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Tech Talk: Faceted Navigation and Guided Search Explained

a description of the developing new face of search for libraries

by Mark Phillips

notes by Starr Hoffman



link to page in pdf format


"guided search" = trademarked term for faceted navigation

differs from federated search


OPAC Disadvantages

  • assumes you know what you're looking for
  • limits are very specific, not often natural (i.e., Music Library)
  • must choose limits before seeing results (rather than narrowing afterward)


NSCU Library

* facets

    • facets appear in left-hand navigational bar
    • narrows results by particular facets
    • each facet lists how many results from that search appear in it
    • example: start with "civil war" and then narrow by "china"
    • can easily remove a facet without returning to previous pages

* browsing

    • appears at top (before results list)
    • divided by LC class #'s into broad subject areas (N = Fine Arts)

* execution

    • used Endeca
    • took about 3 months to complete the process (5 to implement)
    • $160,000 to implement and 8% yearly upkeep charge
    • also provides spellcheck functionality
      • search for "dcitionary" and you receive results for "dictionary"


Choosing Facets

  • titles and other item-specific traits/information don't make good facets
  • good facets: date/time period, language, format, subject, etc.
  • need good facet labels so that users understand them
  • decide what level of facets to provide (broad or narrow)
  • decide # of result records user can view
    • for instance, 'top 200 only'
    • this would display facets for only those 200 records





  • will create a feed off a search

* examples


Siderean: Seamark


Flamenco Project

  • open source
  • formed at Berkeley
  • NSF-grant-funded
  • originally oriented around visual objects (but also works with text)
  • in their study, 16 out of 19 users preferred the faceted navigation


dpu tests


Familiar Interfaces


Browser Format

  • Grokker
  • creates facets on-the-fly (not always successful)
  • also provides visualizations/cluster maps



  • relevance ranking works logically
  • can limit to currently available items
  • federated search using faceted navigation -- subscription databases would be accessed through XML gateways, link resolver, OpenURL
  • faceted and/or federated navigation would need to interface with Plone
  • new concept in libraries, but not in retail websites (not grant-eligible)
  • provides a transparent system to the user
  • can still provide a complex search ("civil war" AND china) and be presented with facets


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