Discovery tools: involving healthcare students in search/discovery

With the help of Evidencebase at Birmingham City University, in January 2013 Library and Learning Resources carried out a survey of healthcare students to assess their use of search/discovery tools.

Many thanks who the BSc (Hons) Nursing 2nd years  (Professional Values and Evidence Based practice (NUR5065) students in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Health who gave up their time to fill out the questionnaire in connection with this research. (This work is also being presented to UKSG by Jo Alcock and Mark Brown as a ‘lightning’ talk.)


We wanted to find out how students responded to the range of services on offer.(for example Summon, CINAHL Full Text, MEDLINE, PYSCHInfo, Library Catalogue, Google or Google Scholar). The questionnaire outlined scenarios based on assignments (both summative and formative), and included a poster PICO excercise and an essay). Each question asked: ‘Where would you start your search?’ and students were given the opportunity to expand on why they had given the answers they did. It was important that our recently implemented discovery tool Summon was  measured alongside other search tools.


It soon became clear that those healthcare students who replied were using different tools depending on the situation (e.g. for example if they are just scoping ideas or if they were specifically looking at the evidence base of medical research.) We came to two main conclusions:

  • Conclusion I: Healthcare students predominantly chose to use specific databases for evidence based clinical research.
  • Conclusion II : Healthcare students tend to stick to the tool they are familiar with for more generic research.  

We also had a range of quantitative data and responses which were fascinating.

Q1. “We’re interested in knowing which resources you would use during research for full text articles”. 


Many respondents selected all the resources indicating a broad variety of resources are being used . Not surprisingly, ‘Journal indexing services’ are clearly recognised as one of key starting points as routes to full-text articles. ‘Library Catalogue’ and ‘Google’ also scored high because up to until this point the student’s information needs (e.g. related to the theoretical basis of nursing) have been still broadly met using key texts from the book stock.

Q2.”You have been given an assignment to write an essay on comfort or dignity in nursing care and you need to find electronic resources as part of your research. Where would you start your search? ” 


When asked where students would start their search for this assignment, the choices in order of popularity were journal indexing services such as CINAHL, Medline or PsycINFO (40%), Google or Google Scholar (23.8%), Summon (20%) and the Library Catalogue (13.8%). Others (2.5%) mentioned specific journals such as Nursing Standard  or Journal of Community nursing. One reason for this maybe that only in the 2nd year do they students start to explore “the why?” that underpins clinical nursing practice and start to develop their curiosity across the field. This places a far greater emphasis on the research literature, and hence the drop off in use of the ‘Library Catalogue’ here, and perhaps also a realization that search/discovery resources like Summon, Google/Google Scholar and CINAHL offer better routes to electronic fulltext.

Q3. “Your group has been given an evidence–based research exercise, to devise a PICO around a specific aspect of care, find research, and present your findings in a group poster presentation. Where would you start”  


When asked where students would start their search for this assignment, the choices in order of popularity were journal indexing services such as CINAHL, Medline or PsycINFO (44%), Google or Google Scholar (22.5%), Summon (18.5%) and the Library Catalogue (3.7%). As in Q2, these results are similar with Google still seen one of the key starting points but also with a sharp fall in starting with the Library Catalogue.  Students needed to look for clinical guidelines (which they find via the web eg via NICE) but this exercise also asked them to undertake a database search, to justify their choice and also to evaluate the findings in the context of the evidence base as a whole. Their responses that reflected on several sources for  evidence based practice search process such as :“Google just to get the basic understanding” and also “indexing services are useful for finding research articles.”


Q4. You need to find full-text articles using clinical research in order to provide to your tutor/mentor with evidence-based research for a case study to support treatment decisions for a patient. Where would you start your search

This scenario was more focused on the practical element of the nursing course, asking students about where they would start their search for evidence-based clinical research. The results for this are very different from the two previous scenarios; the vast majority of students would start this search using services such as CINAHL, Medline or PsycINFO. Here the key idea is that students learn to use Summon and/or databases for scoping ideas and then moving to back specific databases when they have focused their search. Students who selected  ‘Journal indexing services’ said that “You can easily select ‘evidence-based’ for your search results” or “This option will allow me to search the evidence”. 

