe a manga, anime, or classic comics-style illustrator could be hired to dash off a nice image collection for a Comic Catalog.

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7 Responses to A Comic Catalog

  1. Alex says:

    I’d be a bit worried about information and navigation getting lost in the visual enhancements, but it would be neat to have something like, say, the library’s catalog avatar be something you type/talk to, with nods and little animations as it searches and presents results. People could choose which avatar they wanted to talk to.

    Of course, having the ability to turn off the avatar and just use a search box would also be good.

  2. Kiwi says:

    I think it’s brilliant! Animation definitely would be a plus. My personal favourite character is Spongebob. Oh wait, sorry, I mean my SON’S. Did I say mine?

  3. Steve Campion says:

    Alex: I agree with you about turning this on/off. Our public catalog interface comes in two flavors: a standard version and a kid’s version. Because that’s what I’m used to, I imagined this as a middle version — an interface for older kids, teens, and 20s — that would be completely optional. Sorry I didn’t mention that. Having this replace the standard catalog by being permanently ON, would not be practical.

    Alex and Kiwi: Animation would be a cute idea if developers could pull it off and our bandwidth wouldn’t suffer. It would have to be good animation, too. No talking paperclips!!

    Kiwi: Your son’s favorite, huh? :)

  4. Lisa says:

    I love this! I would use it and I think teens and comic folk would adore it. The library catalog, all not just ours, are visually so boring, this is fun and fresh and much more interactive than throwing words into a box. This would be a fantastic option to have. I agree with Alex that the ability to turn it off for those not interested would be important but I think you would have scores of people who would love it.

  5. […]  http://librarystream.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/a-comic-catalog/   […]

  6. Alex says:

    Definitely need to be good animation. Although, I would think that opting-in to the comic or animation-based catalog would be an indication of being high-bandwidth on the receiving end. How much bandwidth would the animation end up taking, relative to, say, an assortment of static comic images available? About the same? More? Less? (But No Paperclips.)

    I think a lot of people would love the idea of an animated avatar. I’m not so sold on static comic images, but there might be a sizeable amount of people who would go for that, too. Maybe it’s because I think people would go more for the interactive or pseudointeractive possibilities the avatar.

  7. jazz english says:

    im sorry but this is one of the stupidest things ive ever heard of. the cartoons would only annoy me. and if i see goku in a kamekame ha stance then i would much rather him saying “Kamekame ha!!!”

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