Imagine you’re an undergraduate (or a graduate student, or a professor) at Harvard (or Cambridge, or the Sorbonne, or anywhere, really). Your library subscribes to thousands of e-journals and thousands more e-books, hundreds of databases, and still has row upon row of shelves holding strange things called ‘books’. Confronted by this overwhelming choice and with your essay due tonight, where do you start? You go to Google, of course.
Now imagine a world where that’s not the case, where users actually start their discovery with a search engine provided by the library itself, and which directs them to the most appropriate content for their search that the library has available, rather than to the mixed bag of results that Google throws out. The last couple of years have seen the development of so-called ‘library discovery services’, such as Summon, from ProQuest’s Serials Solutions business, EBSCO’s Discovery Service, and Ex Libris’ Primo Central, all of which aim to put the library back at the center of search and information discovery.
This isn’t a new idea, of course; there have been all kinds of attempts over the last decade to provide a more integrated library search experience across the huge range of electronic resources libraries currently provide access to through A-Z journal lists, federated search tools, and of course the library’s OPAC (online catalog). What all these suffer from, in comparison to web-scale search tools such as Google, is not only the fact that they are incomplete (OPACs dont include database information, federated search tools can only search a limited set of metadata, etc), is that they don’t provide the user with easy access to the full text. This is exactly what Google provides, no matter whether an article or database entry is best suited for a users needs, no matter where it comes from, no matter whether or not it has been selected or purchased by the library.
Mike Buschmann, Senior Product Manager with Serials Solutions, and responsible for developing Summon, comments that Multiple studies have shown that users, despite understanding that the high-quality, credible content they need for their research is in the library, consistently end up searching the web because it is irresistibly simple, easy, and fast. We built Summon to meet the expectation of speed and simplicity to the digital front door of the library, in order for users to easily discover the full breadth of the high-value content in a librarys collection.
Library discovery services aim to index all the content a library has access to electronically (either by indexing the full text or just the metadata), as well as integrating records for print holdings and other content-types that are still available in physical form, such as maps, microform, photographic collections, and so on. The crucial difference between this and previous search tools is that library discovery services don’t search the library’s locally-held resources one-by-one; instead, they index and search a centrally held database of publisher content, thereby allowing more complete indexing, much faster searching, and more complex integration of result sets. In addition, rather than seeing multiple results for the same article if it’s held in several different databases or abstracting and indexing services, these search tools display a composite result for each item. Linking from the list of results to the full text of an article is also controlled by the library through their link resolver system, so a user is directed to the most appropriate full text copy a library holds, generally the version of record on the publisher’s own platform.
This looks likely to be a huge benefit to publishers; according to research carried out by ProQuest at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, one of Summon‘s early adopters, using Summon hashad a significant impact on how students were connecting to content and the type of content they were using [ ] for example, in the first four months, Academic Search Premier saw a usage increase of 92%, General OneFile increased 179% and ABI/INFORM rose 354%. In addition, GVSUs top 100 journals showed an average usage increase of 48%, while the top 1000 had increased usage of 82%.
Wiley-Blackwell already works with a large number of abstracting and indexing services, such as Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science, Elsevier’s Scopus and the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed service. We believe that exposure to A&I services, whether in print or online, increases discoverability of Wiley-Blackwell journals, and drives usage of content on Wiley Online Library. Library discovery services have the potential to offer a major leap forward in terms of enabling end-user access to electronic content, and were looking forward to working with them to ensure that Wiley-Blackwell content is represented in these services, and that our online journals and books derive maximum benefit in terms of discoverability and usage from our participation.