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.

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.

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

Summon: reading up on discovery

I recently asked our newest member of the elibrary team, currently filling in as Serials Librarian (Maternity Cover), to have a play with Summon. Being a conscientious information profession she did a little research and hightlighted the following sources as most helpful in giving her a better understanding of resource discovery.

I remember finding the following 2 diagrams from proquest (in the summon user guide on the client centre) particularly helpful in understanding how summon works

So what resources helped you to understand how Summon/resource discovery works?

Searching Summon : a pilot in the faculty of Health

There has been some interesting blog posts recently about the relationship of Boolean and other techniques to discovery tools recently (see for example Library search tools. Could we make them harder to use?) and being involved in a couple of recent pilot sessions in our faculty of Health reminded me of this debate.

One of my teaching colleagues commented ‘You wouldn’t use it [Summon] if someone’s life was at risk’ – true, but there again would you really trust a database front-end to give you what you want? What with the amount of ill-matched content, paywalls to negotiate, openURLs to fail, links aggregated from a third party, relying on eresources to try and save a life would be a risky strategy to say the least – whatever the platform.  But confidence in retrieval is just what, say, a student nurse in our Defence School of Health Care Studies might require.

The pilot sessions we conducted so far bought the expected rash of error messages: a realization that Nexis UK content doesn’t work (all of it – so we have temporarily switched it off), a problem with the Nursing times through Ovid (why did the Nursing Times not have full-text article links but others did – was it because it was weekly?), a ‘Page not found’ for a one journal. We realized for example that an ‘Author’ limiters on the left-hand side only appeared where we had loaded a related MARC record into Summon, and they did not seem to appear with to other resources. The session also gave me a chance to study the Summon interface close up, including what looked like a fairly decent attempt to break it: !

Summon search log

Looking in the Summon search logs shows a variety of terms entered, many of them keywords aimed a particular specialism :for example one entry shows the search ‘foreign accent syndrome‘.

The real  challenge that Summon brings with it is to traditional information literacy : an academic commented that it was ‘easy to use’ but would be great for undergraduates, who maybe come straight from searching Google but without any of the skills, rather than later years where searching habits need to be more refined. Summon is dynamic, but buries its structure : whereas CINAHL, for example, can be overtly complex but requires more methodical searching.

For example I compared the above two searches for this query ‘foreign accent syndrome : on CINAHL Ft on Summon

One thing that immediately stuck me was that the traditional skills of thinking’ about the ‘context’ of the keywords you use still applies, in fact they become even more important with Summon. Another was that the differences are not necessarily about Boolean logic (pace @daveyp and @carolgauld) – both sets of terms are ANDed by default. The differences seem to me to be the level of information that is fed back to the searcher , rather than the technique themselves.

One interface gives you large number of quick results but then requires you to filter, searching across all resources – the other filters first and makes you structure your search. Here I am reminded that we have set up most of our native databases to default to Advanced rather than Basic – did we consult we any students to do this? Did we offer any options? –  the Basic Search screen in CINAHL for example, is more ‘googlised’ and closer to Summon’s Basic search.

It would be helpful in my view if Summon unpacked some of its ‘magic box’ – and gave your more feedback as you search (here I think an option to get the instant numbers of searches that you get back from each term as you go along might be useful, to show the results set from each interaction). It doesn’t do itself any favours in the ‘Advanced screen either’ : do students really need a search using an ISBN or ISBN box right up there as a priority? The crucial point however is that the student is more on their own (as they would be with Google), gets results back quicker (even though they have to trim them down more – as with Google). They are using a search engine for *library stuff* that is closer to what they have may have used before they came here.

We are hoping to get more in-depth results from library colleagues in Health who have circulated some student questionnaires so it should make for some fascinating reading…

Summon: Feedback from testing

The feedback on Summon after a little testing was generally positive although we did identify a few issues.

Using Summon to locate a book was mainly effective while the results list was much larger that in comparison to just the catalogue, generally the book they were looking for was on the front page. It was noted that the results list were not always displayed logically as the latest edition was not at the top of the list. Some searches, such as ‘Great Gatsby’ were less successful as the results list was overwhelmed with journal articles but this could be corrected by using the refine to ‘item in library catalogue’

Using Summon to locate a journal article with a partial reference was universally agreed to be much quicker however there were a number of dead links within our results, for example we found a number of articles on the Ebsco platform where the linking was not working as expected.

Using Summon for subject searches was positive in terms of generating plenty of results however there was frustration in only being able to use one limiter at a time & also not having as much flexibility to refine results as the native interface.

A clear advantage to Summon was that it saves time and is a less complicated search process. Without Summon searches would have had to be run in a number of places. Summon also provided an ample results set although this was not always a positive factor.

