Notes from the Annual 2010 Discussion Forum "Discovery Systems: Solutions a User Could Love?"
- Marshall Breeding, who provided an "Overview of Discovery Systems."
- Scott R. Anderson, who shared Millersville University Ganser Library's experience with EBSCO's Discovery Service.
- Dale Poulter, who shared Vanderbilt University's experience with DiscoverLibrary (Primo Central).
- Ellen Safley, who shared the University of Texas at Dallas McDermott Library's DISCOVER search (Innovative Interfaces Encore).
Our panelists highlighted the experiences of libraries that have implemented "next generation discovery tools" that provide access to library collections from a single search box. Panelists' comments focused on user response and subsequent assessment of local implementations. A summary of the Midwinter 2010 discussion forum on the same topic can be read at
Panelist: Marshall Breeding, Vanderbilt University, Overview of Discovery Systems
Breeding began with an overview of the current discovery landscape by asking and answering the following two questions: from what has this technology evolved, and where is it heading? A typical library website may currently offer a menu of disjointed things requiring students/researchers to attempt different strategies and tactics to complete research. The job of the library, Breeding asserted, is to make the experience of accessing both content and services a more unified one for users.
Discovery services move toward accomplishing this mission by broadening the scope of a traditional ILS to include library content from multiple collections, including print, local digital, and vendor-supplied. Discovery services also offer a modernized interface, incorporating features familiar to web users, such as a single search box (and unambiguous starting point), intuitive search assistance (did you mean?, type-ahead suggestions), relevancy ranking, faceted search refinements, visual display features (book covers, user reviews), and community recommendations. In contrast, the typical library website at this time features a disjointed approach to information and service delivery, where silos of content prevail and distinctions between content are confusing to users.
Breeding stressed the point that non-library sites are often more unified, using Amazon as an example of a complex site which can be used successfully without instruction or apparent confusion.
While current trends have focused on discovery interface improvement of products that are mostly locally installed, the new phase of development will move to web-scale discovery, looking to integrate access to local content together with article content managed in a remote, single infrastructure. Examples of this trend include Serials Solutions' Summon, ExLibris' Primo Central, the EBSCO Discovery Service, WorldCat Local, and III Encore Synergy.
The near future of discovery services lies in continued focus on deep indexing (searching beyond the MARC record to the full text of ALL included content) and incorporation of social discovery features such as user tags and recommendations. Breeding suggested that the ideal interface will highlight a single point of entry along with very sophisticated tools to allow the user to drill down to more nuanced results. A final point was recognition of the huge business partnership and technology challenges entailed in pulling such a broad scope of content together in a centralized infrastructure for improved deep indexing and access. This achievement is well beyond what single libraries or even most consortia can accomplish on their own.
Panelist: Scott R. Anderson, Millersville University, EBSCO Discovery Service
As EBSCO Discovery Service’s (EDS) first customer, Millersville softly rolled out EDS to the Millersville community in February 2010. In so doing, they combined access to multiple content sources (multiple EBSCO databases, local collections housed in ContentDM, etc.) and library services (chat widgets, LibGuides widgets) into one place. EDS has increased the use of topic-specific databases. Because Millersville faces a two year period of being a virtual library due to a building project, Anderson needed to find a solution that could be quickly implemented without significant management overhead. He needed a solution that could integrate and present as much library content as possible, along with library services and contacts. Millersville conducted user testing and found that students actually seem to prefer the Advanced Search screen and found the interface to be user-friendly on the whole.
Panelist: Dale Poulter, Vanderbilt University, Primo Central
Vanderbilt’s instance of Primo Central has only been live for a short time, but has successfully provided access to licensed content from EBSCO, LexisNexis, and other providers, alongside open access repository content into a single search and retrieve interface. Students at Vanderbilt appreciate the “Google-like” search box, and database usage seems to be increasing. Poulter reported that the new deep indexing allows users to discover content they hadn’t found in the past. Examples include items from the Global Music Archive, Naxos recordings (through an ‘include results from music’ feature), ArtSTOR, and the Vanderbilt Television News Archive. In many cases the new aggregated discovery systems reveal content previously ‘buried’ in individual database containers. The move to Primo Central as an integrated discovery system saw a performance boost when compared to the earlier federated search model. Primo’s e-shelf content folder option is particularly popular.
Panelist: Ellen Safley, University of Texas at Dallas, Innovative Interfaces Encore
UT Dallas’ implementation of Encore sprung largely from dissatisfaction with its ILS. Usability testing on that ILS uncovered multiple points of failure; Encore was adopted to provide a more intuitive interface. The Encore discovery system currently lives right next to the traditional ILS search box on UT Dallas’ home page and supports about 30% of library searches. Informal testing has garnered mostly positive feedback.