Taking the Library to the Learner pt 1 – Summon

This session from Hannah Whaley and Dave Pattern – talking about their selection and implementation of Summon at Dundee and Huddersfield respectively.

Hannah describes how the amount of information being published as increased at a phenomenal rate – big figures but hard to really get head round how much information is now being published on a daily basis.

At Dundee they tried to model the problem. Looked at their learners – thinking in terms of Marc Prensky’s Digital Natives, and ‘Twitch Speed – complete shift in attention span; internet becomes extension of self storing knowledge and thoughts.

In HE we have responded to these challenges is the use of ‘elearning’ – via VLEs. In the library, adopted ‘Federated search’ – but real challenges – slow; inaccurate; substantial hardward requirement – felt like an old system forced electronic – time for ground up redesign says Hannah.

However challenges – Complexity of eresources (many sources via many platforms), accuracy of information literacy (do students know what they are looking for? Is information accurate?), but need to do this while keeping close contact with the students.

Summon – new product from Serials Solutions – offers webscale discovery [what does this mean in this context?]. Single search box – which they have use to integrate into many environments – in library web pages, in VLE, on mobile platforms.

Practical example – took 140 Environmental Science 1st year undergraduates:

  • 2 weeks of 2 hour practical labls
  • Introduced to Summon and asked to research topics both on Summon and on the open web and keep notes on what they found where
  • Results showed that ‘general’ information better on open web, but ‘academic’ content on Summon (students were asked to rate)
  • While found that higher proportion of searches on Summon needed ‘refining’, refinement on Summon resulted in more improvement in results set than refining on open web search interfaces

About finding a balance between easy/accurate information, with appropriate support.

Still challenging to ‘take the library to the learner’ – technologically and culturally – but making progress.

Now Dave Pattern – talking about implementation of Summon at the University of Huddersfield.

Huddersfield implemented ‘MetaLib’ federated search solution in 2006 – but didn’t fulfil promise. Noted a huge increase in use of Google Scholar in place of library systems, so decided need to do something. Drew up a ‘wish list’ of what they really wanted:

  • Single search box for all (really all) library content
  • Very fast results (<1 second, no federated search)
  • Clean and simple interface
  • Easy to maintain

Invited vendors to come to pitch products/solutions against this list.

Summon was the product that they were impressed with (and could deliver immediately, whereas some other products still in development)

Implemented gradually – had to transition from existing systems

Actually quite easy to implement – some stuff to deal with – e.g. MARC21 mapping, working out daily uploads of information from local information sources (in this case Library catalogue), dealing with deletions

“Summon (or other similar products – Aquabrowser, VuFind etc.) will highlight all your crappy cataloguing” – either through bad or inconsistence practice or copy cataloguing errors. This will apply to any library – doesn’t matter how good your cataloguing is, these products tend to expose the problems.

Generally found students liked it – although some criticisms as well (e.g. ‘too much like Google’)

Implementation of Summon at Huddersfield and at Northumbria has been documented as part of a JISC project – see http://library.hud.ac.uk/blogs/summon4hn/ for more details.

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