Local Library

Yesterday we had a demo of WorldCat Local from OCLC, which we felt gave a slightly different slant to resource discovery.  The system, unsurprisingly, is developed from WorldCat.org, the openly available service on the Web which provides one place for users to find and obtain materials from their closest libraries (e.g. by postcode), and all other participating libraries, up to an international level.

WebCat Local, which is the resource discovery/single search element claims to ‘improve web visibility of your holdings in the various WorldCat platforms, i.e. WorldCat on the open web (WorldCat.org), FirstSearch WorldCat, WorldCat for cataloguing (Connexion), WorldCat Resource Sharing and WorldCat Collection Analysis as well as via our various partners , such as Google, Google Books, Google Scholar and LibraryThing.’

This is done using a hybrid approach of a central index (which will harvest library holdings and certain licensed content) and meta-search (which searches the rest of your remote databases).  One area of the search which we’d like to see developed quickly is the ‘limit to full-text’ option, which is coming soon but not currently available.

Project team members liked the social features/functionality of the system, which OCLC hopes will make the site compelling to users.  These include user profiles,  lists (which we also thought could be utilised as a reading list system), easy permalinks (always handy to use in VLEs) and the Harvard Citation function which instantly cites an item for you (although it wasn’t in ‘our’ version of Harvard, apparently – wonder if this could be configured?).

Worldcat Identities was a great, if slightly hidden,  feature which allowed you to link to more detailed information about the author you’d encountered.  We also felt that the ability to make comparisons of holdings with either local or similar institutions through WorldCat would be helpful.

In all, quite a few pleasant surprises.  It will be interesting to follow the #JISCLMS project currently being undertaken by the Library at York St John via their blog http://yocalcat.wordpress.com/

Primo & Metalib

As well as recently seeing demos from Ebsco and Swets, last week we also looked at Primo & Metalib from Ex-Libris.  Some of us had already previewed Primo as the new British Library catalogue/discovery interface but we were keen to see the benefits we could expect as an existing customer of the Ex-Libris link resolver, SFX (we also discovered that we could discard our MARCIT service as Primo has this MARC import facility built-in).  Metalib was also one of the products we viewed around 4 years ago, so it was interesting to see how much things have developed since then.

Primo appears to integrate well with existing library catalogues (e.g. showing item availability) and institutional repositories, as well as providing a federated search for subscription databases.  We liked the sound of the features coming up in Primo 3 such as recommendations and multilingual functionality, and we’re also taking part in a webinar explaining more about the new version of Primo in the next couple of weeks.  The FRBRization of resources is also a valuable feature for us and something our users now expect, particularly when searching for both print and electronic versions of items.

As with all the systems we’re seeing, we have contacts to follow up and we’ll also be conducting user testing, as ever we are keen to pick the system that’s right for our users, not just convenient for us.

We have two more demos coming up this week, from OCLC and Encore.

Resource-Discoveried-Out

a resource-discoveried-out librarian, earlier today

It’s been a while, but be assured we’ve all been very busy with resource discovery demos and every day more opportunities to see the systems in action seem to be arriving in my mailbox.  In fact, to coin one project member’s phrase, some of us are a bit ‘resource-discoveried-out’ this week!

Firstly, we took a look at what Ebsco Discovery Service could offer us.  As part of Ebsco’s ‘Complete Discovery Solution’ this system promises deep indexing and ‘quality not quantity’ in the results it delivers.   Partnerships exist with Ebsco and most of our major database/ejournal suppliers and project group members liked the familiarity of the interface and thought that our users would too (although we’ll be testing that assumption at a later stage).

Another box ticked was the wide range of search options available from quick to advanced in various configurations, which went down well with our subject librarians.

Here are some more thoughts from our Graduate Trainee –

“Well, if you’re familiar with and enjoy using the EBSCO platform, it would seem you’re on to a winner. The new EBSCO discovery service shares the same look and feel as its sibling, but incorporates a lot more utility. Whilst this is a positive from a familiarity perspective, the advantage is of course lost in the event that students have never seen an EBSCO platform before. So, how much significance should be given to the continuity in platform design for the discovery service? Well, in a truly non-committal way I’d argue it is an advantage, but a slight-one, and should certainly not be the be-all and end-all when it comes to decision making.

Ready for the clichés? On the one hand we have the ‘better the devil you know’ approach. We use EBSCO, our students use EBSCO, so why not build on this head-start by implementing the new discovery service which looks and feels the same, but is actually better? All well and good you might say, but what about the adage that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’? I’m sure everyone has an opinion on some of the quirks of EBSCO, and whilst I’m unable to determine whether these might have been ironed out, there’s surely no harm in considering a move away from the platform, familiar or otherwise. So, what’s the verdict? Well, I was quietly impressed during the demonstration and would certainly like to have a play around in the event that a trial could be arranged. “

Swetswise Searcher

Yesterday a few members of the project team attended a fairly brief demo (as part of a much longer meeting!) by Swets, our subscription agents, to showcase their new federated searching product Swetswise Searcher.

This product has developed from a partnership between Swets and Deep Web Technologies (a US-based provider of custom, federated search solutions such as Explorit) and we were keen to see how it compared to other products seen so far. A small snag here is – as it’s so new there are no examples of successful implementations in the UK.

A demonstration of the Swets test site appeared to tick many of the boxes on our evaluation sheets, and search results were quickly delivered.  We do, however,  now need more information on how easily the system would integrate with our existing systems and on how many connectors to major databases are already available or being developed.

