- Product Trial
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.
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.
Customer stories are the lifelines of Deep Web Technologies. We revel in hearing how an unassuming
researcher shortened their workday and redirected their energy toward other tasks. Or how a Nursing Instructor had allotted an hour for an article search and his task was complete in sixty seconds! The story below comes from our friend Anita Wilcox at the University College Cork Library.
I met a friend of mine in the library last week who I haven’t seen for ages! In the course of catching up on gossip she told me that she was studying for a Health & Safety course in UCC and had been looking for a case report relevant to her group project. She had gone through all the printed law reports and had searched all the major law databases individually, but couldn’t find the case! So I gave her a one minute quick tour of Explorit Everywhere! (we call it Searcher here). She didn’t know the name of the case or when it was heard/reported. I showed her how to do an Advanced Search limiting only to law specific databases and using keywords, and then limiting to topics on the results screen. I was in a hurry, so I left. Within a minute I got a text from her saying she found the case! Now, that’s what I call a miracle! A whole day’s search was resolved within minutes by searching through Explorit Everywhere!.
Read more from Anita in her blog post on Why a Federated Search.
Our customers are often surprised that they can limit to specific sources or categories of sources to know exactly what they are searching. Researchers have control over their searches, rather than searching “everything” and wading through ambiguously ranked results, weighted to a publisher’s content. Explorit Everywhere!, through a transparent interface and search of information puts our researchers into the driver’s seat. It’s a powerful tool, for power-researchers.
Editor’s Note: This presentation was given by Paul Mellinger, Discovery Manager (Resources & Systems), at the University of the Arts London (UAL), to attendees of the PTFS Europe Customer Day in early December 2015. PTFS Europe and Deep Web Technologies (DWT) recently partnered to broaden PTFS Europe offerings, and to provide the opportunity to integrate Explorit Everywhere! federated search and Koha library software for customers. UAL, already a customer of both services, kindly offered an educational review of UAL’s experiences with Explorit Everywhere!. As a follow up, Paul also graciously wrote the following excerpt to accompany his presentation on the Deep Web Technologies’ blog.
For those of you unfamiliar with Prezi, use the bottom left and right arrows to scroll through this presentation.
The aim of the presentation was to give some historical context to the current Library Search offering from UAL Library Services and to attempt to explain the seemingly unusual choice of employing DWT’s next-generation federated search engine ‘Explorit Everywhere!’, branded as ‘Articles Plus’. The first half of the presentation charts the progress of the Library Services web portal and its inherent search options, whilst the latter half comprises a series of screencasts, highlighting some of the features of ‘Articles Plus’.
A few metaphorical images were used, the relevance of which may not be immediately apparent, without the accompanying talk.
The appearance of Capability Brown and his work as a landscaper is a fairly obvious comparison to the process of assessing and designing the library portal to fit the information landscape. I thought it pertinent, in the light of the evolution of UAL’s Library Services web pages, that Brown’s nickname was not due to his prodigious talent, as widely-believed, but because he would always tell his landed clients when assessing the scope of the grounds that they possessed “capability” for the landscape to be improved.
The image of ‘Apples and Oranges’ was mentioned at various points throughout the presentation to allude to the process of deciding which resources were to be searched together, e.g. in the Library Catalogue (Koha) or in ‘Articles Plus’ (Explorit Everywhere!) and which would be searched entirely separately, e.g. the UAL Archive Catalogue. This also helps to explain the mock-up search of ‘Books and e-Books’, which illustrates the flexibility of Explorit Everywhere! and offers a possible solution for the possibility of removing e-books from the library catalogue.
The metaphor of the scuba diver and the jet ski was taken from page 17 of the book ‘The Shallows: how the Internet is changing the way we think, read and remember’ by Nicholas Carr. In the book, it is used to describe the experiential difference between reading books and reading content on the internet. I thought that this represented an appropriate analogy to demonstrate the philosophical underpinning of our choice of discovery tool as it reflects the difference in the respective models of ‘web-scale discovery services’ and federated search engines, the former marketed for the ‘Google Generation’ and dependent on huge banks of pre-harvested metadata, the latter open to genuine customisation, providing the ability to delve down into customer-specific resources and therefore more conducive to ‘deep’ research.
The quote from Roy Tennant highlights the irony that it was bandied around by vendors of web-scale discovery tools around 2009-2011, although it was originally written in 2001 to extol the ability of federated search engines to allow users to search multiple electronic sources, without having to access and become familiar with each individual search interface.
The deep zoom-back to reveal the final slide of the presentation is intended to depict the ‘unknown’ information landscape of the future.
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!!!