Discovery Services: Basics and Resources

A discovery service is an online library searching tool that provides an all-in-one interface for finding both local library items and online subscription and open access resources.

Why learn about discovery services?

Most libraries use discovery services in addition to, or as a replacement for, their OPAC.  Whether you are a technical services librarian whose job it is to administer them or a reference librarian who uses them as a major research tool, it is helpful to know how discovery services work.  You need to know their features and their limitations.

The Basics

For this article, we will use Summon (with Serials Solutions) as an example.  But all discovery services share the same basic functions and features.  They consist of three major parts: the index, the link resolver, and the search interface.

Summon is a discovery service developed by ProQuest and now managed and supported by Ex Libris (since their merger).  Summon allows users to search for print and electronic resources owned or subscribed to by their library.

In my library, Summon works in conjunction with Serials Solutions 360 Link using a Summon Unified Index to provide links to ebooks (and chapters), journal articles, audio, videos, library catalog records, institutional repositories, LibGuides, and more.

Summon Unified Index
Source: http://exl-edu.com/07_Summon/Overview/Discovery/Introduction to Summon

The Summon index contains citation metadata, subject terms, abstracts, full text, and direct links (when available).  It also includes Ulrichsweb information, DOIs, altmetrics, and citation counts.

Summon Indexing

The combination of Summon and Serials Solutions employs two methods of indexing applied in this order:

  1. Summon – Index Enhanced Direct Linking (IEDL)
  2. Serials Solutions 360 Link – OpenURL Link Resolver
Summon for Researchers
Source: http://exl-edu.com/07_Summon/Overview/Discovery/Understanding the Summon Index

When you perform a search and Summon returns results, Summon first looks to see if it has a direct link to the item using its proprietary Index Enhanced Direct Linking (IEDL).  These are reliable links that point specifically to the title and are successful more than 99% of the time, according to Ex Libris.

If Summon doesn’t have an IEDL record, the metadata is passed to Serials Solutions 360 Link.  This is a link resolver that relies on OpenURL technology.  What this means is that 360 Link must build a URL containing item search metadata in a format that the database website can use.  Most broken search results links occur when either the URL is badly formed or the metadata on the database’s side is incorrect.  Fortunately, Summon gives you ways to work around the problem by providing DOIs, other database choices, or links to the ebook or journal level so that you can browse to the chapter or article.

One great feature is Summon’s ability to do a full-text search for library print book holdings by indexing electronic versions of the same title, even if they aren’t owned by your library.

Relevancy Ranking and Filters

Summon then performs relevancy ranking on the results using a proprietary method that is a combination of dynamic and static ranking. Dynamic ranking includes search term frequency, field (title, author, abstract) weighting, term manipulation (synonyms, stemming, etc.), and other functions.  Static ranking includes item attributes such as content type, date published, peer-review status, and citation counts.  Library collection items are given a higher ranking than subscription database items.

After relevancy ranking, Summon filters search results for those items that your library has access to by default.  Of course, users can see all of the relevant results by checking the “Add results beyond your library’s collection” box.

Finally, Summon offers several filters to limit results to full text, peer-review, library catalog, content type, discipline, publication date, and language.

Library Resources Management

Now that we know how Summon indexes and creates search results links, we need to know how Summon selects results that are only contained in your library’s collection.  In this sense, your “collection” means both your print holdings as well as all of the online resources you own or subscribe to.

eBook and e-Journal Holdings

In order for Summon to link to your online ebook and e-journal holdings, you must tell Summon what you own or subscribe to.  You do this by activating or “tracking” your holdings in Serials Solutions 360 Core, the back-end of 360 Link and interface for the ProQuest Knowledgebase.  You can track entire databases, publisher collections, journal titles (with specific date ranges), and individual ebooks.

Serials Solutions e-Catalog List

For each database you subscribe to, you might subscribe to all of the titles (if offered as a complete package) or you might subscribe to only some of the titles (if purchased individually).

If titles within a database are purchased individually, you must track those individual titles.  In addition, you also might need to set custom dates if you don’t subscribe to the entire run of the journal title.  If you subscribe to an entire database, new titles get added automatically when they become available.  Ebook Central can also be set up to add your newly purchased ebook titles (perpetual and DDA) automatically.  Otherwise, library staff must add new ebook and e-journal titles manually.

Serials Solutions e-Catalog Titles

Because libraries often have unique access requirements, Serials Solutions gives you a way to customize your access URL and other details.  For databases which do not have article- or ebook-level linking, you can choose to link at the database level instead.  You can choose to include your proxy URL for subscribed titles or omit it for open access resources. You can include custom journal subscription date ranges.  Finally, you can add custom public notes (such as login information).

