> I teach an intro to IT survey class for the LIS school at Illinois. The
> one-major-topic-a-week syllabus doesn't really give us time to deep dive
> into IT topics, but it lets us explore them and give contextual
> understanding to the building block pieces. Ideally, every topic has some
> sort of hands-on exercise that gives real life experience with the
> concepts/technologies. The exercises are usually independent, but I've been
> kicking around the idea of using a simple OSS OPAC to teach different
> elements of the class as a semester-long big cascading lesson....
I guess my perspective on this is a bit different than most people here.
What makes the OPAC special isn't the technologies it employs, but rather
the workflows and data it supports because these come straight out of the
physical world and tools used decades ago. Aside from that, library
automation is still heavily influenced by technologies developed when
memory was measured in kilobytes rather than gigabytes.
Discovery gets the lion's share of attention, but when you get right down
to it, what people call an OPAC is only the public facing side of a
specialized inventory control system that supports a wide range of
functions. People need to learn the new stuff, but a huge part of grokking
the OPAC is the old stuff -- otherwise, people simply arrive at the
conclusion that the data/methods are stupid or irrelevant and they miss the
So where am I going with this? If I wanted to give people a crash course in
OPAC, I'd take them on tours through acq, tech services, circ, and resource
sharing led by people who are experts in the operational details of those
operations so they can see what the systems support. If they simply muck
about with systems without understanding what those systems support, I
don't think they'll learn nearly as much.