NASIG 2012: Results of Web-scale discovery — Data, discussions and decisions

Speakers: Jeff Daniels, Grand Valley State University

GVSU has had Summon for almost three years — longer than most any other library.

Whether you have a web-scale discovery system or are looking at getting one, you need to keep asking questions about it to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

1. Do we want web-scale discovery?
Federated searching never panned out, and we’ve been looking for an alternative ever since. Web-scale discovery offers that alternative, to varying degrees.

2. Where do we want it?
Searching at GVSU before Summon — keyword (Encore), keyword (classic), title, author, subject, journal title
Searching after Summon — search box is the only search offered on their website now, so users don’t have to decide first what they are searching
The heat map of clicks indicates the search box was the most used part of the home page, but they still had some confusion, so they made the search box even more prominent.

3. Who is your audience?
GVSU focused on 1st and 2nd year students as well as anyone doing research outside their discipline — i.e. people who don’t know what they are looking for.

4. Should we teach it? If so, how?
What type of class is it? If it’s a one-off instruction session with the audience you are directing to your web-scale discovery, then teach it. If not, then maybe don’t. You’re teaching the skill-set more than the resource.

5. Is it working?
People are worried that known item searches will get lost (i.e. catalog items). GVSU found that the known items make up less than 1% of Summon, but over 15% of items selected from searches come from that pool.
Usage statistics from publisher-supplied sources might be skewed, but look at your link resolver stats for a better picture of what is happening.

GVSU measured use before and after Summon, and they expected searches to go down for A&I resources. They did, but ultimately decided to keep them because they were needed for accreditation, they had been driving advanced users to them via Summon, and publishers were offering bundles and lower pricing. For the full-text aggregator databases, they saw a decrease in searching, but an increase in full-text use, so they decided to keep them.

Speaker: Laura Robinson, Serials Solutions

Libraries need information that will help us make smart decisions, much like what we provide to our users.

Carol Tenopir looked at the value gap between the amount libraries spend on materials and the perceived value of the library. Collection size matters less these days — it’s really about access. Traditional library metrics fail to capture the value of the library.

tl;dr — Web-scale discovery is pretty awesome and will help your users find more of your stuff, but you need to know why you are implementing it and who you are doing it for, and ask those questions regularly even after you’ve done so.

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?