Serials Solutions e-Catalog Details

Library Catalogs and Institutional Repositories

Discovery services can include records from your library catalog and institutional repository.  There are several different methods for getting the local records into the Summon index.

At my library, to get our library catalog indexed, we export bibliographic and holdings records from our ILS on a periodic basis and upload them via FTP to Ex Libris.  Staff at Ex Libris then add them to the Summon index (a process that can take several weeks).

For many institutional repositories, you provided Summon with access to your institutional repository metadata using Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).  Institutional repository content is then harvested automatically on a periodic basis (weekly for Summon).

Resources

Here are some great online resources to learn about discovery services:

Articles and books about discovery services:

The Future of Library Resource Discovery by Marshall Breeding

The Future of Library Resource Discovery“A white paper commissioned by the NISO Discovery to Delivery (D2D) Topic Committee” gives an overview of the current state of library discovery services and looks into how they might adapt to the future.  Published in 2015.

Access the full-text article (PDF).

E-Discovery Tools and Applications in Modern Libraries edited by Egbert de Smet and Sangeeta Dhamdhere

 My library My History Books on Google Play E-Discovery Tools and Applications in Modern LibrariesPart of the “Advances in Library and Information Science” (ALIS) series.  This book is a collection of papers covering discovery UX, e-metrics, open source, digital libraries, and library usage studies. Published in 2016.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Implementing Web-Scale Discovery Services: A Practical Guide for Librarians by JoLinda Thompson

Implementing Web-Scale Discovery Services: A Practical Guide for LibrariansNo. 9 in the “Practical Guides for Librarians” series.  From the publisher: this book is a “one-stop source for librarians seeking to evaluate, purchase, and implement a web-scale discovery service.”  Published in 2014.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Web Scale Discovery Services by Jason Vaughan

Web Scale Discovery ServicesThis title is actually an issue of Library Technology Reports from ALA Tech Source.  The report covers the content, interface, and functionality of discovery services from the major vendors to help with evaluation.  Possibly a bit dated now. Published in 2011.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

6 Chrome Browser Extensions Every Librarian Needs

Google ChromeA look at global browser market share data will show that Google’s Chrome browser commands more than half of the browser market (58.4% for January 2017, to be specific).  The market share might be even higher among librarians (who have a choice at work).  If you’re not a Google Chrome user, these six browser extensions might make you switch.

If you’ve never considered browser extensions, they are plugins or small applications that add functionality to your browser.  Sometimes they work in the background (like Grammarly, below) but usually they work when you click on a small icon that gets added to the browser’s toolbar.

Chrome browser extension icons

Google has a huge Chrome Web Store for browser extensions, most of them are free.  They offer help to install and manage extensions but for the most part, a single click will install an extension.  Sometimes additional configuration options are available.

Here are six Chrome browser extensions every librarian needs.

Continue reading “6 Chrome Browser Extensions Every Librarian Needs”

Enhance Your Library Presence on Google

Welcome to Google My Business!

Of course users can find your library on Google.  But with a few simple steps, you can enhance your library’s presence on Google services such as Search, Google Maps, and Google+ by adding library information, photos, and hours.  You do this by creating a profile for your library in Google My Business.

When searching Google you have probably seen the the information-rich box to the right of the search results list.  Google calls this the Knowledge Graph display and it has been in use since 2012.  It uses semantic search to enhance search results when a person, topic, or place is identified.  The Knowledge Graph information can also be used to add instant information to the top of the search results list, such as today’s library hours.

Google Knowledge Graph in Search Results

Here is an example of a Knowledge Graph display before it has been claimed and enhanced:

Google Knowledge Graph (Before)

If the link “Own this business?” shows in the Knowledge Graph display for your library, no one has claimed ownership for your library’s profile. Clicking this link allows you to set up your Google My Business account. Note: This process also creates a Google+ page.

First, you’ll have to check the box that says “I am authorized to manage this business and I agree to the Terms of Service.”

On the next screen you will be given the choice to verify your business by phone or by mail.  If you choose mail, you will receive a letter at the mailing address in the Knowledge Graph display that will contain your verification code (and a Google sticker).  This usually arrives in about five days.  You don’t need to wait for verification to edit your profile.

Once you have chosen your verification method, Google will create your basic Google My Business page.

Google My Business - Home

From this Home page you can edit your library information (name, address, phone, website URL) and add library hours and photos.

Google My Business - Edit Mode

Once your Google My Business profile has been completed and your account verified, your enhanced Knowledge Graph display will appear in Google search results and other services.

Google offers an app to allow you to update information and hours from your mobile device.

Available on the App Store Android App on Google Play

Introducing Microsoft Academic

Microsoft Academic

The Microsoft Academic search tool is an open discovery service for scholarly scientific works including citation relationships between works, authors, institutions, places, and subject fields.

