- Product Trial
Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Anita Wilcox, E-resources Librarian at Boole Library, University College Cork in Ireland. The UCC library is an Explorit Everywhere! customer, and Anita, ever our advocate, graciously accepted the invitation to write a blog post for Deep Web Technologies’ “Customer Corner” amidst her busy schedule. Anita’s Enterprise Search Europe presentation may be viewed here.
When we opted for a federated search system in University College Cork Library, we were mindful of UCC’s strategic mission of becoming one of the best research universities in Ireland and globally. We realised that only a Federated Search System (FSS) can complement the student experience in the University.
However, with the advancement of Discovery tools, now called, Resource Discovery tools, we have come under tremendous pressure. Using Google as a benchmark, we are constantly being told that an FSS does not bring back properly ranked results, forgetting that it is Google that doesn’t necessarily bring back properly ranked results!
Recently, I went to the Enterprise Search Europe conference in London Olympia. It was a parallel conference to the Internet Librarian International conference; only this one is aimed at business enterprises. And the resources are mostly corporate knowledge base kept in-house; so search criteria is different. In Libraries we search almost all third party resources and our own Institutional repositories plus our catalogue. What amused me was the anecdotes like the CEO of an enterprise who thinks Google catches everything that is necessary for their work, and therefore “search doesn’t work!”
And it is here that I learnt about “slow search”! In an article called “Slow Search: Information Retrieval without Time Constraints” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2528394.2528395), authors Teevan et al tried to show “how people experience and value speed during search, and explores the viability of slow search as an alternative to current speed-focused approaches.” They used two user surveys (to) reveal how people trade off quality and speed… The overall aim of (their) paper was to inspire additional research on how search experiences can be optimized when less constrained by time. (p.2)
Keane, O’Brien & Smith from University College Dublin conducted a study on the use of Google search engine in 2008 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1314215.1314224). In my presentation I mentioned their findings that users are often “misled by the presented order of items”. They called this behaviours “satisficing”; the tendency to choose the most convenient and easiest route that leads to “good enough” information rather than the “best” information.
UCC Library opted for a federated search system because we believe one size does not fit all. Students are more mobile now with differing information needs. Our aim is to provide maximum visibility to all our resources that would include ways of clever searching. Explorit provides an intelligent search system through their Latent Semantic Text searching that is not possible in a pre-indexed service like a discovery tool which depends on the metadata provided by the publisher. To me, a discovery tool is like a key to a store, all products neatly labelled and shelved. A federated search system is like an archaeological dig; the more you narrow the field and dig deeper, the system delves deeper into those entrenched databases containing pertinent information.
Another reason is purely based on economics. A higher ranking Research University attracts more grants; so it makes a business sense to enhance our researchers’ experience by providing the necessary tools.
There are a number of challenges facing the Universities and other Academic Institutions at present – public-private partnership, change in user demography bringing in a change in user behaviour. At the same time the Discovery/Search environment is changing rapidly; we need to look for the MVP in whatever product we use; a product that will not restrict growth, but is scalable and enhance an organic development of the Institutional knowledge repositories.
In our case, the use of the federated search system became our MVP, not restricting our growth, but enhancing it, letting us grow organically. I did one training session with undergraduates before I went to the conference, and here is one comment: “Enjoyed the fact that we can create our own search engine – very helpful!”
The system allows them to develop their own critical thinking skills. Our users are growing up!!!
On October 6, ProQuest announced its intent to acquire Ex-lIbris, the Israeli company that provides a number of library automation products and services, and also provides the Primo Discovery Service.
So, soon all three of the major Discovery Services – EDS, Summon and Primo will be owned by EBSCO and ProQuest, two multi-billion dollar companies, who are fierce competitors and whose primary business is selling content and not Discovery Services.
In the past I have written a number of blog articles including Discovery Services: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in which I raised concerns that EBSCO and ProQuest don’t play nice together, limiting how much of their content they allow their competitor to provide in their Discovery Service. When they do include content from their competitors (not just the other Discovery Service vendor) they rank that content poorly.
Primo, owned by Ex-Libris, was different. Ex-Libris did not sell content and thus did not need to bias the order in which it presented results to the user.
In an October 6, 2014 article on its blog, Ex-Libris shared its frustrations on trying to reach a fair agreement with EBSCO that would allow Ex-Libris to index all of the EBSCO content in their Primo Discovery Service. I’m sure that these discussions will not become more fruitful now that Primo will soon be owned by ProQuest.
Carl Grant, in his October 8, 2015 blog post, comments on the ProQuest acquisition of Ex-Libris and in a paragraph on Content Neutrality underscores what I have been saying for years now:
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’ve lost another “content-neutral” discovery vendor as a result of this acquisition. That’s not a good thing for libraries, although most librarians ignore this reality. In the end, I believe they’ll regret doing so. We’ve had yet another check-and-balance removed from our supply chain. This post explains why content neutrality is so important and why that loss carries a potentially high price for libraries. So, in this regard, this is not good news. OCLC with their WorldCat offering remain our only content-neutral discovery solution at this point outside of open source solutions (which don’t’ have an aggregated metadata database like Primo Central, which provides important functionality for libraries).