Student responses: the ability to transfer searching skills

  • Students needed generic searching skills to cope with the mass of information and also appreciated how they could transfer these skills between resources:  “I would use Google first to find out whats out there and then go onto use CINAHL, NICE and Cochrane.” ; or again “I would probably use Summon as a starting point then CINAHL, Medline etc as I feel most confident with using these”. 

Student responses: the need to start a wide search then to narrow down 

  • Students were aware of the need to start off with a broad scope and then narrow down. For example Google was useful in that it helps me to get a ‘feel’ for a subject as a starting point“. One recommended to “Use [Summon]…as a starting point, then either work at narrowing it down, or move to more specific places”, a process which another student would follow elsewhere [CINAHL] : “I would search for the topic on CINAHL and then narrow using other parameters to try and find resources.” 

The need to refine down a relevant result from a mass of results seemed to be similar across the board, no matter what the resource was. Since a single resource didn’t always fit the bill, transferring their searching skills between these key discovery and search resources was also a key expectation.


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand decreasing budgets

PastriesJust a quick round up of a great conference I attended yesterday organised by the talented collection mangement team here within the Library at BCU, the conference was titled Squaring the Circle: Increasing demand and decreasing budgets. Managing library provision in times of financial constraints.

There was a good mix of speakers providing varied perspectives and sharing really useful insights which I think could be put to practical use. In the morning we heard about a range of projects, KB+, JUSP and the Library Impact Data project all of which spoke about the benefits and added value of providing shared services and building communities. KB+ and JUSP are currently available for institutions to sign up to (and please do) while the work from the library impact data project could continue to be developed to provide a shared service. It was great to hear how collaboration between librarians, suppliers and publishers are helping build such useful services and tools which will in turn improve the services libraries provide.

We were then challenged by Professor Martin Fautley from Birmingham City University in his presentation Research and the Library: Doing and teaching research in education, where he talked about what life is like for an academic, about his priorities and his expectations from the library. I was particularly interested see the journal industry from his perspective as an author and editor. Throughout the presentation he raised a number of questions such as, how does an academic know their field and how does the library help with that? What makes a ‘quality’ library? Is there a category error mistaking knowledge for information?. Plenty of food for thought

The afternoon was focused on ebooks including a case study by Jill Talyor-Roe on their expeiences of Patron Driven Acquisitons with ebooks at Newcastle University. Having experimented early on she was able to provide some interesting statistics on usage and trends over the last few years and was a great introduction for any institution considering trying this model. I was also pleased to hear her advice of ‘not being afraid to fail’ which I think is important especially if we want to continue to innovate and experiment. Jennifer Rowley followed talking about the marketing and promotion of ebooks and mentioned looking to services such as Amazon for inspiration. On listening to this presentation I began to question the value of marketing a type of format and in the Q&A with the panel that followed Graham Stone noted that at Huddersfield their strategic approach to marketing resources was to do it in in the context of ‘Discovery’ rather than the product. Liam Earney suggested that improvements to the user experience were key to encourage use, making me rethink my approach to promotion of resources.

I personally found this an uplifting conference and encouraging to hear about the values of collaboration, sharing and working together. Throughout my experience in the library profession I have always been grateful for the support and helpful advice I have received from colleagues at different institutions and I hope that national services such as KB+ will thrive on this type of approach.

It was also lovely to catch up with some familiar faces and meet new people. One of the themes from this morning was how some projects were sharing ideas with each other, for example there are developments planned for further integration between JUSP and KB+ (am hoping someone is going to do me an infographic on how all the different Jisc projects interlink) and I look forward to seeing how some of the ideas shared at this conference are taken back to institutions.

Thanks again to colleagues for such an interesting day and ensuring our sugar levels were topped up throughout the day with pastries, biscuits and mince pies.

