Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Resource Discovery

Like a lot of HE libraries, Resource Discovery interfaces are on our minds at the moment. I attended the EIUG Exchange of Experience Day at Warwick a few weeks ago and saw demonstrations of Summon, EDS, Encore and Aquabrowser. I’ve also been up to Huddersfield to see their Summon installation and had other demos of Encore and Primo elsewhere. But I’m still confused as to the best match for our users.

From looking at their searches on the OPAC (III’s WebPac is pretty good at showing these) I can see that users search skills in general, despite the extensive work we put into information literacy training, are fairly low. Keyword searches on entire essay titles are common (do they develop amnesia after leaving the induction sessions? ;-)). Users also tell us that they don’t want to have to search in multiple places (eg the OPAC plus 4 or 5 online databases) and then bring together and de-duplicate the results themselves. After the simplicity of using Google they are not prepared to invest this kind of time and work into finding academic resources. Instead they want a single search box which does it all: it must concurrently search all the academic resources to which the University Library provides access, deduplicate and present the results in a usable relevance-ranked order, providing links to full-text wherever available. Better search facilities would also be good – the graphical concept map which Aquabrowser gives is impressive.

But few of the current Resource Discovery systems do all of this at the moment. Summon and EDS allow you to search on the OPAC plus a subset of resources which they’ve indexed (the impression I have is that EBSCOs coverage of academic resources is better but I have no evidence to support this). Moreover as the parent companies maintain the indexes and infrastructure they are relatively low-overhead. But they don’t index all of the expensive databases we pay for, so the results are still only partial. Encore and Primo get round this by retaining federated search and including this in the results as well, although at a greater financial cost and slower search results.  But maintaining all the infrastructure behind this also adds to the work for the library, and at a time when libraries are trying to ‘do more with less’ this is hardly welcome.

There are of course systems I’ve not really looked at yet, such as OCLC’s WorldCat Local and SirsiDynix’s Enterprise, although I do have the impression that they share some of the above features and weaknesses. Looks like I’ve got a lot more work to do….  So have the suppliers – as most libraries have a similar need their product development depts must be on overtime!

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Libraries, Universities | | 2 Comments