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!?