A Dose of (Augmented) Reality: Exploring possible uses within a library setting

Guest post by Anthony Humphries (Learning Resource Coordinator)

Of the many emerging mobile technologies that libraries are looking at one that has always appealed to me is augmented reality (AR).  Compared to other technologies that are discussed AR has:

  • fewer introductory barriers to overcome
  • is virtually cost-free
  • does not require specialised technical staff
  • the general public will increasingly have some familiarity with it.
  • can also be a lot of fun. 

So I committed myself to turning some of these ideas into practical demonstrations for a group of interested colleagues.

I used the Aurasma platform as it’s free, straightforward to use, and has considerable market penetration.  It works by having a pre-prepared image – a trigger – uploaded to their servers.  Then when a device using the Aurasma browser focuses on one of these triggers information in the form of images and movies are overlaid onto the image in a predetermined way.  Digital information is ‘superimposed’ onto what you are seeing through the devices camera.  The big advantage of this optical approach compared to location based AR is that you can be precise with the location and it can be used over multiple floors without interference.  There was a steep learning curve initially, learning what worked well (formats, sizes, scales) as a trigger and overlay, but after some trial and error using the software is actually quick and easy.  Development forums provided some useful advice but a thorough introductory ‘best practice’ guide would have been welcome.

I came up with 9 possible categories of uses for AR and put together a demonstration for each of these.  The focus was on provoking ideas rather than fleshed-out practical application:

  1. Video demonstration Pointing mobile device at the screen of the self-service issue machines automatically plays a video guiding the user on how the machine operates.  There is also a button beneath this video saying ‘Need PIN?’ – when tapped this takes the user to a website with information on this.
  2. Enhanced publicity/directional map Pointing a mobile device at a floor plan map (either on a plinth at the library entrance or in hand-held form) overlays a re-coloured map indicating areas that can be tapped.  When they are at a photo of that location there is a pop up giving users a ‘virtual tour’ and more information on that area.
  3. AR summon helpHelp on a screen-based service Pointing a mobile device at the Summon discovery tool overlays guidance arrows and notes onto the screen– pointing out the where to enter the search, where to refine filters & then view results
  4. AR virtual bay endVirtual bay-ends Pointing mobile device at a particular image (perhaps located near catalogue PCs) overlays directional arrows to where resources are located – giving users an initial idea of where to find what they are looking for.
  5. AR enhance instructional guideEnhanced instructional guide Pointing a mobile device at a leaflet about accessing our online resources automatically plays a video with screenshots showing the stages that they need to go through.  To the right are buttons that could be tapped to directly call, email and complete a form if further help was needed.
  6. Induction/Treasure Hunt Students could scan a ‘frame’ placed in an area of the library.  Once scanned a video would play introducing them to that area and how to use it – alongside the video a new question would appear that would guide them to another area to continue the ‘game’.
  7. Enhanced publicity material Pointing a mobile device at our main library introduction guide which is enhanced with pictures, videos and extra information beyond what could be included on a physical copy.  Also all telephone numbers, email addresses and hyperlinks are made into tappable live links.
  8. AR Staff assistanceStaff assistance/reminder.  Pointing a mobile device at the borrower registration screen of the LMS that we use overlaid with extra information to show the various fields that need completing.  It is designed as a quick check for staff to ensure that it is completed accurately.
  9. ‘Book Locator’/directional video Using a mobile device to scan an image near to a catalogue PC to bring up a virtual table containing dewey ranges, i.e. 000 – 070.  Tapping one of these would make a simple video pop-up directing the user from that location to the approximate shelving run.  Technically this does not use AR at all, but was an interesting use of the software.

The demonstrations went well and generated some interesting debate amongst my library colleagues.  Some brief thoughts after the demonstrations:

  • Point of need content – The way that triggers work allows them to be highly context specific, you are essentially just ‘looking’ at the thing that you want help with, i.e. a room, a screen or leaflet.  Could there be a future where users just get used to pointing their device at things and getting assistance and extended content?
  • AR vs QR codes – The AR feels a lot more immediate than QR codes.  Whereas scanning a code sometimes feels like an additional step and takes you away from what you are doing the extra information from AR is more integrated into your activity.  Aurasma allows extra functionality too.
  • Getting library users onboard – Is an issue whenever something new is introduced.  Some level of training would be required. People have to download the app, subscribe to a particular channel and then know where to scan.  Technological improvements may mitigate some of this – for example Aurasma allow the possibility of integrating their software into an existing app, meaning that users will not need anything new or have to subscribe to channels.
  • Ease of development – As described above, the platform is not as intuitive as it might be initially but after a brief explanation I could see colleagues from across the service creating content, all it takes is some very basic image manipulation.  I was creating these rough demos in about 15 minutes.  The technical barrier is very low.
  • Range of devices – The demos all worked equally well on iOS and Android smartphones that I tested.  They looked great on larger tablet devices.

