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George Mason University (GMU), in collaboration with Deep Web Technologies (DWT), has just launched Mason OER Metafinder. Wikipedia explains that OERs, open educational resources, are “freely accessible, openly licensed text, media, and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.”
Mason’s OER Metafinder is the brainchild of Wally Grotophorst, Associate University Librarian for Digital Programs and Systems at George Mason University. Grotophorst explains the motivation behind collaborating with DWT to bring his idea to fru
What we want to do is help faculty identify open resources that they can adopt for the courses–and thereby save the students some money and still provide quality instruction. To support that desire, I had the idea of developing a search engine that would go across the various OER sources and help a curious faculty member quickly see just what sort of things might be available.
Grotophorst also noted:
We believe so much in OER that we’re giving small stipends to faculty who want to produce open texts (which we’ll publish through our Mason Publishing imprint). And, the Office of the Provost is also encouraging faculty to adopt OER texts.
Mason OER Metafinder supports the vision of the Mason Publishing Group, which aims to make textbooks more affordable. Their web page on Open and Affordable Education Resources explains their vision:
At Mason, we want to make your courses accessible to all students. One way to do that is to reduce the costs of the textbooks and other educational materials you use—and University Libraries can help. We offer support for reducing the cost of textbooks and for making library-licensed e-content available to your students. We’re also ready to help you discover, use or even develop and publish your own open educational resources.
Mason OER Metafinder searches fifteen of the leading OER repositories with a single query. Users can perform broad queries across all sources or they can search for terms in full record, title, or author(s). They can also specify a date range and narrow their searches to a specific date range.
A full record search for “calculus” identifies over 322,000 resources and displays the 623 most relevant ones. Results are clustered by topic, author, source, document format, and document type, making it easy to drill down to explore results of a particular type.
GMU is a long-time customer of DWT. GMU built Mason OER Metafinder using DWT’s “Search Builder” technology, where customers can create a search engine with custom search fields and sources.
My niece just started her freshman year at UC Davis. She spent $500 on textbooks. Her parents sure hope the OER movement continues to grow!
Explorit Everywhere! can save your research staff time and increase productivity. Explorit Everywhere! can also significantly reduce the likelihood that important information is missed.
We’ve developed a very convenient little calculator that lets you estimate annual cost savings of letting Explorit Everywhere! be your one-stop search solution. And, the system can send you alerts when new articles in your areas of interest are published.
Just enter the number of knowledge workers in your organization, the average annual salary and benefits per person, and the average number of minutes per day each person spends searching. We’ll estimate your savings based on different numbers of sources searched.
Give the calculator a try and leave us a comment with your impression!
I just got back from an exhausting but very enjoyable 5 day trip to the Bay Area where, as usual, I crammed in as many activities and meetings as possible.
I started out visiting a couple of colleges with my college-bound daughter who is planning to major in Biology (I’m sure that she’ll also be taking some chemistry courses as well). Then I visited friends, customers and prospects in my old haunting grounds (I lived in Silicon Valley most of the 80’s and the early 90’s). On Monday night one of my most senior employees drove 3 hours from Paradise (a small lovely town with a very cool name in the foothills of the Sierras) to have dinner with me in Fisherman’s Wharf. We took a cable car (his first in 30 years) to get from downtown to the Wharf area.
Lest I forget to mention, I did manage to squeeze in an afternoon this past Tuesday (April 4, 2017) at the 253rd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Let me digress for a minute. Speaking at the 253rd meeting of ACS got me curious as to when and where ACS held its first such meeting. So late Friday afternoon/evening I recruited Grace, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Librarian at Stanford University to help me answer this question. Although ACS was formed in 1874, the first of these twice a year meetings wasn’t held until August 6-7, 1890 in Newport, RI.
Back to my talk, I was invited to present the paper – Unique One Stop Access to a Multitude of Chemical Safety Resources to a workshop put on by CHAS (Chemical Health and Safety) Division of ACS. The paper summarized and demonstrated two gateways (a Stanford version and a publicly available version) that my company developed, working closely with Grace, that aggregate Chemical Safety information.
Please check out the public gateway at:
and do send me feedback through the blog on how we can improve the gateway.
Finally, as I have been reflecting on the work in Chemical Safety that we’ve done it’s become clear that what we’ve done is most of the way towards being a powerful resource to help accelerate Chemical Research in general.
One of the more common questions that I get from prospects and customers alike is why don’t we bring back all results from each of the sources that we federate? Just earlier in the week one of the librarians at one of our newest customers asked this question. I went back to our blog archive and dug up this wonderful blog article that Darcy wrote in 2015 – Getting the Best Results vs. Getting all of the Results and sent it on to our customer. I love it when I can answer a customer or prospect question by sending them a link to a blog article that answers their question.
