Being ‘tickled’ by resource discovery

Ken Dodd sculpture at Liverpool Lime St station

Ken Dodd sculpture at Liverpool Lime St station

We visited Liverpool University library today and talked to Terry, Roy and Dave about their experience of search tools, Summon and Ebsco Discovery Service (EDS).

Liverpool have been beta testing Summon for approx 9 months and have just recently begun beta testing Ebsco Search Discovery http://www.liv.ac.uk/Library/e-library/discover.html. Like us, and many libraries, they are looking to provide a ‘quick, simultaneous access to the Library’s quality-assured print and electronic resources’

Having had the sales pitch from the vendors we were keen to see the other side of the coin and hear about a live implementation. We were fortunate that Liverpool were happy to share their experience of Summon to date and this presentation, delivered at a recent JIBS usergroup –  ‘Holy grail or leaky cup’, provides a great summary.

The look & feel and speed of search results  in Summon were definite positives. However a key issue was with the content in terms of currency, quality, coverage and linking to the full text (via SFX).

Liverpool are just about to start beta testing Ebsco Discovery Service and intial thoughts have been positive. In terms of content as Ebsco were able to clearly identify what resources they have access to index. However the look & feel of the interface is more cluttered.

Liverpool found the implementation of both Summon and the Ebsco product very straightforward and both are hosted. It seemed that there was more opportunity of easy customisation with Ebsco. One of the features I like about Ebsco is the possibility of allowing searches of only selected resources, this could be used to provide more targeted services to groups of users.

I was disappointed to note that discovery tools were facing the same issues federated search encountered at the beginning such as a more US focus to the coverage,  not all publishers allowing access to the data etc.  I had hoped we would have learned more  from that experience.

It seemed clear that the success of these tools is about how much of  the libraries collection is able to be harvested, but as noted in an earlier post, Ebsco indicated that publishers would be unwilling to allow access to their data. I think it is worrying to see these signs of exclusivity between the publishers and it erodes a potentially valuable service.

What I took away from the day was to focus more on our collection, I am keen that we take a close look at our resources and confirm which can be effectively searched and results displayed within these tools.

I am also interested to find out more about how our users want to find this information, while I appreciate that everyone wants the simplicity of Google I am unsure how this can be provided with more complicated data such as statistics, reports, images etc.  I am hoping someone has the answer.

Many thanks to Terry, Roy and Dave for such a useful day

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One thought on “Being ‘tickled’ by resource discovery

  1. Yes thanks again to Terry and the folks@Liverpool for a very useful day – as they were about to go live with a comparison between EBSCO Discovery service and Summon.

    The pic of Ken Dodd is apt – and the choices maybe coming clearer : how much do we want a system that promises a Googlised experience, a ‘magic box’ that matches our holdings, and how much are we are we willing to sacrifice in order to get an element of local control over our electronic collections?

    Summon has no admin area – yet ; the ‘magic’ seems a bit covert, ‘smoke and mirrors’? – as Liverpool hinted at when they tried to find out why certain elements of metadata were returned. Whereas with EBSCO Discovery we get more familiar stuff – with a known interface, the same admin area – maybe the illusion is a bit more clunky, but it’s an illusion we know.

    There is no ‘magic box’ whoever we decide to go with. The knowledge-base that underpins Summon is 360 Link -the same that we currently have; & the admin area underneath EBSCO Resource Discovery is the same as that we use for the EBSCO databases. The same issues of currency of content and of workflow underlie both at the moment.

    It’s not over until the user reaches the article/book or content they are looking for – and whatever system, federated search or otherwise, recognises it as belonging to our collection.

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