What can we learn from LibraryThing?

There are a number of online services where you can create your own personal catalogue of books you own, have read, want to read etc. These lists can then be enriched with tags and book reviews all of which can lead to providing you with book recommendations or the ability to see which of your friends have the same taste in books and other great services.

When our lovely colleague Trudi left for maternity leave, the team complied a list of childhood favourite reads. I used this list of 32 books to create a collection in LibraryThing, Shelfari and goodreads with the hope to explore these services further.

I particularly like the visual display of the book covers across all the services and could see how this could be a great way to marketing our own book stock, especially new books, ebooks etc. Its was interesting to note that the recent change to the MyiLibrary site echoed this trend.

As well as providing a nice visual display the services allowed you to embed these on webpapges and blogs, which would then be automatically updated when new content was added. This made me wonder about the value of a reading list which students could embed in their own online study environment. I know of some work done by the Telstar project which looks at integrating references into a learning environment, more details available on the Telstar project page.

All of the services provided a range of book covers to choose from which I enjoyed from a nostalgic view point in terms of choosing the covers that I remembered from my childhood. It did however make me wonder if there was a value in a service that allowed students to select the correct cover for the books they have got out on loan in order they have a visual check when trying to track that book if they misplaced it on their shelves or elsewhere.

In creating this small collection each of the services was able to augment the data and quickly provide alternative views, for example Library Thing were able to provide an author gallery, in Goodreads I was instantly directed to reviews about the books. The services also provide recommendations for further reading. Libraries could also augment the data in their catalogues with activity data which can potentially lead  to providing a recommender service. The University of Huddersfield is a great example of a library catalgoue providing a number of enriched services such as virtual shelf browser, people who borrowed this book borrowed this etc. Dave Pattern has written about this extensively and recomend taking a look at his blog, Self-Plagiarism is Style.


Personally the real value in these online book services is they are built by the community of users and this is where I think there is potential for libraries. I think greater engagement between the library and its borrowers, further collaboration between the two and more of an understanding of how library materials are used and collected could provide the library with opportunites for developing its services further

Summon: Posters

Its been a few weeks since we went live with Summon, which is now available to our students from the university portal and our library home page.

We mentioned Summon in as many communication channels that we thought appropriate including twitter, the university facebook site, inductions etc. We have also distributed posters across campus and the libraries – so the word is well and truly out.

Feedback has been generally positive and we are seeing healthy usage.

We look forward to reviewing and developing the service over the next year – have no fear plenty more Summon blog posts yet to come.

‘Information on the move’: a mobile conference in the city of roundabouts

I must admit Milton Keynes (aka the ‘Roundabout City’) was never on my top list of places to see, as it is not very easy to move around on foot, being designed for the car. But the quality of speakers and workshops at the recent M-Libraries-Conference on mobile technologies in libraries more than made up for taking our life in our hands every time we walked from the hotel to the venue!

‘Hype Cycle’ -Jo’s graph plotting ‘Visibility’ against ‘Time’ for libraries’ mobile services – leaving its mark on an OU whiteboard!

The keynote speeches drew on what became a common theme : where does a library or information service place itself on what our very own Jo Alcock from Evidence Base calls ‘the hype cycle’? Or to put it another way : where we between ‘wow?’ and ‘wow-but-can-we-do-it-now?’

