- 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.
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.
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 Professional Services department at Deep Web Technologies is extending its Account Management efforts to assist our customers in getting the most out of their Explorit Everywhere! (EE!) service. As with most any software service, it is possible to use its basic features easily, and EE! is no exception. Everyone who has EE! can do searches, review results, and create alerts with ease. But, we also all know that to really get the most out of any technology, it needs to become part of our habits. And for EE! that means having it available where you need it whenever you have a question or an information need. After all, while Google has become a habit for many, EE!, with its high quality, authoritative, and often expensive sources purchased by our customers for their users, needs to be that habit for those information needs and questions that Google can’t easily answer.
Explorit Everywhere! has several features that can help customers integrate their search application into their website. That way it’s there for their users wherever they need it. And folks at DWT want to help. Three quick and easy ways to better integrate your EE! searcher include:
- Add a link to your EE! Quick Search or Advanced Search page from a menu, icon, or text on different pages on your website.
- Integrate the EE! Quick Search Widget box on any website page, which will allow users to search from where they are. Then a new browser window or tab will open with the results. The widget is part of every EE! application.
- If your organization has specialized departments or research groups, then we recommend they use Search Builder. The Explorit Everywhere! Search Builder feature, available through the EE! menu and requiring an account, allows a department admin, research lead, or any faculty to create a search widget specific to their group’s information needs by selecting databases and search fields specific for that group. Then that tailored search widget can be placed on any web page. See how one of our customers, University of the Arts, London integrated Search Builder into their Lib Guide Subject pages.
Another part of DWT’s Account Management campaign is to help our customers fine-tune their Explorit
Everywhere! service so that the quality of results meets their users’ needs. As we all know, while there are hundreds, if not, thousands of information databases, they all perform differently and provide a wide range of data. And the advantage of EE! is its ability to bring all those results from multiple databases together. So, given that your databases may be a combination of medical, news, journals, or other informational websites, we can help you tune your application so your searches display the most meaningful data.
In the coming months, here are a couple of different things we will be doing behind-the-scenes to make your EE! searcher work better for your users:
- We recently added the means to fine-tune how the first page of results are generated. As part of our Account Management services, we will be reviewing your EE! service to ensure that those first results are the highest ranking results.
- In addition to our daily monitoring of your connectors to make sure they are working, we will be doing periodical reviews to make sure we are optimizing them for quality results. Sources often add new search fields and new results data. For example, we have been incorporating the ability to search using journal DOI or PubMed ID numbers in the Full Record field in EE!, which includes the Quick Search box. Our goal is to make sure your EE! service makes the most of the source.
Lastly, we will be asking our customers to fill out a short survey to facilitate more discussion so we can better understand how to help make Explorit Everywhere! be the best service possible. We also look forward to having more conference calls with our customers. Ultimately, we want our customers’ users to best use EE! to fulfill their information needs.
I and some of my staff have had the pleasure to work closely with Grace Baysinger, Head Librarian and
Bibliographer of the Swain Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Library at Stanford University, to develop a unique research gateway focused on chemical safety.
My relationship with Grace goes back two decades when I developed SciSearch@LANL, a precursor to Web of Science for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Grace was our customer representative at Stanford.
More recently we have worked closely with Grace on development of xSearch (Stanford’s name for Explorit Everywhere!, our largest federated search implementation.
I have asked Grace to give us an overview of this important chemical safety resource that we have developed together.
While chemists are one of the most intensive users of information, many are unfamiliar with chemical safety resources they should consult before working in the lab. Chemists consulting materials safety data sheets or safety data sheets (MSDS/SDS) discover that they often have “NA” or not available for physical properties that they need for their lab work.
Grace’s goal in working with Deep Web Technologies was to develop a research gateway that provides access to a wide collection of information sources focused on chemical safety. This gateway uses federated search technology, the ability to search multiple sources at one time, which helps users find the information they need more effectively and efficiently. It is possible to view results visually, move to a particular resource in the search results, and to set up an alert to be notified when new information is published on a topic. Common search terms include chemical name, CAS Registry Number, and searching topics using keywords. If a resource contains InChI or SMILES values for a chemical substance, it may be used as a search term too.
