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FEATURE


Search tools


Discovery services sift through expert resources


Researchers and librarians around the world are embracing discovery services. Siân Harris talked to three providers of these tools to find out why they are becoming so popular with libraries and their users


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nternet search engines, whatever we think of them, have changed user expectations of searching for information. Expert databases and other information services and platforms are now held up against the


new ‘gold standard’ of Google, irrespective of the relative quality of the information unearthed. The message from users seems clear: they like a simple search box that enables them to search ‘everywhere’ at once. This approach challenges the traditional scholarly information approach where high- quality information might be stored in different silos, behind different interfaces and access constraints. Studies of user behaviour by OCLC and others have shown that users, especially undergraduates, are drifting away from the library’s services and moving to other sources of information, primarily web search engines. ‘The systems found in a typical library, which


were developed over time around librarians’ needs to manage materials of different types, cannot be modified and brought together in a way that will provide a more productive discovery experience for today’s users,’ explains Tamar Sadeh, director of marketing at Ex Libris. ‘There’s an increasing body of research that


shows that end-users find library collections confusing. They don’t know where to start


18 Research Information APR/MAY 2011


and they often end up in dead-ends. Their frustration drives them back to the open web, where they feel confident in managing their own information search,’ agreed Michael Gersch, ProQuest vice president and general manager of Serials Solutions. ‘End-users want the library to be just as simple as open-web search engines. Librarians want to deliver that kind of service, too, and have been calling for single point access that unifies content.’ Federated searching, which enables searching across information silos, was a first step towards this goal. However, in large and complex collections it cannot deliver the fast, accurate results that libraries demand. ‘We saw Google as very fast, but incomplete. Conversely, federated search services (or metasearch engines) have serious speed and performance issues, as well as normalisation problems,’ explained Sam Brooks, senior vice president, sales and marketing for EBSCO Publishing.


The rise of discovery These challenges have given rise to a new breed of search tools known as discovery services. ‘All metadata in EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) is loaded on EBSCO servers, so there is no issue with performance of third- party servers. The only time any user leaves EBSCO servers is to gain full text via a link


www.researchinformation.info


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