Lucy’s previous post gave the background as to why we and other academic library people think resource discovery tools are potentially useful tools for library users. This post reflects on the decision-making process that led us to choose Summon over other available products.

The first thing to say about the process is that it was hard, particularly in negotiating the politics that often come into play when proposing any relatively major change in systems! There was a feeling amongst library managerial staff that a resource discovery tool would in principle be useful and cost-effective, but that feeling was by no means a general one. Some members of library staff (and particularly subject specialists) had quite legitimate concerns about the coverage of discovery tools in general, and of Summon in particular. Discovery tools do well for coverage of STEM subjects, but (arguably) less well with Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and there are a few subjects (notably law, a significant area of study here at City) which have gaps in coverage. I won’t write more about these issues at the moment,but they are ones we will return to in future posts.

Once we had decided that we wanted a resource discovery tool, the next question was, which one? We decided to limit the scope of the procurement decision-making process to the current generation of discovery tools (new tools are on the horizon already) which for practical purposes meant choosing between SummonPrimo and EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS).

We started off by visiting a number of institutions (LSE, Middlesex, Brunel) who have recently implemented discovery tools, not so much to see the tools in action (though that was of course interesting) but to get an idea of how they decided between the tools they considered and to find out how they managed the procurement and implementation processes. These visits were invaluable, not least to reassure ourselves that a lot of the issues we were considering were not unique to us. Running parallel to this, we invited each supplier in to present on their product, also inviting a number of colleagues to these demonstrations. This gave us an idea of the functionality and relative strengths and weaknesses of the products.

After the demonstrations, we invited colleagues to vote on their preferred option. We offered the following options:

  • I prefer Primo
  • I prefer Summon
  • I prefer EDS
  • I think we should get a discovery tool, but I have no clear preference
  • I don’t think we should get a discovery tool

We also invited feedback on the various products and on the reasons for or against getting a discovery tool. The results of this exercise saw a clear majority in favour of getting a discovery tool, but no overwhelming majority in favour of any particular product (though for the record Summon did get most votes).

The final stage of the process was to do a detailed analysis of the functionality of each product, as well as other important factors such as cost and fit with current systems. The result of this analysis (as you might be able to guess) was that Summon was the preferred choice. We felt that Summon and Primo offered pretty similar functionality, but that Summon was clearly a better fit with our current systems (we use Serials Solutions’ knowledge base 360 Core) as well as being priced lower than Primo. We felt that EDS did certain things well (not least exposing EBSCO’s own large dataset of publications), but that it didn’t offer true pre-indexed federated search. We then took a paper to the Library Executive team, who passed the paper.

So now all we have to do is implement Summon!