From a Deep Web Technologies perspective I believe that this announcement is positive. Over time one of our competitors, Primo, will be absorbed into Summon, and libraries will increasingly see the advantages (transparency, neutrality and comprehensiveness of the content searched) that our next-generation Explorit Everywhere! federated search service has over Discovery Services.
Lots of libraries are doing it, sneaking off one day and subscribing to a discovery service. And after all, they’re catering to a new generation of researchers. The Google generation obsessively searches for everything – from restaurants to their next date. Many libraries are adopting discovery services as their new search of choice because it works fast and it’s good enough to give their undergrads something to work with that feels familiar. But, obsessive searching doesn’t necessarily mean good research.
Romanticized as the tool that will change researcher’s lives, discovery services are certainly intoxicating to think about. However, as some libraries are learning (and many of them are now our customers), subscribing to a discovery service doesn’t always shine the light deep enough into all of a library’s subscription information.
Fact: Discovery services arose, in part, from the resulting dissatisfaction of using those clunky old federated search tools back in the early part of this century. Federated search garnered a tough rap back in those days. However, just like the music industry, evolving from cassette tapes to CDs to MP3s to iPods, Federated Search has evolved as well. We consider Explorit Everywhere! the “next-generation” federated search. Explorit Everywhere! gives you a solid research foundation with plenty of bling to make your heart go pitter-patter. But, first and foremost, it’s about serious research.
Marshall Breeding, in his NISO whitepaper “The Future of Library Resource Discovery”, states “While there has been a major shift toward reliance on central indexes in support of discovery and away from technologies such as federated search, the change is not universal. Some institutions and projects have made deliberate choices to not adopt the index-based discovery model.
Stanford University, for example, has opted not to implement one of the commercial index-based discovery services. Even as one of the top research libraries in the world, it has not seen a great deal of interest from its patrons in having them acquire one of the commercial products”
Stanford happens to be an Explorit Everywhere! customer. It’s no coincidence that Stanford, as well as other top-notch research organizations, such as University College of Cork, abstain from discovery services. We’ve spoken of many reasons to steer clear from discovery services in previous blog posts, but for those still undecided, here is a good question to ask:
Who is your audience?
If your audience expects a vanilla solution that performs like Google and searches “enough” of your resources to get some decent looking results, then by all means, take the blue pill. But if your audience is comprised of serious researchers who need a comprehensive search of all of your sources, then we suggest abstaining from discovery services and find out how deep your information sources go.
Oh, and vendor neutrality? Try swallowing this pill: now that ProQuest is purchasing ExLibris, all three major discovery service vendors are owned by content publishers. Imagine where that puts results from your third-party sources or even information from competing discovery service vendors (the EBSCO-ProQuest conundrum).
One of our customers recently made this comparison: Discovery services are like a key to a storeroom full of goodies while Federated Search is like an archaeological dig. The more you dig, the more you find.
So here’s your tough choice: Obsessive searching, or serious finding?
The FEDLINK fall exposition, FEDLINK Forward @ 50: Blazing the Information Frontier, is coming up on November 9, 2015. Deep Web Technologies plans to be there, saddled up and rarin’ to go! The doors open at 8:30 a.m., and please stop by our table once the exhibits open at noon.
Abe Lederman visited the Library of Congress earlier this year, and spoke about why Google isn’t suitable for serious government researchers. His presentation touched on these topics:
- What is federated search?
- Science research portals
- Global resources that use multilingual translation tools
While Deep Web Technologies powers several public federated search portals such as Science.gov and National Library of Energy, we are also a FEDLINK approved vendor. If your organization has 10 or more research sources, stop by to speak with us about a search solution that may fit your needs.
One of Deep Web Technologies’ favorite customers is heading to the Enterprise Search conference in Europe, October 20 and 21. Anita Wilcox, E-resources librarian at the University College Cork Boole Library, will be speaking on their experience identifying requirements for a federated search or discovery services, and then choosing Explorit Everywhere! as their best solution.
CASE STUDY: Meeting User Requirements – Does One Size Fit All?Anita Wilcox, E-resources Librarian, University College Cork Boole Library
Academic libraries manage very diverse collections of documents and information. Four years ago UCC had to make a decision between implementing an e-discovery application or adopting a federated search approach. This presentation tells the story of that development from business case to the way it now meets user requirements.
The full Enterprise Search Europe program may be viewed here. We’ll be posting a followup after the conference! Stay tuned!
Wellspring, Deep Web Technologies’ newest partner, announced today the unveiling of their next-generation software platform that simplifies how users find and manage new technologies.
This groundbreaking software framework, code-named “Anavo,” is the result of 18 months of research and development. The Anavo technology seamlessly integrates real-time search of internal and external databases with workflow, assessment, and routing tools.
Last month, DWT and Wellspring announced their partnership to enable users to find and evaluate emerging technologies quickly and efficiently through their Search Once Scouting™ product. Search Once Scouting is a critical component of the Anavo software:
Wellspring partnered with Deep Web Technologies to develop the Search Once Scouting™, technology that enables users to investigate new inventions, patents, publications, and expert profiles in over 30 authoritative databases simultaneously. Users can import relevant results directly with no data entry and immediately begin their opportunity evaluation process.
We’re excited to be a part of Wellspring’s new venture!