Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What I Learned in Vegas Won't Stay in Vegas!

Over the weekend I attended the largest librarian conference around--the American Library Association's Annual Conference.  This year it was held in Vegas for the first time in 15+ years.  Let's just say that I hope it doesn't return anytime soon, but that's a topic for a different blog post....

Academic librarians talk a lot about discovery services, and it's all new to me, since most K-12 school librarians don't have the need to compile databases into one huge search. At Paris High School, we subscribed to ONE database for students to use, and that was considered awesome since many high schools in central Illinois don't have any at all.  But, here at Lake Land, we have 50+ databases from different vendors--Gale, EBSCO, Oxford, Credo, ProQuest, ABC-CLIO, Elsevier, etc., and it's difficult for students to click into each database and complete their search in each one. I mean, really, who would do that? No one. And that's why discovery services were created.

At Lake Land, we use Summon--it's the main search box on the library homepage, and it's a great place to start your research.  I've spent a lot of time tweaking it in the past few months, trying to make sure the "right" results appear when you search.  For example, if you search for prescription drug abuse in Summon and then narrow your results to reference, you'll be directed to Gale Virtual Reference Library that has articles about prescription drug abuse in The Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior, and The Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health : Infancy through Adolescence. And that's what I want to happen--many students don't need complicated research articles in journal articles--they need a simple overview about the topic they entered in the search box. 

This will become easier when we update to Summon 2.0 later in the summer.  Users will notice a smoother, more modern look to the Summon search result screen, see a topic preview on the right of the screen and be able to narrow their search by discipline.  Take a look at the difference....

Current Summon Search Results:

Summon 2.0 Search Results (coming soon):

I don't know about you, but I like the Summon 2.0 search screen much better. Notice how the topic overview on the right gives suggested vocabulary to help guide students' searches.  Maybe they forgot about the term "substance dependence" or have never heard of the Controlled Substances Act--the related topics should be very useful. 

Students and faculty won't notice much of a change once Summon 2.0 is implemented, but I hope that it results in smoother searches and more satisfied customers. 

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