So Steve Vosloo’s summary of what UNESCO ‘s work, (with a statistic echoed by Bob Gann from the NHS : ‘there are more mobile phones in Africa than in USA’ ) showed us some great programmes delivered on phones that some might not consider ‘smart’ –  but they work. You might think retro-fitting technology to a literacy service for boat schools in Bangladesh or using cellphones to run an SMS check on drugs (in countries where 30 percent of medicines are fake and can kill you) is a far cry from introducing mobile tech into a UK library – but these are good examples of working out where you on that hype cycle. 

The lists of possibilities were endless – from QR codes – (we’ve got one already on our Summon posters and our library cards) to the case studies mentioned by JISC m-libraries project – which include Chris Langham’s post on here about using SMS in a successful way to reach students.) Another useful overview was from Ellyssa Kroski from New York in her presentation, Libraries to Go.

 I personally like Bath Library’s idea using QR codes to link to audio tours – (I use SoundCloud as a musician, and using mobile apps as sound-recorders and even mixers certainly is more flexible then what we did ‘in the early days’ by trying to record and edit our library induction on Sony minidisc – remember those?.) As you would expect, there were also some great demos : using Augmented Reality browser to overlay fragments of papyrus with teaching materials from John Rylands University, Manchester ; or the PhoneBooth project from LSE, a digitally mapped overlay of Charles Booth’s London survey that could be accessed on mobiles.

Thomas Cochrane’s closing keynote ended with the powerful statement that mobile technologies can transform existing ways of teaching  – and for libraries in particular that means thinking differently about how we teach students, and thinking about about student-generated content. We want to encourage students to map and document their library space, not just get us librarians to do it for them. He showed us a video by students at Auckland on QR codes – done as a project before the library even started promoting them! . He also ran a live demo of Chirp – a technology that sends digital data such as pictures via sound, that could be used in lectures.

As I began writing this post – a student came to the library help desk struggling to view a MyiLibrary book on her battered-but-still-servicable 8-inch tablet. She was still trying to access the book on our library catalogue, and therefore was struggling to access it in a way that she needn’t have done had she searched Summon. It struck me that by searching what is essentially a repository of physical objects (the library catalogue) for an electronic item, she was doing the equivalent of trying to cross a roundabout meant for cars.
We need to make clearer to the student where they look for ‘analog’ or ‘physical’ content, and where they look for ‘digital’. In the course of crossing that digital divide, lets make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the Milton Keynes planners.

Summon: out in the wild

Today is the day the summon search box appears on our intranet, iCity and is available to our staff and students. (we will be making this available publicly via our library website soon)

We haven’t announced this with a bang as term hasn’t started across all the university yet.

Hopefully our previous Summon blog posts gives some indication of how we got here, for today to happen I was keen for the following;

User guides

I wanted to ensure we had information for our staff and students, this includes a guide to searching Summon (created by one of our librarians, inspired by guides from other summon customers) and an FAQ  (available only on our intranet).

Summon FAQ in iCity

For our library staff we provided a guide for Librarians which covers how Summon works and some common issues. We are also providing training sessions for our frontline staff to ensure they know what resources are available to help students use Summon and when would be appropriate to recommend using Summon as opposed to the library catalogue.


We wanted to be confident that we could provide the same or preferably improved authentication, and am pleased that there will be improvement in the approach we’ve taken. We will be providing a mixed economy of EZproxy & Athens authentication to ensure we have as much content as possible easily accessible.


The content issue is probably the most complex with regards to continually changing nature of the product combined with our original approach. In the beginning we naively talked about summon perhaps being a one stop shop with a few exceptions however we are now much clearer that it will be a key resource for the discovery of our full text content & not a replacement for a database search. This did mean a shift in focus from trying to work out was indexed and not indexed in Summon and focus instead on what was available.

This however has helped us understand how we will need to use this upcoming year to gather as much feedback as possible from our staff and students to help focus on the content areas that need our attention.

We are starting quietly but am hopeful a big bang will follow once students discover the discovery tool.

Leeds Needs Well Met

A trip to Leeds Metropolitan University to meet up with Nick Sheppard was the order of the day recently.  Nick is Repository Developer at the Headingley Library and was on hand to share his views and experiences of implementing intraLibrary as their open access research repository.