Comments from the survey supported these opinions, the staff liked the speed of search, the simple layout and the wide coverage. They were however disappointed with not being able to link through to content easily, the overwhelming number of results and the duplication in the results list. A ‘clear search’ function would also be useful.

They could however see the value in Summon when dealing with subject search queries or trying to find an article with partial details.

In general they found Summon easy to search and navigate.

Areas which we need to gain a better understanding of and address if possible are

  • Results not being effectively de-duplicated
  • Results where the link provided does not take them to the correct resource
  • The ‘Language’ refine showing incorrect results

Personally having now had the opportunity to run a range of searches I am now more interested in the level of indexing and linking provided per resource as I feel this will have an impact on whether or not we continue to include it in our Summon instance.

SSUGUK : conversations about content, and a community of users

Several of us attended a useful SerialsSolutions User Group day hosted by University of Surrey, the first part of which was setting out the scope of such a usergroup, raising product issues & also the developments and product enhancements planned by SerialsSolutions.


The session was hosted by Dave Pattern who took us through in the morning session the different ways in which we could share solutions and raise issues to the company including the Summon Community wiki, and the LISSERSOLUK mailing list. It was good to see a full complement of Serials Solutions representatives there who listened to points that were made from the floor about a number of issues : how do you reduce the number of newspaper articles and book reviews cluttering up Summon (the response came that can pre-set these in a widget – personally I think there should be an admin setting that should last for the whole of your Summon session not just your landing page, but at least we got the issue raised), an issue with linking through to EBSCO databases (due to be addressed in the next release of Summon).

Other themes included how to use EZProxy (some insititutions run it through Shibboleth which gives a cleaner authentication, we don’t as we currently only have an old version of AthensDA), and the perennial problem of working out what content we have and how to switch it on in the Client Center. An easy example (close to our hearts) is MINTEL for example. It’s great that MINTEL reports can be surfaced in Summon, but in order to work out what to best switch on in the knowledge base we have to know (from the rep) which library codes apply to our subscription (otherwise we get the whole package of reports which we don’t subscribe to).

Switching on content in Summon would be easy if the publishing market was neatly packaged, but it is a complex landscape, as Liam Earney outlined in the afternoon when he went through the challenge facing KB+, now in Phase One of its life cycle. As an institution that only has one NESLi2 deal at the moment though, this first phase might seem irrevelant to colleagues here – but any work that shows that publishers (and subscription agents) need to put their house in order when providing us with content, (and ourselves when we buy that content & consequently legitimize it).

However I think that the issues start to kick in when we move outside the deals/packages, and start wading through the undergrowth of individual titles. For example we have to set up access to Practical Diabetes International – because it seems recent content has not been loaded onto Swetswise  and we needed an alternative access point. Searching for that title on SerialsSolutions’ Client Center gave 48 places where that title is published, with 45 relating to Wiley. Which one to switch on?

The fun starts with holdings : if I ignore 7 or so backfiles, there are 36 places where holdings dates start in 2000 as a default. A quick look in Wiley’s admin area says ‘Holdings Report – Under Construction’ – so no help there. So I go back to the Client Center, ignore any journal bundles and look for Practical Diabetes International in something called ‘Wiley-Blackwell Journals (Frontfile Content)’ that sounds non-bundled. Out of the 1961 titles in this particular group, I find the right journal, tell it that we ‘subscribe to only some of the titles in this database’, check the start date on Wileys’ pages (which is 1996, different from Swets), and add it to our collection.

The point of this is that switching content on in a resource discovery tool like Summon means getting to grips with which collections you have. At both macro and micro level. It was good to see SerialSolutions engaging with the issue of content, but I did notice that a lot of their development talk was on 360 Resource-Manager – a product which we don’t have. However the day was a great way to discover that we weren’t the only ones struggling with content issues, and I felt that at least those conversations had begun.

Summon: Testing

With the help the Library User Group we recently spent about an hour running various searches in Summon & noting down results.

I think it was a useful exercise and provided an opportunity for people to do some focused searching, the results of which I am currently collating. A number of issues were raised which highlighted advantages & limitations to the system. It also provided a starting point in planning how we present Summon and respond to common queries.

The group were asked to locate a specific book and then search for a specific article. I also asked them to run a subject search and make use of the refine options. The test sheet included a variety of search suggestions as I always find myself at a loss when faced with a search box and no real topic or query to answer

They were also asked to compare results by running the search in Summon alongside the library catalogue or appropriate database. My hope was that this exercise would be useful in appreciating the difference between Summon & the tools we are more familiar with. I also included questions about the results screen in order to help identify what expectations people had about the system

I ended the session with a short online survey to provide some initial qualitative & quantitative data for analysis.

Personally I found it really helpful to see people using Summon and navigating around the screens. It has also raised a number of interesting questions, especially in relation to managing such large number of results.