Adding a Discovery service

Been a busy spring.  Moved into our expanded building, changed the library’s URLs due to a domain change, and beginning July 1, we now have a discovery service.

We went with Ebsco, which at this point is not necessarily an endorsement, but it looked like a good bet.  We exported MARC records for our catalog holdings, and data for our online services (if they cooperated).  There’s actually several months of preparation to step through, and I handled only a small part of it.  Our Periodicals Librarian did most of the rest, on our side.

The idea is to have everything possible in one search result.  Users can limit it (full text only, or peer-reviewed only, etc.) and/or to types of materials (articles only, for example).

A recent article contends that discovery tools are a bad idea for new researchers, and the author makes some good points.  The catch is, as I see it, that this is based on trying to achieve an ideal rather than a realistic situation.  With all due respect, we don’t have an ideal situation where we get to sit our students (or even faculty) down and step them through all the proper procedures to make them optimal researchers.  Frankly, I suspect that even if we did, it wouldn’t matter that much (or maybe a little for faculty).  They’d take the easy way because it’s easy and fast and doesn’t require them to think as much.

This is also important because our students (and sometimes faculty and staff!) may have plenty to deal with just learning the use of computers and software, never mind the intricacies of “proper” searching.  Tell somebody who barely gets in and out of various programs on their new laptop that they need to do things the harder but better for them way in searching, and… I’m not that brave.

In our real situation, we’re lucky if we can get students in a classroom long enough to teach them how to research this specific assignment just before they go to work on it.  So, anything we can do to — at the very least — get them to actually realize that there are many resources which are available, is a useful achievement.

I’m going to be interested to see if this actually increases use of resources just by showing all of them (well, most of them) in one search.  I suspect most users would much prefer to use one search, and if that happens to exclude a lot of resources, well, too bad.  If most things are there, however, the options widen considerably, and I’d rather teach how to narrow options than try to get people to try several different methods to search for different resources.  The former is optional, while the latter just doesn’t happen as often.