Evaluating Web-Scale Discovery Services
"By now, we librarians are familiar with the single-line form, the consolidated index, which represents a very large portion of a library’s print and online collection. Our end users certainly are familiar with the idea of a single search across a comprehensive index that produces a large, relevancy-ranked results list. Even though most patrons would not recognize the term web-scale discovery (WSD), it is what they have come to expect. More and more libraries are stepping up to meet their users’ expectations by implementing WSD services. Librarians around the world are trying to learn what these services are and how they work, evaluating the services on the market, selecting and implementing a service, and then teaching colleagues and patrons all about it." (...)
"Based on my investigations, this article explains WSD concepts and terminology, shares findings from my interviews with major WSD vendors, and provides a template checklist, which librarians can use during their own exploration of these systems (...)"
"This article relies on definitions largely based on Jason Vaughn’s January 2011 issue of Library Technology Reports published by American Library Association’s TechSource and on vendor websites and presentations:Earlier Library Boy posts on WSD include:
• Web-scale discovery. A preharvested central index coupled with a richly featured discovery layer providing a single search across a library’s local, open access, and subscription collections
• Central index. The collection of preharvested and processed metadata and full text that comprises the searchable content of a WSD service: Central indexes typically include full text and citations from publishers; full text and metadata from open source collections; full text, abstracting, and indexing from aggregators and subscription databases; and MARC from library catalogs; also called the base index, unified index, or foundation index.
• Discovery layer. The user interface and search system for discovering, displaying, and interacting with the content in library systems, such as a WSD central index ..."
- Electronic Resources and Libraries Conference - Web Scale Discovery (March 3, 2011): "...another big theme that emerged at the conference is what is called 'web scale discovery' or WSD (...) Basically, WSD tools claim to offer a unified search of all of a library's offerings through a single interface. Contrary to federated search, WSD tools are based on a pre-harvested centralized unified index of an institution's licensed and local collections. Services such as Serials Solutions Summon, WorldCat Local, Primo Central or EBSCO Discovery pre-index material from subscription databases, library holdings, dissertations, institutional repositories, e-book subscriptions, etc. to allow fast, simultaneous searching. We briefly looked into WSD at my place of work but decided not to pursue things further for a few reasons. In particular, not all vendors of legal research materials play along and will allow their content and metadata to be harvested into a unified index. And these tend to be relatively expensive products."
- OCLC Report on Single Search: The Quest for the Holy Grail (August 23, 2011): "The prominence of multidisciplinary research, the increase in the use of primary materials, and the desire to make new connections across disparate materials all would be advanced by the offering of single search to open up all the collections to the researcher (...) OCLC Research facilitated the working group of nine single search implementers through discussions about the opportunities for, and obstacles to, integrated access across an institution. They told their stories, categorized a list of issues, and created and answered a questionnaire looking for similarities and differences in their approaches. This brief report summarizes those discussions and highlights emerging practices in providing access to LAM [libraries, archives and museums] collections, with a particular emphasis on successful strategies in the quest for single search."
- AALL Spectrum Article on Discovery Tools in Law Libraries (November 30, 2011): "The most recent issue of the AALL Spectrum, a monthly publication of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), has an article on Discovery Layers in Law Libraries - A progress report on how our institutions are implementing this new technology (...) The author ... ran into some of the same problems we did at my place of work when we looked into discovery tools: 'Most concerning are the restrictive and expensive licensing policies of the largest legal information publishers [i.e. Westlaw and Lexis - my note],whose materials are by and large unrepresented in discovery layer systems because of these restrictions. What is the benefit of marketing such a tool to our students and faculty if their most vital sources of information are nowhere to be found in the system?' "
- Evaluation of Single Search Implementation at North Carolina State University (January 10, 2012): "Academic libraries are turning increasingly to unified search solutions to simplify search and discovery of library resources. Unfortunately, very little research has been published on library user search behavior in single search box environments. This study examines how users search a large public university library using a prominent, single search box on the library website. The article examines two semesters of real-world data, totaling nearly 1.4 million transactions. Findings include that unified library search is about more than the catalog and articles, though these predominate. Additionally, a small number of the most popular search queries accounts for a disproportionate amount of the overall queries."