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Our study compares user queries for subject searches of books and images in an online public access catalog (OPAC) and examines the effects of retrieval by the Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH), TOC, and subject domains on search success. We conducted a Web study to collect user queries for four target items: a book on educating at-risk children, a book on energy, a photograph of immigrants, and a poster about cancer prevention. User queries were searched against the Library of Congress (LC) OPAC because this catalog provides access to the rich collections at LC, including its Prints and Photographs collections, and supports keyword searching of subjects and contents notes. 556 queries for the books and 272 queries for the images were searched in LC OPAC to obtain sets of TOC-retrieved items and LCSH-retrieved items.
Analysis of the 556 query results found the retrieval difference between TOC and LCSH to be statistically significant, while the effect of subject domains (education vs. science) was not. LCSH searches resulted in a large number of empty sets, while TOC searches resulted in fewer empty sets, suggesting that users may have had an easier time matching their terms to TOC than to LCSH. But in terms of topic similarity between retrieved items and the target items, neither TOC nor LCSH performed well. These findings raise questions about the value of using controlled vocabulary like LCSH and keywords like TOC for subject searches. Analysis of the 272 subject searches of the images is in process. Our poster will present findings on subject searches of books and images, the retrieval effectiveness of TOC and LCSH, and the effect of subject domains. Findings will help advance knowledge of image retrieval in OPACs and contribute to the enhancement of subject access in OPACs for users.
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