So this afternoon I decided to expand a bit on Darcy’s original blog article.
In an effort at transparency and to inform our users of the status of searching, the user can look at Search Status popup that displays the list of sources searched with the number of results returned and the number of results found at the source (when the source provides this information). This Search Status popup is a link under the progress bar in the upper left hand corner of the Results page – the text of the link indicates the count of all sources involved in the search, e.g., “54 of 54 sources complete.”
Viewing the Search Status popup, the user can see, for a broad query, e.g., security, that collectively the sources may have available several hundred to thousands of results while we only retrieved up to the first 100 results. It does beg the question of why we can’t bring back all the results.
So let us for a moment go directly to one of the more popular sources that we federate — PubMed, a very large database of 20 million medical articles (some full-text but mostly just meta-data).
Doing the following PubMed searches:
“myocardial infarction” — returns 213,186 results
“myocardial infarction” AND aspirin — returns 7,395 results
“myocardial infarction” AND aspirin AND statins — returns 542 results
Even with the most specific of the above queries, PubMed still returned 542 results, more results than most users will review, and certainly more than we would like to return from a source. However, we could retrieve the 542 result if we wanted to.
The above example illustrates one of my main responses to the question – Why do we not bring back all results? – What I say is that instead of focusing on Explorit Everywhere! bringing back more results, the focus should be on users realizing that the issue is to be more precise in their queries so that they are getting the most relevant results. It is not very useful to get all the results if they do not help the user find the answer they are looking for. Doing a broad search like “myocardial infarction” that found 213,186 results is not as helpful as doing a more precise search like “myocardial infarction” AND aspirin AND statins” with its 542 results. In the more precise search, the user is more likely to find a relevant answer.
In conclusion, when users issue more precise queries, they will find that Explorit Everywhere! returns most or all of the available results at each source, with the results ranked using our secret sauce so the user can quickly and easily find what they were looking for across all available sources. For the case where more results are available at the source and the user needs to examine all results (perhaps they are doing some legal due diligence) then the user can go directly to the source and conduct the search there.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Michelle Powers, Director of Library Services at Career Education Corporation (CEC). The Colorado Technical University and a number of other schools owned and operated by CEC are Explorit Everywhere! customers.
In 2015, the librarians of Colorado Technical University wanted to investigate alternative options to our discovery search tool. While we were not unhappy with the system we had in place, we were often stymied by the inability to incorporate competing vendors into the system’s platform and create a truly seamless experience for our students who relied heavily on the ability to search multiple subscription resources at one time.
In short, we wanted a system that provided results from truly everything we had, based on relevancy, in a completely seamless fashion, through an easy-to-use interface.
To begin, it’s important to understand that CTU has 3 campuses: 1 online campus which serves students in a completely online environment and 2 ground campuses in which students can access a traditional library facility but rely heavily on the electronic database collection for academic research.
Each campus has a unique campus portal; therefore, there are 3 separate library portals. There are also some database differences, based on campus programs and other factors.
Our initial decision criteria included the following:
- We needed a system that we could implement across multiple campuses—giving our students and faculty who work in multiple campus environments the same experience
- We needed a system that would allow individual branding for our separate campuses
- The system needed to work well with a multitude of vendors
- They system needed to allow us to continue to track database usage from each campus
- We needed a system that could be embedded into our campus pages, which is behind a firewall and only available to authorized users
- We needed a system that would not require additional authentication from our students, such as a student ID, after they log onto the campus portals
- We needed the system to be intuitive for our users
- The system had to be affordable
We were at first hesitant to move back to a federated system, which is what we had in place prior to the implementation of the discovery system. Our federated system had burned images in our collective memory of clunky interfaces and groupings of results which confused users. However, after reviewing how Deep Web Technologies met the criteria outlined above we invited Abe to give us a demo.
We were impressed with Explorit Everywhere!’s easy-to-understand interface, and features like the Search Builder, the ability to categorize resources on the search page, the ability to embed the search widget into our LibGuides, and more. What we liked most about the product though was that it was vendor neutral and promised to incorporate all of our resources in a way our previous system did not.
In early 2016 we decided to make the switch and launch the Explorit Everywhere! search tool in April at CTU and multiple other institutions owned and operated by CTU’s parent company, Career Education Corporation. This meant an implementation of Explorit Everywhere! on nearly 50 campus portals in less than 3 months!
