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As part of our Summon implementation we will be changing link resolver from WebBridge to 360 Link. 360 Link is another Serials Solutions product and uses the same knowledge base as Summon so we hope that it will give better integration with Summon than WebBridge would.

What does a link resolver actually do? The primary function of a link resolver is to provide a quick and easy way to link a user from a citation to an ‘appropriate copy’ of the article they want to read. ‘Appropriate copy’ in this instance basically means a copy that the user will be able to access for free. For City University staff and students this means articles published in e-journals that City University Library subscribes to.

We have been using WebBridge as our link resolver for nearly 7 years so changing to 360 Link gives us a chance to think about the functionality and branding of our link resolver and decide if we want to make any changes. Out-of-the-box, 360 Link is fully functional and it already has the City University branding applied.

360 link

This looks ok but we felt we could improve 360 Link with a few simple changes. The screen is very busy. 99.9%* of the time the only thing a user wants to do when they land on a link resolver page is get to a copy of the article they want to read. The user should not have to think about how to do this. In the screenshot above, there are no less than 17 different links the user could click on (not including links in the header and footer), only 4 of which will take them to the article. The whole of the top half of the screen is taken up with citation information.

Below is a screenshot of 360 Link now. The key changes we made were:

  • The citation information now displays in a brief format so it doesn’t take up so much of the screen.
  • Databases are de-duplicated so that instead of seeing multiple links to, for example, different Ebsco databases only one link to an Ebsco database will display.
  • Content links have been re-designed and re-ordered. The ‘Article’ link is now a prominent red button, designed to draw the eye. All the links ‘article’, ‘journal’ and ‘database’ still work but it is visually clearer that the most important link is the Article one.
  • Extra links have been removed to make the page less busy and we have tried to use natural language where possible.
  • We have turned on 1-click linking which means when you click on a 360 Link (in Summon, Google Scholar or any other database) you go straight to the article instead of to the 360 Link page, so linking to full text is even easier. 1-click linking also gives the option to go to the 360 Link page in case the article link fails.

360 Link new style

We’ll be making the move from WebBridge to 360 Link over the next few weeks and hope it will give a better user experience.

* Made up statistic alert

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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.

The library has recently chosen to implement the Summon web-scale discovery service. In this first blog I’ll talk about what Summon is and a bit of the history behind its creation.

One of the problems libraries have been trying to solve for some time is how to make it easier for their users to find information. A university library will usually subscribe to a large number of web based resources including  reference databases, abstract and indexing resources, journal bundles and individual e-journals and ebooks. This provides library members with an enormous wealth of information but the sheer number of resources can make the task of finding information incredibly confusing. Where do they start looking?

The first technology created to try and solve this problem was federated (or broadcast) search. A federated search builds connectors to each individual database the library subscribes to and will simultaneously search every database and return results. In theory this sounded great, exactly what we needed. Unfortunately the reality of federated search products did not live up to expectations. Problems with federated searching are well documented. These include slow response times from databases; lack of relevancy of results; clunky interfaces; results are not interfiled, so to view results from all databases search you need to scroll through several pages; the need for constant maintenance to fix broken connectors- I could go on.

In 2009 Serials Solutions decided to try a different approach to this problem and started work on Summon. Instead of using broadcast search to send your search to multiple different databases then try to make sense of the results returned, they decided to pre-index as much information as they could and build one huge central index containing fully indexed articles, abstracts, ebooks etc. This approach has a number of advantages. Searching is much faster. It allows for much better relevance ranking. Summon knows what subscriptions your library has so it can return only results which will result in the full text.

Does Summon deliver on this promise? It certainly has some enthusiastic supporters. We will soon be able to put it to the test.