ER&L 2013: Overcoming Librarian Resistance to Adopting Discovery Tools — A Focus on Information Literacy Opportunities

“X-Factor” by Andy Rennie

Speaker: Stefanie Buck (Oregon State University)

It’s safe to say that discovery products have not received a positive response from the librarians who are expected to use them. We always talk about the users, and we forget that librarians are users, and are probably in them more than the typical freshman. They are new, and new things can be scary.

OSU has Summon, which they brought up in 2010. She thinks that even though this is mostly about her experience with Summon, it can be applied to other discovery tools and libraries. They had a federated search from 2003-2010, but toward the latter years, librarians had stopped teaching it, so when discovery services came along, they went that way.

Initially, librarians had a negative view of the one search box because of their negative experience with federated searching. Through the process of the implementation, they gathered feedback from the librarians, and the librarians were hopeful that this might live up to the promise that federated search did not. They also surveyed librarians outside of OSU, and found a broad range from love it to not over my dead body, but most lived in the middle, where it depended on the context.

Most librarians think they will use a discovery tool in teaching lower division undergraduates, but it depends if it’s appropriate or not. The promise of a discovery tool is that librarians don’t have to spend so much time teaching different tools, so they could spend more time talking about evaluating sources and the iterative process of research. Some think they actually will do that, but for now, they have simply added the discovery tool to the mix.

Participation in the implementation process is key for getting folks on board. When librarians are told “you must,” it doesn’t go over very well. Providing training and instruction is essential. There might be some negative feedback from the students until they get used to it, and librarians need to be prepared for that. Librarians need to understand how it works and where the limitations fall. Don’t underestimate the abilities of librarians to work around you.

These tools are always changing. Make sure that folks know that it has improved if they don’t like it at first. Make fun (and useful) tools, and that the librarians know how to create scoped tools that they can use for specific courses. If you have a “not over my dead body,” team teaching might be a good approach to show them that it could be useful.

Speaker: Leslie Moyo & Tracy Gilmore (Virginia Tech)

Initially there were mixed perceptions, but more are starting to incorporate it into their instruction. With so many products out there, we really need to move away from teaching all of them and spending more time on good research/search skills.

Students “get” discovery services faster if it is introduced as the Google of library stuff.

Move away from teaching sources and towards teaching the process. Enhance the power of boolean searching with faceted searching. Shift from deliberate format searching (book, article, etc.) toward mixed format results that are most relevant to the search.

#libday8 day 3 — never-ending powerpoint!

"PowerPoint effects" from Noise To Signal by Rob Cottingham

I had just enough time to log on and clear out the email inbox before the first team of vendor reps arrived to demonstrate their discovery service, and then it was off to the auditorium where I would spend most of the rest of the day.

These presentations are the latest iteration of our years long internal debate over whether or not the current crop of “web-scale discovery services” can fulfill an unmet need for our students (and faculty). We’ve considered several in the past, but could not get sufficient buy-in from the research & instruction librarians to request the funds to pay for them. After a cooling period, and many discussions with key individuals, we sent out an RFI to some targeted companies, and now we’re providing the opportunity for them to give live demonstrations/pitches.

It’s an unusually warm day here in Richmond, and the library’s HVAC — like most large buildings with sections of various ages and walls that didn’t exist when the building was originally designed — isn’t keeping up with the change. So, after a much-needed lunch break, I came back to the warm auditorium for rounds two and three.

I wish I could share my thoughts about the day’s presentations, but I can’t. Ultimately, there were many examples of things done well and things done not so well, both in the products and in the presentations. We know where the bar has been set, so now it’s a matter of matching our expectations to what can be delivered. There is one more presentation to go, and these have been quite valuable for clarifying what is important to us in a discovery service.

After one last pass through the email inbox, bumping most action items to tomorrow, library day in the life round eight day three has ended.

#libday8 day 2 — mushy brain work

Arrived and was greeted with paper renewal notifications covering my keyboard. Set those aside, logged in, and began sorting through the new email that arrived overnight and earlier this morning. Updated my calendar with new meetings/events, as well as the time I’ve blocked out for various tasks for the day.

First thing I tackled was notifications to the subject liasions about upcoming eresource renewals. I’m using the modified annual review checklist and data thinger that I shared about last month, and I’ve received positive responses from the subject liaisons.

At 10, I started my on-call shift for the Main Service Desk. I don’t normally do this, but I’m covering for a reference librarian who has to teach a class this morning. Basically, it means I monitor the IM reference and email, and am available to help at the desk if they need me. It also means I can keep working on whatever I’m working on, unless I get interrupted.

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is retrieving use statistics for calendar year 2011. But, it has been slow going, as I’ve been distracted with other pressing projects that normally would not interrupt this annual Jan/Feb activity. Part of what is taking me longer to prepare the annual review checklist & data for the upcoming renewal is that I have to retrieve the 2011 stats and clean them up, rather than just pulling from the files I have already.