Deep Web Technologies’ team provided clear instructions of what needed to be done on our end, met regularly with our IT team and library leadership to ensure our timeline was met, created systems on the back end to allow for our requested search features, and created a method of providing the library with statistics.
Our launch was astoundingly…. quiet. No upset student responses, no confusion or dismay at the new interface. Our students and faculty took to the new system like fish in water, which reinforced the library’s own opinion that the system was easy to use, and satisfied the needs of our users.
Abe and his team including Christy Ziemba, Ellee Wilson, and Susan Martin have been awesome at responding to our queries and resolving any situations we’ve encountered with such a massive change.
The library is still gathering statistics to accurately calculate changes to usage with the implementation of Explorit Everywhere! We did immediately have increased usage in an e-book database that was unavailable through our previous system, and are expecting to find an overall increase in database usage, especially in the other resources unavailable in the previous system
Librarians smarter and better than me can argue the pros and cons of a federated system vs a discovery system. I can say that our students ultimately benefit by the comprehensive search feature Deep Web Technologies has offered us.
Disclaimer: CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations, and other disclosures at www.coloradotech.edu/disclosures.
My Biznar alert on Discovery Services recently deposited in my Inbox a link to this ProQuest blog article: A Guide to Evaluating Content Neutrality in Discovery Services. Although I have written about content neutrality before, most recently in October of 2015, in the blog article: The Last of the Major Discovery Services is Independent no More, because of the ProQuest blog article, I decided to revisit the topic in this blog article.
The blog article by ProQuest linked above and quoted below, raises my main concern about the content neutrality of Discovery Services (EDS, Primo and Summon) that are owned by companies whose main business is selling content:
A concern that some libraries may have is that discovery service providers, that are also content providers, have an intent and vested interest to funnel usage to their content. With the success of online services often based on usage metrics and the fact that the content sales model is driven by the “revenue follows usage” mantra, librarians should well be concerned about content neutrality in discovery services from such dual providers.
Also, in this ProQuest blog article, the author says – “ProQuest and ExLibris reaffirms our commitment to content neutrality in our discovery systems.”
Nowhere, however, have I been able to find any ProQuest write-up that backs up this claim that their Discovery Services are, in fact, content neutral. As one of our former Presidents, Ronald Reagan, was fond of saying – “trust but verify”. With that said, librarians should verify the content neutrality of their Discovery Services.
One test that I would encourage my readers to perform who have purchased a Discovery Service or have access to one is the following: Run 10 queries that cover different subject areas and record for each of the top 10 results where each of these top 10 results are coming from (EBSCO, ProQuest or another publisher). If a large percentage of your top 10 results in EDS are EBSCO results or a large percentage of ProQuest results are being returned by Primo or Summon among your top 10 results, then you have a content neutrality problem. I’d love to see your findings as comments to this blog article.
The NISO Working Group in their Open Discovery Initiative: Promoting Transparency in Discovery report makes a number of recommendations to Discovery Service vendors and librarians to help them evaluate and ensure the content neutrality of a Discovery Service. These recommendations are summarized in ExLibris’ A Guide to Evaluating Content Neutrality in Discovery Systems.
These recommendations include:
- Non-discrimination among content providers in how results are generated and relevance ranked.
- Non-discrimination in how links to results are ordered in a result list or made available via a link resolver. A potential problem might be how duplicate records are treated by the Discovery Service.
- Provide libraries with options to configure how links are labelled and displayed and how links to meta-data and full-text are provided.
In the ExLibris’ Guide, they state that “Content neutrality in a discovery system means that students and researchers are equally exposed to the entire wealth of information from all sources.”
Although, as you might expect, the Discovery Services don’t address the issue that content neutrality is seriously compromised by the inability of their Services to include in their indices ALL of the content that a library has available at the disposal of their students.
So, in conclusion, if you want to ensure the content neutrality of your institution’s Discovery Solution you should seriously consider an Explorit Everywhere! solution.
An Explorit Everywhere! solution provides your users with access to all of the content sources your library has licensed, ranked using our own publisher neutral algorithms (see Ranking: The Secret Sauce for Searching the Deep Web), with the display priority of duplicate results configurable. You might also want to include our partner’s Gold Rush publisher neutral link resolver.
To make Explorit Everywhere! more accessible, we have leveraged the Web Content Accessible Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) accessibility guidelines provided by the W3C’s (World Wide Web Consortium—an international standards body to ensure the interoperability between web products. Accessibility refers to making sure that the design of products is usable for the widest range of abilities, such as for persons with different visual abilities, hearing abilities, or physical abilities.
