Lynsey Blandford, University of Kent
There has been a recent upsurge of university libraries upgrading their catalogues to resource discovery tools. The University of Kent has introduced LibrarySearch, ExLibris’s Primo, to enable library users to search all resources via one Google-style search box. The increase in distance learners or students living off campus has increased demand for access to information online. Google has also had an impact: ‘the web has raised people’s expectations; many now expect that every bit of information can be obtained through the web easily and usually with no cost’ (Chowdhury, 2010, p. 473). Spezi et al.’s (2013, p. iv) research on library discovery technologies found that by May 2013, 77% of UK HE libraries were already using a Resource Discovery System RDS, 11% were in the process of implementing one, and Summon, Primo and EDS accounted for 76% of the systems in use.
LibrarySearch has centralised the search for books, journals, and e-resources in addition to the library’s Special Collections. The real motivation behind its introduction is to improve discoverability and access to library resources for study and research. LibrarySearch imports metadata to an index and applies an algorithm to search and retrieve. It can merge duplicate records and importantly for the user, it can group different types and editions of the same item (e.g. e-book and book) while also offering permanent links, ensuring the user can find the item again.
The tool was launched at the start of term, 19th January 2015 and has received positive feedback especially for its potential to search for journal articles. Feedback is currently being compiled via an online form and at service points which will help identify any issues and shape future enhancements.
The launch has included a promotional campaign to raise awareness of the change and provide guidance. Library visitors will encounter screen buddies placed on resource terminals, as well as posters, full-size banners and bookmarks all featuring key messages. The bookmark, for example, stresses the benefit of LibrarySearch and offers tips:
- Find books, articles, DVDs, digital content, Special Collections – all through a single search box.
- Start with a broad search – then use the filters on the right to narrow it down!
- Sign in – to manage your loans, save searches and favourites, and find even more resources.
Support from front line staff and drop-in 45 minute workshops aimed at different users, including undergraduates, students writing dissertations and researchers are intended to ease the transition from VuFind to LibrarySearch. All staff working within the library have attended introductory workshops prior to the launch and had the opportunity to attend regular project update meetings.
Testing by library staff
The Lending Services team was responsible for testing the account functionality of LibrarySearch to ensure that users would be able to successfully manage their library accounts. Testing took the form of questionnaires with a set of task-driven questions for members of the team to try on the LibrarySearch sandbox, a testing environment for the tool. These were conducted at key points of the tool’s development and explored simple tasks such as identifying books on loan, due dates and fines, to more complex tasks such as recalling a book and viewing its status as well as understanding user blocks. Colleagues recorded any areas of concern which were then passed onto the project team.
In late summer 2014, we also arranged workshops to bring together key staff to identify problems and to agree on viable solutions. The workshops took place in training rooms with access to PCs or laptops. Group discussion was encouraged, with each member taking a turn to explore a task on the main screen in front of the group. Many of the issues that arose centred around usability; and suggested changes ranged from improving the display of fines to altering language. The workshops were critical in gaining a consensus of opinion over what needed to be changed which could then be communicated to ExLibris.
User testing was conducted in early summer and winter 2014 by the IS Publishing team and colleagues from Academic Liaison Services, Collections Management, Learning & Resource Development and Web Development. In late November ten people participated in user-testing and these included three undergraduates studying English, American Studies & English Language Teaching and Economics & History. Postgraduates were represented by four students studying Law, History, Comparative Literature and Post-colonial Studies. There were also three members of staff from Corporate Communications and the Unit for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching. Testing was conducted on a laptop; however, there was the opportunity to use an Android smart phone and iPads. They tested a number of scenarios including ‘finding a known book’, ‘finding the classmark in the building’, ‘looking at items you have on loan’ and ‘searching for e-resources on a topic’. There was a noticeable improvement in the relevancy ranking of search results from previous testing in June. User comments led to improvements such as the change on the landing page from the option ‘Switch to Medway’ to ‘I’m based at Medway’. Following testing a link to ‘location by classmarks’ was added so that it could be accessed at point of need.
Conclusion – what next?
At the moment, our priority is providing our users with the search skills to use the new tool. It is all too easy to assume that every visitor to the library will be able to instinctively find a resource or information. Workshops are ideal for the library user who is proactive and aware of the potential to improve their skills, for others, help from staff at the point of need is far more effective.
Collating and responding to user and staff feedback is an ongoing task which is crucial to improving the service. Usage statistics will also be analysed to identify any trends. The University of Birmingham introduced Primo in 2012 and noticed ‘the number of visits for “resource discovery” [rose] by over 96% between January 2013 and May 2013’ (Bull and Craft, 2014, p. 52). The project will not end with completion of LibrarySearch’s implementation, but will continue by monitoring the behaviour of users and by working to enhance the tool to reach its fullest potential.
Bull, S. and Craft, E. (2014) ‘How we FindIt@Bham using Primo’, SCONUL Focus, 60, pp. 47-53.
Chowdhury, G. G. (2010) Introduction to modern information retrieval. 3rd edn. London: Facet.
Spezi, V., Creaser C., O’Brien, A. and Conyers, A. (2013) Impact of library discovery Technologies: A report for UKSG. Available at: http://www.uksg.org/sites/uksg.org/files/UKSG_final_report_16_12_13_by_LISU.pdf (Accessed: 30 January 2015).