I would like to take a moment here to say that I would almost prefer no use statistics to the ones where they only provide them for a month at a time. This requires running 12 different reports for a year, and 24 if searches and sessions are not in the same report. I say almost, because at least I get something, even if it is a royal pain in the ass to retrieve and exemplifies the short-sightedness of the publisher. I’m looking at trends, not miniscule pieces of data.

My on-call-ness and/or electronic resources librarian-ness kicked in midway through the shift when I was called out to help a student download a book in EBSCOhost. We figured out that he needed an account in EBSCOhost, and also to install Adobe Digital Editions on the lab PC. This worked for now, but I have put in a request that ADE be added to the image for all student lab computers.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women WorldwideFinally wrapped up the renewal stuff plus the associated use statistics stuff in time for my on-call shift to end and my lunch hour to begin. I took the opportunity to enjoy the spring weather by heading off-campus to run some errands. As it happened, I finished listening to an audiobook just as I returned, so I left a short review on GoodReads. The book is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and it’s the One Book, One Campus selection at my university this year.

The next 20 min or so consisted of responding to email that had come in over lunch and checking Twitter. I didn’t want to get into much, since I was about to start my one hour shift at the Main Service Desk (actually staffing it this time around).

Desk was pretty slow. I had one question about where to find a book, and a few people looking for specific librarians. My co-consipirator at the desk and I spent some time kvetching about why it is that one of the highest ILL net lenders in the state (us) is still using clunky, out-dated software when even the most podunk libraries have ILLiad now. I looked at the stats from 2011, and ILLiad would have cost us less than a penny per transaction, and saved the user and the ILL staff so much time and lost productivity. My coworker thinks we’ll probably get it in the next year, but still… I can’t believe it’s taking so long!

Now back at my desk, I took a moment to follow up with EBSCOhost tech support regarding a problem we’ve encountered with the “Linked Full Text” in Academic Search Complete. I’d called it in last week and was waiting for a response. They still don’t know what’s broken, and it is still broken. Anyone else having problems with this?

Next I spent some time trying to sort out why in one month we received two invoices followed by two credit memos from the same publisher for the same resources. Turns out the invoices had errors and the credit memos were their way of zeroing out our balance. A simple explanation or note would have saved me a phone call. Ah, the joys of automated billing systems! While I was at it, I sent them a note with updated contact info, as one invoice/credit was addressed to a predecessor of more than six or seven years, and the other addressed to the collection development librarian who will be retiring this summer. Figured I’d get it taken care of now so we don’t miss something in the future.

To wrap up the day, I reviewed the responses to an RFI for discovery services that we sent out last month. We’ll be having demos of three different systems tomorrow, and I wanted to prep some follow-up questions in advance. So. Many. Words. I know I’m going to need a drink or two by the end of the day.

musings on web-scale discovery systems

photo by Pascal

My library is often on the forefront of innovation, having the advantage of a healthy budget and staff size, yet small enough to be nimble. Frequently, when my colleagues return from conferences and give their reports, they’ll conclude with something along the lines of “we’re already doing most of the things they talked about.” At a recent conference report session, that was repeated again, with one exception: we have not implemented a web-scale discovery system.

I’m of two minds about web-scale discovery systems. In theory, they’re pretty awesome, allowing users to discover all of the content available to them from the library, regardless of the source or format. But in reality, they’re hamstrung by exclusive deals and coding limitations. The initial buzz was that they caused a dramatic increase in the use of library resources, but a few years in, and I’m hearing conflicting reports and grumblings.

We held off on buying a web-scale discovery system for two main reasons: one, we didn’t have the funding secured, and two, most of the reference librarians felt indifferent to outright dislike towards the systems out there at the time. We’re now in the process of reviewing and evaluating the current systems available, after many discussions about which problems we are hoping they will solve.

In the end, they really aren’t “Google for Libraries.” We think that our users want a single search box, but do they really? I heard an anecdote about how the library had spent a lot of time teaching users where to find their web-scale discovery system, making sure it was visible on the main library page, etc. After a professor assigned the same students to find a known article (gave them the full citation) using the web-scale discovery system (called it by name), the most frequent question the library got was, “How do I google the <name of web-scale discovery system>?”

I wonder if the ROI really is significant enough to implement and promote a web-scale discovery system? These systems are not cheap, and they take a bit of labor to maintain them. And, frankly, if the battle over exclusive content continues to be waged, it won’t be easy to pick the best one for our collection/users and know that it will stay that way for more than six months or a year.

Does your library have a web-scale discovery system? Is it everything you thought it would be? Would you pick the same one if you had to choose again?