Microsoft is quietly developing an open discovery service for scholarly scientific works called Microsoft Academic based on Microsoft Research’s Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG).  This search database will function much like Web of Science and Scopus in linking paper citations to aid in discovery.

To build the MAG, Bing technology crawls the Web looking for “publisher websites, university repositories, researcher and departmental web pages, etc.” which then get analysed for content and citations.  If papers are determined to be scholarly works, they’re added to the MAG.

Microsoft Academic search: BIBFRAME

Microsoft describes the service in their FAQ:

This new service puts a knowledge driven, semantic inference based search and recommendation framework front and center. In addition, a new data structure and graph engine have been developed to facilitate the real-time intent recognition and knowledge serving. One illustrating feature is semantic query suggestions that identify authors, topics, journals, conferences, etc., as you type and offer ways to refine your search based on the data in the underlying academic knowledge graph. You can also refine your results using the filters on the search results page. Since we are built on top of Bing’s web crawling infrastructure, we are able to discover and index new academic papers in a more scalable manner. We now have over 150 million entities and billions of relationships in the Microsoft Academic Graph and growing!

Microsoft Academic results: BIBFRAME

Search results can be filtered by date range, author, affiliation, field of study, journal, and conference.  Users can choose to include news items or limit results to scholarly works.

The underlying MAG data is available for download or accessed via the Academic Knowledge API.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft Academic can develop the features to rival Google Scholar.  Three features would go a long way towards that goal.  The service should allow libraries to register so that search results can contain custom links including institutional authentication such as a proxy URL prefix.  Microsoft Academic could add its own altmetrics by gathering results from Bing crawling the Web and social media sites.  A simple tool to add citations to Microsoft Word documents would be a way to set Microsoft Academic apart.  But its open, non-commercial platform with downloadable data and APIs makes it a search service to watch.

Preview Microsoft Academic at https://academic.microsoft.com.

Improve Your Online Searching Skills

Finding information is a fundamental librarian skill.  Whether you are searching with library discovery tools, in online research databases, or on the Internet at large using a search engine, great searching skills are a necessity.

Here is a selection of the best up-to-date books to improve your online searching skills.

The Complete Guide to Using Google in Libraries: Research, User Applications, and Networking edited by Carol Smallwood

The Complete Guide to Using Google in Libraries: Research, User Applications, and Networking edited by Carol SmallwoodThe book is divided into four parts: Research, User Applications, Networking, and Searching. Part IV on searching includes advanced search strategies, underutilized Google search tools, and evaluating the sources of search results. Other parts cover using Google services such as Google Books, Drive, Google+, Google Scholar, and Google Translate among others.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Google Search Secrets by Christa Burns and Michael P. Sauers

Google Search Secrets by Christa Burns and Michael P. SauersAs the title suggests, this book covers the search engine Google.  It goes beyond the basic search function to give practical tips and tricks on Google’s “hidden” features.  The authors devote chapters to cover specific Google search services including Blogs, Books, Discussions, Images, Maps, News, Patents, and Videos.  The chapter on Google Scholar is particularly relevant for academic librarians. The authors created a companion blog for posting updates so have a look even if you don’t buy the book.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Librarian’s Guide to Online Searching: Cultivating Database Skills for Research and Instruction (Fourth Edition) by Suzanne S. Bell

Librarian's Guide to Online Searching: Cultivating Database Skills for Research and Instruction (Fourth Edition) by Suzanne S. BellNow in its fourth edition, this popular book for librarians has been updated for 2015.  The book looks into what a database is, parts of a database, and tools for searching such as Boolean logic and truncation.  Later chapters discuss the different databases by subject matter.  Evaluating databases is covered. Finally, the book lists eight principles of teaching databases.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Online Searching: A Guide to Finding Quality Information Efficiently and Effectively by Karen Markey

Online Searching: A Guide to Finding Quality Information Efficiently and Effectively by Karen MarkeyThis new book covers searching online using discovery tools and research databases.  It starts with the research interview and traces the steps through assessing search results.  Pre-search preparation and database selection are covered before detailing specific search types: controlled-vocabulary, free-text, and known-item.  The author ends with a look into the future of online searching.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Semantic Web Technologies and Social Searching for Librarians by Robin M. Fay and Michael P. Sauers

Semantic Web Technologies and Social Searching for Librarians by Robin M. Fay and Michael P. SauersThe final volume of The Tech Set from ALA, this guide goes beyond basic Internet searching.  As indicated in the title, the semantic Web and finding hidden data is its main focus.  Specific types of searching include location-based, multimedia, social, and semantic.  Specific search examples from Google and Bing are shown.  The book has a companion website with author information and links, downloadable files, related slide presentations, and an audio interview with the authors.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.