Moving soon from prototype to production, the Stanford University version of the chem safety gateway will be a collaborative effort between the Stanford University Libraries and Stanford Environmental Health and Safety. This gateway has 60+ information sources that includes SDS/MSDS, safety data, syntheses and reactions databases, citation databases, full-text eBooks and eJournals, plus a number of Health & Environmental Safety (EH&S) websites. While the SDS/MSDS and safety data resources form the core of this collection, curated databases such as Organic Syntheses, Organic Reactions, Science of Synthesis, Merck Index, Reaxys, and the e-EROS (Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis) include protocols and safety information that is useful to bench chemists. eBooks and eJournals are full-text searchable, allowing researchers to find property and safety information in handbooks and methods and protocols in journal articles. EH&S websites from selected universities plus websites for the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety, and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will help users discover information such as training materials, standard operating procedures, and lessons learned. Search results for a chemical name search also include the “Chemical Box” from Wikipedia in the right column.
At the ACS National Spring 2016 Meeting held in San Diego, Grace and colleagues from Stanford’s EH&S Unit gave a presentation on Using a chemical inventory system to optimize safe laboratory research in a Division of Chemical Health and Safety symposium. The first part of this presentation covers ChemTracker and the latter part (starting on slide 23) shows screen shots of the Stanford Chem Safety Gateway. Slide 24 has a list of the resources being searched in the Stanford gateway. For a current list of resources, please see Grace’s recent blog entry, Chemical safety resource gateway available.
Grace then helped the DWT team develop a public version of the Chem Safety Gateway that is available to test-drive at:
This public site searches a subset of the sources that are searched at the Stanford site as DWT is not able to search subscription sources through their public site.
Please test-drive the public version of the Explorit Everywhere! Chem Safety Gateway and give Abe feedback as to how useful it is to be able to search a broad set of chemical safety resources at the same time. Be sure to register (not required to search) to use the Alerts and MyLibrary features. Did you find that the gateway returned relevant results? What sources (subscription or public) would you add to make this gateway even better? Do you have any other suggestions for improving the gateway?
Please email your feedback to email@example.com
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are web based technologies used to offer online classes. The most common LMS are Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, and Brightspace (previously known as Desire2Learn). And there are many more edging into the market because the idea of providing an online educational portal is really taking off. It’s one of the fastest-growing markets out there!
These LMS are used not only for online classes, but also for the traditional, face-to-face classrooms as an online portal for managing course materials, for offering bulletin boards for online discussions, and for turning in assignments. Given this growing, ubiquitous need for any classroom (including K-12, corporate, etc.) to cultivate an online presence, you would think that one of the central features of these LMS would be to allow for easy incorporation of the library into their online portals since every learning setting has one. But alas, this is far from the truth. In fact, it’s just the opposite. (See Libraries in the Learning Management System, Farkas, 2015)
For most of these LMS, they have no easy user interface modules that allow instructors to include library tools such as access to librarians (e.g., Ask a Librarian), subject focused web pages (e.g., LibGuides), much less a module for students to search the school catalog and the numerous available research databases. Often the best the instructors can offer is a link to the library website as an additional resource. The goal, however, should be to bring the library into these online portals, not have the student leave them.
At Deep Web Technologies, we have been researching how to improve this situation for our customers since the primary goal of our federated search tool, Explorit Everywhere!, is to help librarians provide students with easy, quick, and direct access to their subscription content. We found that for most LMS, if they have tools to support third-party content, it is an additional cost to access these features to incorporate library materials. Then, after the school does add these additional LMS features, the librarian has to do further work to get access to the course management interfaces and do the work to develop these modules. Once all of this is in place, the librarians will most likely need to work with the instructors to coordinate adding their library tools to their course management pages. Obviously, such an ordeal does not scale for the hundreds of instructors at larger institutions.
Every LMS should automatically support incorporating the library as one of their base features. For any LMS, it should be easy for an instructor to configure an Explorit Everywhere! Search widget so students have easy access to the library’s catalog and subscription content. Moveover, the instructor can use the Explorit Everywhere! Search Builder to customize their search widget to search specific course-related databases. Librarians work hard to make their library useful and patron-friendly. Learning Management Systems need to work with them, not put up more barriers.
Every morning I wake up to a number of Alerts generated by a number of our portals including Biznar, Mednar and Science.gov. Yesterday morning one alert with the title – Is Google good enough for Medicine – caught my attention.
In their editorial commentary in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 3 medical professionals from down-under talk about how Google (now a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary) is changing the way that doctors practice medicine.
Here’s one anecdote that Dr. Cindy Shin-Yi Lin and her colleagues relate that I found interesting (and scary):
“In a recent letter, a rheumatologist describes a scene at rounds where a professor asked the presenting fellow to explain how he arrived at his diagnosis, ‘I entered the salient features into Google, and [the diagnosis] popped right up’.”