Often the phrase “Section 508 compliance” is used in conjunction with ensuring accessibility, especially by government agencies. Section 508, which refers specifically to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was amended in 1986, was passed to make sure that the Federal Government provides accessible electronic and information technologies to its employees—including computers, telecommunications, and so on, as well as access to web-based intranet and internet web pages and applications. More recently, though, the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 was passed to make sure that any state that receive Federal funding also adhere to some form of the Section 508 requirement.
WCAG 2.0 was written specifically for web content and web pages. It also leverages the same goals expressed in Section 508. In the WCAG 2.0, it has three priority levels of checkpoints where Priority 1 checkpoints must be met, Priority 2 should be satisfied, and Priority 3 may be addressed as part of compliance. In Explorit Everywhere!, we have confirmed that we meet most all of Priority 1 when applicable, many of Priority 2, and some of Priority 3 checkpoints. To better understand what changes we have made to meet these checkpoints, I am going to leverage WCAG 2.0’s four fundamental principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
For the first principle, Perceivable, we have striven to make all components of the user interface evident on our web pages; that is, nothing is hidden. We have also used common iconography rather than inventing new ones that might not be understood so well. For each UI component, we have provided text alternatives, which includes both visual hover-overs on the pages and text alternatives for blind readers. And, based on UX feedback, we have rearranged the structure of the components so that the relationship between them makes more sense to the user or programmatically. Moreover, the meaning of our UI components are not meant to be contextual—that is, they are self-contained, nor are they dependent on color to convey meaning. We do use color contrasts to make the different components stand out more.
For our customer University of the Arts, London (UAL), being a specialized school for the arts, we have extended our application even further for their users by offering a selection of color themes for a user to select from, which is then saved to the user’s preferences (see Figure 1). These different options are designed specifically to make the interface more visually perceivable for different visual needs. UAL also asked that we add the ability to resize the text on the web page directly (as opposed to relying on the browser). These functions are available to any customer who wants to further extend their accessibility to offer more support.
For the Operable principle, we have focused on: keyboard accessibility, timing between functions, and navigable. The most basic operable support is to support keyboard access to all UI components, and to avoid any keyboard traps, that is, getting to a component that cannot be moved away from using the keyboard. Moreover, moving through the components does not require any specific timing for individual keystrokes. And, we have ensured that when initially landing on any page, there is a focused component for commencing keyboard navigation. When applicable, we offer more than one way to view results and to do certain functions since not all users do things the same way. One area for improvement that we intend to implement in the near future is the ability to jump pass entire blocks of content while keyboarding.
For the third principle, Understandable, we have ensured that Explorit Everywhere! is readable, predictable, and supportive of user involvement. While we believe we have made all the UI components readable and predictable, there is more work to do in making application errors more evident. For readability, we have reduced jargon, kept explanations simple, and avoided abbreviations. Predictability means not letting components randomly change in any way unless initiated by the user. This includes making sure that navigation and UI components are consistent across all functions. We have also expanded user preferences to allow users to save specific UI changes, and we intend to do offer more preferences to users in future releases.
The last principle, Robust, refers to supporting assistive technologies. Besides extending the keyboard accessibility, we have also reviewed our application in blind readers by making sure that our textual labels both as alt text and as hover-overs are accessible.
We believe that Explorit Everywhere! is even more perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust than ever!
I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when I woke up one recent morning to an email message from Nick Dimant, Managing Director of our partner PTFS Europe. My company and PTFS Europe were partners-in-crime in a unique (hopefully to be repeated many more times) collaboration at the University of the Arts, London (UAL).
Nick had sent me a copy of – An innovative approach to discovery (available here), a feature article in the June 2016 issue of Update, the monthly magazine of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) by Karen Carden, Resources & Systems Manager, Library Services, UAL and by Jess Crilly, Associate Director, Content and Discovery, Library Services, UAL.
Carden and Crilly explain in their article in detail their justification and approach to implementing their Library Search solution which “brings together two separate products into (what looks like) a single interface for the user where they can search across our print and e-resources.”
Carden and Crilly discuss their selection of Explorit Everywhere! back in 2013 (which of course I love) in:
“After a great deal of research, discussion and testing we opted for an unusual – especially in the UK – next generation federated search tool. Like most libraries in the sector we had experienced first generation federated search, but found that this was quite a different experience.”
The authors describe UAL as a specialist university. What this means to me is that as a specialist university focused on the arts, a lot of the databases that UAL subscribes to are not mainstream databases and thus not included in the Discovery Services but easily federated by Explorit Everywhere!.
