CiL 2008: What’s New With Federated Search

Speakers: Frank Cervone & Jeff Wisniewski

Cervone gave a brief over-view of federated searching, with Wisniewski giving a demonstration of how it works in the real world (aka University of Pittsburgh library) using WebFeat. UofP library has a basic search front and center on their home page, and then a more advanced searching option under Find Articles. They don’t have a Database A-Z list because users either don’t know what database means in this context or can’t pick from the hundreds available.

Cervone demonstrated the trends in using meta search, which seems to go up and down, but over-all is going up. The cyclical aspect due to quarter terms was fascinating to see — more dramatic than what one might find with semester terms. Searches go up towards mid-terms and finals, then drop back down afterwards.

According to a College & Research Libraries article from November 2007, federated search results were not much different from native database searches. It also found that faculty rated results of federated searching much higher than librarians, which begs the question, “Who are we trying to satisfy — faculty/students or librarians.”

Part of why librarians are still unconvinced is because vendors are shooting themselves in the foot in the way they try to sell their products. Yes, federated search tools cannot search all possible databases, but our users are only concerned that they search the relevant databases that they need. De-duplication is virtually impossible and depends on the quality of the source data. There are other ways that vendors promote their products in ways that can be refuted, but the presenters didn’t spend much time on them.

The relationships between products and vendors is incestuous, and the options for federated searching are decreasing. There are a few open source options, though: LibraryFind, dbWiz, Masterkey, and Open Translators (provides connectors to databases, but you have to create the interface). Part of why open source options are being developed is because commercial vendors aren’t responding quickly to library needs.

LibraryFind has a two-click find workflow, making it quicker to get to the full-text. It also can index local collections, which would be handy for libraries who are going local.

dbWiz is a part of a larger ERM tool. It has an older, clunkier interface than LibraryFind. It doesn’t merge the results.

Masterkey can search 100 databases at a time, processing and returning hits at the rate of 2000 records per second, de-duped (as much as it can) and ranked by relevance. It can also do faceted browsing by library-defined elements. The interface can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be.

Federated searching as a stand-alone product is becoming passe as new products for interfacing with the OPAC are being developed, which can incorporate other library databases. vufind, WorldCat local, Encore, Primo, and Aquabrowser are just a few of the tools available. NextGen library interfaces aim to bring all library content together. However, they don’t integrate article-level information with the items in your catalog and local collections very well.

Side note: Microsoft Enterprise Search is doing a bit more than Google in integrating a wide range of information sources.

Trends: Choices from vendors is rapidly shrinking. Some progress in standards implementation. Visual search (like Grokker) is increasingly being used. Some movement to more holistic content discovery. Commercial products are becoming more affordable, making them available to institutions of all sizes of budgets.

Federated Search Blog for vendor-neutral info, if you’re interested.

scholarly-shmolarly

Earlier this month, I finished up an article and sent it to the editor who asked me to write it. So far, that’s how I’ve done most of my publications; I was asked to write them. Now I’m back where I was before, trying to figure out if I have anything scholarly to write about that hasn’t been covered already by someone else.

Part of the reason why I am concerned about this is because it has recently become apparent that despite prior assurances to the contrary, the provost of my place of work has a rather narrow perspective of what is scholarly, and a significant portion of professional library literature would not fall under that category. If I intend to remain at this institution (and that’s looking less likely), I’m going to have to step up on the scholarly publishing thing. “How we do it good”-type articles won’t cover it. I’ll have to write stuff that looks scholarly to a biologist.

Ugh. I don’t even read half that stuff. For example, I’m more interested in what Jane Librarian writes in her blog about some innovative workflow concept that has improved library services at her place of work than what Joseph P. Librarian writes in College & Research Libraries about the number of libraries using standard workflows and the statistical impact on user services.

Here are the topics I’m interested in that directly relate to what I do every day:

  • serials and electronic resources acquisitions
  • serials and electronic resources management
  • collection development
  • personnel management

Am I any kind of authority on any of those topics? Hell no. So who am I to even think about writing anything about them that anyone would want to read? I’m not enough of an egotistical poseur to pull that off. Which brings me back to where I started. Trying to find something scholarly to write about that other people would want to read and that I have more than average knowledge about.

h-net offers rss

I was skimming through the January issue of College & Research Libraries when I ran across an article about linking to reviews in H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. I had not heard of this resource, so I browsed over to the site. My first thought after looking it over was, “This site needs an RSS feed.” Turns out, not only do they have a feed for all of the reviews, but there are feeds for specific review topics, announcements, job postings, and discussion topics! You can select whichever feed you want and the URL string is generated for you. I’ve already signed up for the Women’s Studies reviews feed. Wouldn’t it be great if Choice Online offered feeds, too?

recent articles read

I’ve been catching up on some professional reading.

I’ve read a few articles recently that I’ve found quite interesting and would like to share some thoughts on them.

Van de Sompel, Herbert, et. al. “Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the System that Scholars Deserve.” D-Lib Magazine. 10:9 (2004), doi:10.1045/september2004-vandesompel [open access]

I was immediately intrigued by what the creator of OpenURL (and his co-authors) might suggest as a technological solution to the current problems with scholarly communication. I couldn’t follow all of the technological details (they lost me at the flow charts and diagrams), but I was pleased to read this in the conclusion: “The NSF has recently recommended funding the authors of this paper to investigate these problems, building on our collective research and development. In a future article we will discuss our current work in moving toward a network overlay that promotes interoperability among heterogeneous data models and system implementations. We will describe our architectural vision for addressing the fundamental technical requirements of a next generation system for scholarly communication.”

Antelman, Kristin. “Do Open-Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact?.” College & Research Libraries. 65:5, 372-382. [open access]

The author set out to find data to confirm or debunk the common assumption that open access articles have a greater research impact than those which are not open access. She looks at four disciplines in different stages of open access development, and all of them have had a history with the use of pre-print articles. The data she gathers leads her to conclude that open access articles do have a greater research impact than those which are not freely available. I would like to see these types of studies extended to other disciplines, but I am pleased to see that someone out there is gathering data for the rest of us to share with the teaching/research faculty in the discussions about scholarly communication we should all be having.

Siebenberg, Tammy R., Betty Galbraith, and Eileen E. Brady. “Print versus Electronic Journal Use in Three Sci/Tech Disciplines: What