The authors of the editorial also talk about:
“Most clinicians will be familiar with the increasingly frequent scenario of a patient entering the consult room with a sizeable stack of printed webpages containing symptoms, pictures and a dreaded list of potential (and often grave) diagnoses that will undoubtedly commit the clinician to an arduous task of analyzing (and not infrequently, refuting) this information with the ‘cyberchondriac’ patient.”
If this topic interests you check out this blog article that we published last year – Relying on Google for Science Information is Bad for your Health, and if you want to bring more authoritative stacks of paper to your physician in your next visit try out our freely available medical research site, Mednar which searches 40+ sources of quality medical information all at the same time.
Oh, and I love that mug!!
Problem – Your Explorit Everywhere! solution (particularly at academic institutions) is typically setup to search a wide spectrum of sources that aren’t always relevant to every researcher or student. Special groups (e.g. the Chemistry Department, the Psychology 101 course, or the High Energy Physics Division within a research lab) may prefer to search only a handful of resources, and don’t want to be overwhelmed by results from irrelevant sources. Sound familiar?
Our elegant solution – Explorit Everywhere! Search Builder
Each Explorit Everywhere! application comes loaded with Search Builder, a search engine creation tool designed to create custom search engines that only search the specific sources your user group needs. For example, an instructor teaching a class on Computer Programming may want students to research responsive design using four selected resources. Rather than tutoring the class in how to use their Explorit Everywhere! Advanced Search and limit the search to the four relevant resources, the instructor can simply create a search engine designed for his students that only search those resources the students should search. Then, he can place a search box to this new engine on his course page to make it even easier for his students.
There are some Deep Web Technologies customers that create, use, and market only Search Builder engines engines that only search the specific sources your user group needs. For example, an instructor teaching a class on Computer Programming may want students to research responsive design using four selected resources. Rather than tutoring the class in how to use their Explorit Everywhere! Advanced Search and limit the search to the four relevant resources, the instructor can simply create a search engine designed for his students that only search those resources the students should search. Then, he can place a search box to this new engine on his course page to make it even easier for his students.
Search Builder can create unlimited search engines for one person, groups, teams or even enterprises. Admins can build search engines for each department, students can create their own search portal with a personalized search box, professors can modify search engines for their classes, and teams can search the most relevant resources and delve into their critical materials most efficiently.
Search Builder can be integrated into:
- Learning Management Systems
- Corporate Portal
- CRM Systems
Help your researchers be be efficient – Use Search Builder. And, if your organization uses one of the pesky Discovery Services which don’t allow, or at least don’t make it easy to limit your search to relevant resources, Search Builder is a great reason to switch to Explorit Everywhere!
I just came across this Fall 2014 survey conducted by one of our competitors who shall remain nameless (at least until you click on the link at the end of this blog post) which I found interesting and wanted to share with our readers.
Our competitor surveyed members of SLA (Special Library Association), mostly members of the PHT (Pharmaceutical & Health Technology) Division on whether they use federated search today and if not would they find federated search useful and what features would such a federated search solution need to have.
Question 2 of the 6 question survey asked – “Does your information center provide a ‘federated search’ function that allows users to search *all* of your organization’s online content resources with a single query? 81% of the respondents said “No”.
Explanations as to why federated search has not been more adopted in pharmaceutical companies, even though these companies have a wealth of content to access (and accessing this content is not so easy), seems to have to do at least to a large extent, with the lack of IT cooperation with the Knowledge Management or Information Services Group.
Marydee Ojala, Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher and one of my favorite people at Information points out that:
“Searchability of electronic resources has long been piecemeal, but a federated search solution must take into account the IT infrastructure already in place.”
I have certainly been on a number of prospect calls which included IT where the was a lack of understanding of the power of federated search and a reluctance to add yet another tool to the set of tools/software that IT needs to support. What I propose to many prospects is that we start with a solution that is hosted by us in the cloud, minimizing the involvement of IT. Once the value of our service is proven to our customer if they now want to add internal content to their Explorit Everywhere! subscription and public content that we are searching from the cloud then we can move our solution to servers sitting behind the customer’s firewall.
When asked in question 5 of the survey, what respondents thought were the main drawbacks of not having federated search, the answers – which I was very happy to see – included:
87.50 % — Time spent looking multiple places for information
71.88 % — Missed information / opportunities due to “inexpert searching”
68.75 % — Reduced usage of online information sources
65.63 % — Over-reliance on search engines as primary research tool
All-in-all this is a very interesting survey. The survey results and analysis is available starting on page 18 of the Fall 2014 CapLits newsletter.