“Why academics and researchers still prefer Google Scholar?”

I was asked this question by someone. Here’s my personal take on this:

We cannot deny the pervasiveness of Google / Google Scholar usage among academics and researchers. One of the enticements of Google Scholar is the simplicity of the search box.  However, if we take a look at Discovery Products such as Summon, EDS, Primo and OCLC’s discovery layers, most of them are intertwined with the library homepages. Most if not all libraries infuse the discovery layer into their search box on their homepage. Compare our library’s Summon Start page: http://koral.summon.serialssolutions.com and our library homepage. Both are using the same Summon ‘search engine’ but different interface. How libraries design their website could have an impact on the use of these discovery layers. Another factor: How well are they marketing their ‘product’? This may sway their preferences of using Google Scholar than Discovery layers.

Coming back to the question: why academics and researchers still prefer Google Scholar? Are we referring this on a general basis or specifically our university academic and research community? Also, we need to categorize them (acad and research into the various subjects: Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences). There was a study by Ithaka that showed humanities group uses the library website more often compared to the Soc Sciences and Sciences. Turn the tables around, Humanities uses less search engine compared to soc sciences and sciences.


Source:  http://www.sr.ithaka.org/publications/us-library-survey-2016/

Based on my small focus group study on our university community, I noted that there was a mixture of feedback. Some were unaware of the search capability of KORAL (for example the search result facet etc). Some prefer to use to Google Scholar to search because its faster and many are accustomed to this. I had one who thought that KORAL only searches library information. It all depends on one’s preferences. When it’s ingrained in them, it will take an effort to make them move them out of their comfort zone.

Think about MP3 players. They do the same thing but Apple still has a big share.

I conclude that whether its discovery layer, Google Scholar or databases, libraries would need to cater to the various search nuances of our users. We can assist by providing complimentary tools to assist users in achieving their information need. At the end of the day, our users are mostly interested to get their hands on an article, ebook chapter, conference proc, books etc …. We can provide the various platforms.

To give another analogy: User need to get a choc bar at the grocery shop.  There are various options to get it: ask someone to buy for them;  go to the grocery shop either by taking a bus, walking or running or even cycling there and buy it.  The ultimate aim is to get that choc bar.  We cannot force them by using a certain pathway but we can provide them with viable alternatives.

Anyways here are some interesting articles:
Paths of Discovery: Comparing the Search Effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Service, Summon, Google Scholar, and Conventional Library Resources
Excerpt from article:


Source:  http://crl.acrl.org/index.php/crl/article/view/16327/17773

Check out this report by Ithaka: http://www.sr.ithaka.org/publications/us-library-survey-2016/
US Library Survey 2016 – There’s a section on discovery somewhere near the middle of the article.

“Library directors are increasingly recognizing that discovery does not and should not always happen in the library. Compared to the 2013 survey results, fewer library directors believe that it is important that the library is seen by its users as the first place that they go to discover content, and fewer believe that the library is always the best place for researchers at their institution to start their research. The share of respondents who agree that it is important that the library guide users to a preferred version of a given source continues to decrease.”

Another one: http://www.sr.ithaka.org/wp-content/mig/files/SR_Briefing_Discovery_20140924_0.pdf
Does Discovery Still Happen in the Library? – Ithaka S+R

Your thoughts?

3 Lessons that I learned from Summon Implementation (Web discovery layer)


It’s almost been a year since we roll-out our library’s web discovery layer known as KORAL: KAUST Online Resources Access Layer (powered by Proquest Summon).  [Check out my earlier post on our journey to implement Summon. ]

What are the 3 main lessons that I learned?


(1) Management buy-in: It’s imperative to obtain management buy-in and support; without which,  things may go bumpy.  With management support, resources may be spared to aid your cause; tasks delegation made easier and fund(s) may be released to boost your project success chances.

(2) Testing(s) and Engaging the User community: I have always believed in engaging our user when implementing any public-facing interface projects.  At the end of the day, our users are the ones who will ultimately use the interface/system.  They are not at all dumb as some of us would think.  By getting their feedback, we are made to see things in a different light; some of which are those that we least expected.  Examples of some of  these user engagement activities are:

  • UX: Usability testing(s)
  • Focus Group interviews
  • One to One interviews
  • Card sorting exercises
  • Online surveys
  • Informal chats

(3) Communication: Whether you are communicating to team members, communicating upwards to library management or communicating to the users, there has to be openness and transparency.   We have to be receptive to the feedback; some may be stinging to the ears BUT if it is for the common good, then we have to put our egos aside.  At the same time, if it’s necessary to deliver some negative news, then we have to inform that as well.  However,  when dealing with negative news, there has to be tactfulness and sensitivity involved.  Not many could react well to negative information.   Most importantly, communication is always a 2-way ‘street’.  Be prepared to take as much as you are ready to give.

These are the main ones among the others that I have learned during the project implementation.

Usability Study: Interviews with our community


One of my projects for this year is to conduct Summon After-Implementation study.  Summon is our new web discovery layer which was implemented in May 2016.  This study involved interviewing our community namely: Faculty members, PhD and MSc students and PostDoc.  One of the main objectives of this interview exercise is to obtain information on how they are using Summon to search for electronic resources.  In addition to that, I asked for their recommendations on improving their search experience.