Repository projects at Leeds Met were originally funded by JISC as part of the UKOER programme and, after looking at various options, intraLibrary was identified as the most suitable platform.  The fact that it is designed more for learning objects, rather than the research output that Leeds intended to use it for, led to a fair amount of further development work and customisation.

After a blisteringly fast-paced, and tangent-shifting yet insightful morning running through the highs and lows of this process, we moved on to look at the practical side of dealing with CLA requests using intraLibrary. 

This is similar to the process we use here for our own CLA book chapter and journal article requests.  To see the same steps followed via intraLibrary was beneficial and highlighted similar advantages and similar issues to those often experienced here using UCEEL / Formtek. 

We looked at adding collections, metadata templates, coversheets, uploading items, tutor notification, and renewals.  The interface may well look a little different, but the principles and workflows remain much the same. 

All in all, it proved to be a very useful visit, even if the final pulse-pounding dash for the train could have been filmed for an eLibrary version of The Bourne Identity.  Look out for the exciting trailer coming to a blog near you soon.

So, a big thanks to Nick and co at Leeds Met.

Summon: Training the trainer

Over a month ago Rebecca Price from Proquest delivered some training for our librarians entitled ‘train the trainer’ which was a useful overview on how Summon works and how to introduce it to students.

Unfortunately not all our librarians were able to attend this session so I have been delivering this session to a few groups of librarian adapting the content to reflect our own experience and instance of summon. (see below for presentation slides)

From meetings and discussions it was clear that having an overview on how Summon worked gave more confidence in the system and helped discussion on its use and potential issues, in hindsight I think it would have been useful to have this training very early on in the implementation process.

It has also been interesting to see how many changes and improvements have been made to Summon in the last year, with increased content, improved auto-complete etc. I am encouraged by this pace of change and am looking forward to see how summon develops and meets expectations.

Train the trainer

I start with an overview of why we have Summon and a key driver is to improve student experience, at the moment all we provide our students with is lists of databases and therefore they need to have a good idea about what it is they want and which database would contain that information before they even start their search.

I then talk about how Summon indexes a multitude of information, from ejournals, newspapers, ebooks etc. I think its important to highlight the range & variety of sources as this in turn effects the results list. Its also helpful to explain the record they see in the results list is the summon master record which is crafted from duplicate resources.

Talking of what Summon covers always leads to the inevitable question about what it doesn’t cover. While the majority of our full text online journals, ebooks and records from our library catalogue are covered we do have a number of A&I databases, directories, industry standard resources which are not covered, a list of which we will be making available to staff & students. We are also discovering that in some cases not the full breadth of the database is covered or we are not able to link directly to article level.

I follow with doing a search on summon, reminding staff that boolean operators will work if typed into the search box. On seeing the vast number of results I can then talk about the importance of using the refine features in the left hand column to narrow down results. I think this is a useful opportunity to show the one of the 7 lenses in information literacy, evaluate. I often choose to refine by Subject Terms in order to highlight the include and exclude option, which add in the NOT and OR operators. I also like to remind people that some of those refine options are dynamic and depend on the results retrieved.

I round up the presentation noting issues that have been raised over the last few months as we have been working with system and highlighting what we can do to resolve or accommodate these issues.

I think Summon is not the answer to everything and the key is using it in the correct context, we are retaining all our current routes therefore if someone is looking for a specific book from our library, they can continue to use the catalogue. It is clear that dependant on the subject area and the faculty it may be useful starting point for 1st years while for others it may make more use to introduce it at a later point in their studies. Summon is a valuable first step in the research process, a useful starting point.

We are now much clearer about what is not covered by Summon & therefore in some subject areas we may stick to our current routes and continue to direct staff and students to specific databases, for example with Law.

We are still working on the authentication and look to be running a mixed economy of EZproxy and AthensDA which is not our ideal as there is still opportunity for our staff and students to encounter a log in challenge.

I think this year will be extremely useful in understanding more about Summon and more about the expectations from our staff and students all of which will help in our development and presentation of the service. While working towards the implementation date of next month it is also clear that this is only the start of the process, this is not a conversation that will be ending any time soon