Neil’s previous post mentioned the idea of trying to provide a ‘Google-style search’ for accessing library resources, something which has been talked about a lot over the last few years. What often isn’t discussed, or not in detail, is what we actually mean by this. Does ‘being like Google’ just mean having a single search box instead making the user choose which type of search they want to perform: Title, Author, ISBN, Subject etc? Or is there more to it?

Aaron Tay’s excellent blog post How is Google different from traditional library OPACs and databases? discusses some of the key issues.

Some of the things that Google does but (most) library catalogues don’t do are:

Auto stemming – that is, a search for ‘run’ will include results for ‘running’ and ‘car’ will also find ‘cars’

Auto correcting – if you search Google for ‘librar opacs’ it will change your search to ‘library opacs’

google search

Soft ‘and’ – occasionally Google might drop one or more of your search terms

Auto complete – it suggests search terms as you are typing

We may not always like the way Google sometimes interprets and alters our searches but it is what most of us are now used to. It can be quite baffling to someone who grew up with Google when their search in the library catalogue for “charles handy new alchemist” does not find the book “The New Alchemists” by Charles Handy.

So how much of this Google-like searching does Summon do? My initial tests indicate it can do some of these things but it doesn’t go nearly as far as Google.

Summon does not auto correct my search terms though it does suggest alternative searches to try. However it only suggests alternative searches if my search finds zero results. My search for ‘Milly Moll Mandy’ sadly neither autocorrected nor offered the alternative search ‘Milly Molly Mandy’, because it found one result that matched my mistake.

It has a good auto complete function – start typing and lots of suggestions are offered.

Summon has at least some stemming ability- my search for ‘charles handy organisation’ happily found alternates ‘organisations’ and ‘organization(s)’.

As far as I can tell it does not attempt a ‘soft AND’ and drop any of my search terms.