We give another example in Federating the Unfederatable of a specialist library, this time a defense/international policy focused university where Explorit Everywhere! provides the one-stop discovery of all the sources important to the library patrons, many not available through the Discovery Services.
If you’d like to read further on our Explorit Everywhere! solution at UAL check out these blog articles: Customer Corner – Paul Mellinger presentation, Promoting Explorit Everywhere! at UAL, and Faceted Navigation – UAL example.
In a January Sneak Peek blog article Darcy gave us a preview of some of what my engineers were working on. Now, I am excited to present to you faceted navigation, one of the coolest ever features added to Explorit Everywhere!
In an excerpt from Peter Morville’s Search Patterns (a classic on designing effective search focused User Interfaces published in 2010), Morville quotes Professor Marti Hearst (from UC Berkeley) as saying,
“Faceted Navigation is arguably the most significant search innovation of the past decade.”
Morville describes faceted navigation simply: “It features an integrated, incremental search and browse experience that lets users begin with a classic keyword search and then scan a list of results” (p. 95).
Our faceted navigation, combined with our clustering technology offers the researcher a more refined approach for zooming in to find the most relevant results from their search. When reviewing the cluster facets, which show other related terms to the search query, the researcher can narrow their results by selecting a Topic. With the Topic selected, the clusters are refreshed using those associated Topic results, and the researcher is presented with new facets only related to that selected Topic. It cuts out the noise, and allows the user to review very specific results.
Let’s now take a look at how faceted navigation works on one of our customer solutions at the University of the Arts, London.
We will start with a search for “Michelangelo” which returns 2,785 results (See Figure 1 above). And in the Topics list of clusters, we can see that there are several related topics: Art, Artist, Design, Sistine Chapel, David, Analysis, and so forth. These topics were derived from the results metadata returned from the 50 databases searched simultaneously.
By selecting the topic facet Sistine Chapel, the cluster facets were re-generated using the 81 results for that topic (See Figure 2). With this new view of the selected results, we now see more specific topics related primarily to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. While the topic of Ceiling Frescos looks interesting, I am curious to focus on the images under the facet Document Type.
As the researcher explores their results, our faceted navigation generates “bread crumbs” that record the drill-down of steps taken. In Figure 3, we see the trail of selections we have made so far. Clicking on > Sistine Chapel will let me step back up, and step down into the Ceiling Frescos when I want to. See Figure 4 below for some of the interesting images I found of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
The Deep Web fascinates most of us and scares some of us, but is used by almost all of us. While over the past couple of years, more and more information has surfaced about the Deep Web, finding reputable information in those depths is still shrouded in mystery. Abe Lederman, CEO of Deep Web Technologies, wrote a guest article for Refer Summer 2016, republished in part below. Refer is an online journal published three times a year for the Information Services Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
The Web is divided into 3 layers: the Surface Web, the Deep Web and the Dark Web. The Surface Web consists of several billion web sites, different subsets of which are crawled by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. In the next layer of the Web, the Deep Web consists of millions of databases or information sources – public, subscription or internal to an organization. Deep Web content is usually behind paywalls, often requires a password to access or is dynamically generated when a user enters a query into a search box (e.g. Netflix), and thus is not accessible to the Surface Web search engines. This content of the Deep Web is valuable because, for the most part, it contains higher quality information than the Surface Web. The bottom-most layer, called the Dark Web, gained a lot of notoriety in October 2013 when the FBI shut down the Silk Road website, an eBay-style marketplace for selling illegal drugs, stolen credit cards and other nefarious items. The Dark Web guarantees anonymity and thus is also used to conduct political dissent without fear of repercussion. Accessing the gems that can be found in the Deep Web is the focus of this article.
Michael Bergman, in a seminal white paper published in August 2001 entitled – The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value, coined the term “Deep Web”. The Deep Web is also known as the Hidden Web or the Invisible Web. According to a study conducted in 2000 by Bergman and colleagues, the Deep Web was 400-550 times larger than the Surface Web, consisting of 200,000 websites, 550 billion documents and 7,500 terabytes of information. Every few years while writing an article on the Deep Web, I search for current information on the size of the Deep Web and I’m not able to find anything new and authoritative. Many articles that I come across still, like this article, refer to Bergman’s 2001 white paper.
Many users may not be familiar with the concept of the Deep Web. However If they have searched the U.S. National Library of Medicine PubMed Database, if they have searched subscription databases from EBSCO or Elsevier, if they have gone and searched the website of a newspaper such as the Financial Times or went to purchase a train ticket online, then they have been to the Deep Web.
If you are curious about what’s in the Deep Web and how can to find some good stuff, here are some places you can go to do some deep web diving…