To give the presenter credit, she had only seen the product herself for the first time earlier in the week, but she did take all our questions on board and I expect to have more details soon!

It would be great to hear from anyone with any experiences of using DWT.

*Addendum

I’ve now had a follow-up demo of Swetswise Searcher ,via a webinar, from Abe Lederman -founder of Deep Web Technologies and Author of Federated Search Blog and Marieke Heins, from Swets in the Netherlands – who is the product manager for SwetsWise Searcher.  Abe and Marieke were able to explain the benefits of the system in more detail, including the speed in which first results appear (due to incremental searching the results from the quicker databases are displayed while the results from slower databases are still being retrieved) and the high number of results retrieved which combines with a 5-star rating system for relevance ranking.  The system has also been proved to work with SFX and EZProxy, but as I was the only group member available for the webinar I’ll be sharing my findings, and the demo sites we’ve been sent, with the project group in the near future.

Resource Discovery mini road trip!

Last week was a busy one for the Project Team.  The week began with some of us attending the Ebsco Information Day in Leeds, where our main aim was to see a preview of Ebsco Discovery Service, their new resource discovery product.  Unfortunately this session was the last of the day and I missed out due to other commitments.  Colleagues, however, seemed very positive about the product in principle and it will be interesting to see a full demo when Ebsco visit us in April.

Later in the week we had a visit from Serials Solutions to demonstrate Summon.  I’ve already posted the thoughts our graduate trainee had on the product but in general staff felt, from the demo, that Summon looked good (simple, clean design and layout) and liked the way that results were retrieved and displayed.  There are still questions about the knowledge base and how the product searches and deals with various data that we need to ask the vendor and existing users.

Finally a couple of us saw a demo of the British Library’s new beta catalogue which uses Primo, during a Forum for Inter-lending (FIL) event at the BLDSC.  It was interesting to hear how the BL had gone through a very similar process to the one we are planning – looking at ‘Google-style’ interfaces after their primary research exercise had indicated users’ preference for Google & Wikipedia… It also became clear that it’s difficult to obtain a balance between too much and too little regarding information and design and that this can be the difference between ‘clear and simple’ or ‘busy and complicated’. The BL are looking for feedback from users and encouraged us all to take a look and send them our views.

First thoughts on Summon

Today was our first resource discovery demo and it happenned to be Summon from Serials Solutions.  Our Graduate Trainee came along to the demo and has sent me his take on the system.  Our GT  is also completing a PhD – so he is well-placed to provide a student and researcher’s perpective on resource discovery…

Summon – thoughts from a student (and non-expert perspective)

The simple interface provides an encouraging first impression, and its similarity to Google is likely to be an advantage from a student point of view. In terms of reducing barriers to use, then I imagine the simpler the interface the better, and on this point, Summon does well. It is easy to use and navigate, and the abstracts it returns from search results are on the whole clear. I would however like to see them formatted more effectively to allow for a quick summary of the sources of articles to be made.

My primary concern relates to the management of data and the suitability of search functions to allow for academic coverage that is comprehensive without being overwhelming. For example, a basic search of the term UK Transport Policy through Summon reveals nearly 60,000 results on the University of Huddersfield’s Library website. There are of course filters to help sort the data, but my first impression is that these are not particularly effective (I also find the automatic updating of the results after the selection of a single filtering item to be very frustrating). Similarly, having had a brief play around with it, I find the advanced search feature slightly confusing with regards to the search terms that it uses (this assessment must be quantified by the fact that I speak as a regular user of MetaLib, so am of course used to the nuances of that particular system). For novice users of the system then, I wonder if they might just find it all a bit too much!?

Resource Discovery Revisited at Leeds Met Library

Welcome to the project blog investigating Resource Discovery and Federated Searching systems for Leeds Met Library.

As an introduction/background to the project I’ll explain why I’ve used the word ‘revisited’ in the title of this first post.  Leeds Met Library last investigated federated searching solutions when we were looking for an Open URL product during 2006/07.  At this time the 3 main products  we evaluated were from Serials Solutions, Ex-Libris and Ebsco.  When we decided to chose SFX, the Ex-Libris product, the use of their federated searching system Metalib seemed like a natural progression, however various factors delayed further investigation or implementation of this (or any other) product.

Now, however, we are more than ready to move on and have become aware that the market for resource discovery has developed (as these things do!) beyond anything available 4 years ago.

The key objective of the project is to improve overall discoverablity of print and electronic resources for students and staff at the University.

The project group itself consists of colleagues from each ‘stream’ of the department (Academic, Resources, Technologies and Operations) and I hope all of them will be as enthused as I am about the project and contribute to this blog (i.e. help a fledgling blogger to add some of the content!).

We’ve had an initial meeting, decided on Terms of Reference and are now at the stage of organising vendor demonstrations and setting criteria to evaluate the systems against.

I hope to include demo highlights on the blog in the near future, so that’s something to look forward to 🙂

Two recommended  & excellent blogs I’ve already added to my RSS reader are Federated Search Blog and eLibrary (Birmingham City University eLibrary Team).

Well, as someone more used to microblogging (@DebbieMN), this has taken me ages to write but I think it’s going to be a useful addition to the project, if only as a reflective tool for the group’s collective thoughts.   And if it’s half as good as our repository blog I’ll be happy 🙂