the discovery process is far more complex than an initial reading will yield. Librarians still have substantial influence over the way researchers and students discover content. This influence is, however, less direct and less visible than before. But it deserves further consideration.

More than just finding content True discovery goes beyond simply finding content; it includes accessing it, obtaining it in the right format, and consuming a suitable and optimised platform. For a researcher truly to discover content he/she must travel seamlessly through all these stages. A bottleneck at any stage will hinder discovery, leaving the researcher frustrated. Like most of us on the net, we all want content quickly.

According to a Microsoft study of 2,000 people, the attention span of an average internet user in 2013 was a mere eight

that researchers are under huge information pressure, with little time. In this light, seamless access to content is critical.

Pay-walls and intermediate access steps will slow down, if not halt access. But the librarian is in a good position to help steer the path of access by choosing the best delivery format for their library infrastructure and user needs.

Librarians and discovery Seen in this way, the librarian can influence the process of true discovery. On findability, a librarian might ask: ‘Is the content indexed by Google and professional discovery services?’ or ‘Is the content marked up in semantic micro- data so that Google can machine read it?’ After

‘Around half of the visits to the SpringerLink platform came from search engines’

all, true discovery is more likely if the content is easily findable on Google and seamlessly accessible via IP recognition. Tuula Hamalainen, head of library at VTT

Technical Research Centre of Finland, observes: ‘Discovery is indeed a complex phenomenon. On the one hand you have search engines which allow very large amounts of information to be searched, but they do not always yield highly accurate results.

seconds, down from

12 seconds in the year 2000.

When you combine these facts with Tenopir’s findings that, on average, a researcher in 2011 looked at just over 300 scholarly articles per year (up from 150 in 1977) and spent some 31 minutes per article in 2014 (down from 48 minutes in 2005) then it becomes clear @researchinfo

‘On the other side of the spectrum you have specialist bibliographic databases that give highly accurate results, but their searching scope is limited. In this discovery landscape we believe that it is absolutely imperative that publishers do everything they can to make their content highly discoverable on all the available tools; this is of paramount importance to us.’ Further, there is the question of format. In many cases the researcher is perfectly happy with consuming the content in HTML format. But there are other cases where a researcher will want to interact with the content: click on an inline citation, annotate text and save it in a personal library. In the case of a larger ebook, a researcher might like to browse through a low- resolution preview version before downloading the entire book. One good example that demonstrates the importance of delivery format is the mobile app that Springer built for the British Library. I visited the library to brainstorm with them innovative ways to help increase the access points to their licensed e-content. Prior to the app, access was restricted to a limited number

of PC terminals in their reading rooms. I suggested the potential for a mobile app. They welcomed this idea and a partnership project was born. The app was recently released on GooglePlay and ITunes and patrons now enjoy the benefits of access via their mobile devices while on the library premises.

Mobile positives Nigel Spencer, research and business development manager at the British Library, said: ‘The new mobile app really allows us to leverage the impact of our licensed e-content by delivering it directly to the mobile devices of our patrons. We expect this to make a positive impact on usage.’

All these formats exist and every time a librarian acquires an ebook – or other content – they do so in a specific delivery format and technology. If the ebook is a textbook, the student might even prefer a low-cost PPD print version to the e-version, for the summer break or home use. The DRM attached to the content is therefore of critical importance for true discovery.

If the user is freely allowed to share copies of articles and chapters with their fellow patrons at the same subscribing institutions, then this will ultimately facilitate discovery. If there are no limits to the number of simultaneous users that can access the content at any given movement in time, again this will aid discovery. How the user interacts with the content and follows links to further reading is also important for true discovery. ‘Does the publisher platform contain an article recommender?’ Similarly, ‘Can the user look up other articles by the same author via an ORCID ID?’ All of the above are examples of how the librarian can influence the way that content is found, accessed, and consumed.

Asked about discovery, Dr. Jord Hanus, head of research affairs at the University of Antwerp, replied: ‘The quality of the content alone is not enough in ensuring ‘discovery’ by the scientific community… accessible and ‘findable’ metadata is, in all likelihood, much more important… being properly findable in Google truly is paramount in reaching a broad enough audience (as an author) or finding the most relevant papers (as a reader).’ With a focus on the opportunities outlined above, librarians can significantly influence the user’s experience by being aware of the needs of their users and matching those needs in their collection.

Timon Oefelein is Springer Nature’s account development manager for north-western Europe

JUNE/JULY 2016 Research Information 27

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