Quick Information about our International Graduate Research University:


Source:  https://www.kaust.edu.sa/en/about/media-relations#part3

Here are some quick takes:

  • Google Scholar is the go-to source for articles.  According to the participants, they obtain more relevant and faster (search return speed) hits compared to using Summon
  • Most of the participants searched for articles as compared to ebook / ebook chapters when using Summon
  • Use Summon to search for library’s print or electronic books collection.  An interesting comment: Google Scholar is not efficient enough to provide this information for them.  ** Imagine if Google Scholar is able to do this 🙂
  • Participants found that the search results in Summon are often too cluttered; giving rise to information overload.  Most of them are also unaware of the filter features that allow participants to filter out the ‘noise’ from their search results.
  • The search result return speed is another cause for concern (Summon).  Perhaps a more directed search approach would assist our users to get their information faster.  We could have tab / radio button options on our website to allow our users to search for articles; ebook / ebook chapters and print / AV materials separately.
  • Though some of the participants mentioned that they have attended our library training, there is not much evidence whether this has impacted their search experience in Summon.  (Another potential research topic 🙂 ).

Those are just some of the main points garnered from the interviews.  Any peeps out there willing to share their experience?

User Experience: “You are NOT your user”

I’ve started on our user experience interviews on the use of our new discovery service namely Summon and AZ portal.  One of the objectives is find out our users’ behavior when they search/browse our electronic resources.  Participants include:

  • Faculty members
  • Post-docs
  • Students

Being a digitally born library, our e-resources far outnumber the print collection. Therefore it is imperative for us to know how best we can align our discovery services and other added value services to meet our users’ needs.

Some Questions posed:

  • Have you used Summon / 360? If Not, why?
  • How often do you conduct your research?
  • What obstacles do you face during your research process?
  • How can we, the library, help you to make your user experience (Summon/360) better?

And taking a leaf from this book that I am currently reading: “You are NOT your user” – Admit it.


Of Search Boxes and library websites Pt 1

Recently, I conducted an exploratory study on library websites search boxes (5 Oct 2016).  I wanted to know the types of search boxes deployed by libraries that are using Summon as their web scale discovery layer. I googled and discovered around 83 Summon-ed libraries from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, UAE, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Here are the various types of search boxes:

There are several distinctive types:

  • Simple search boxes
  • Multi-Tabbed search boxes
  • Search boxes with radio buttons
  • Search boxes with drop down features
  • Combination of multi-tabbed / radio buttons / drop down

I noted that the libraries tend to go with simple search boxes or the multi-tabbed search boxes.  Out of the 83 chosen sites, 35 (42%) deployed simple search boxes while 39 (47%) deployed multi-tabbed search boxes.


I was curious whether simple or multi-tabbed would be a better choice to deploy on a library website.  In this Google-era, most searchers would just enter their search phrases or keywords into the search boxes.  They expect to get relevant results at the top of the list.  (Bear in mind that we have a multitude of users out there: the experts, the intermediates and the novices).

Results are often determined by some of these factors (not exhaustive):

  • search terms / phrases used
  • metadata used to describe the library’s resources
  • storage medium of these resources
  • level of IT knowledge of the users
  • exposure to any form of training

Coming back to the library websites, I did some sample known item searches (for example: exact title of an electronic journal) on random library websites and noted that:

  • Most of them cataloged their electronic resources (e-books, e-journals etc) into their OPAC (classic catalog) even though there is evidence that they have an AZ Portal for electronic resources

Our library is ‘moving’ all our electronic resources from the classic catalog and tap into the AZ portal as the resource base.  We are hoping that Summon and AZ are capable to ‘talk’ to each other.  And we are implementing a feature in AZ so that these e-resources can be easily searched and located in Summon.  I’m hoping that this work. Otherwise, I may have to re-think on other alternatives.  Stay tune.




IGeLU Conference 2016 – Trondheim, Norway

I just got back from Norway. I attended an informative (and my maiden one for IGeLU – International Group for Ex Libris Users) conference organized by Ex Libris.  It took place at the Clarion Hotel and Congress in Trondheim.


By the way, it was my first trip to Norway.  Word of caution: If you are catching a connecting internal flight from an international flight, give yourself at least 2.5 to 3 hours or so.  When I arrived at Oslo, there was a very long line at the Immigration.  I pleaded with the immigration officers and they allowed me to go to another line (which was way much shorter).  However, I noted that I had less than 40 mins to –  1). get my luggage at the baggage belt 2). get onto to the departure hall 3).  check-in my luggage 4). go through security check and make a mad dash (do a Usain Bolt dash) to the gate.  Thank God, somehow i made it “thru the rain”.

Back to the main story:  IGeLU provides a platform for Ex Libris and also Proquest users to network.  There are many interesting sessions and meetings during this event.  Participants had the opportunity to bring up issues, get product updates and related matters.  I was a newbie to this conference and meetings.  But I learnt quite a lot when I was there.  Lot of focus on Alma, Rosetta and Primo (being Ex Libris products).

Some of the conference highlights (for me) were:

  • meeting up with the Summon Product Working Group (Summon PWG which I am a member) esp Daniel Forsman, Library Director, Chalmers University of Technology
  • plenary session given by Matt J Borg, Senior Librarian & Solution Expert, Ex Libris and Deputy Chair, UXLibs Committee – “A matter of perspective. User Experience in Libraries and You”.
  • Presentation of the Azriel Morag Award for Innovation
  • Summon Product Update by Brent Cook who is the Director of Product Management, Discovery and Delivery, Ex Libris Summon PWG
  • 360 Product Updates
  • break-out session – “Standing on the shoulders of giants” – Establishing Innovation at Lancaster University Library given by Masud Khokar, Head of Digital Innovation, Lancaster University

One of the things that stood out was the topic of usability, which is close to my heart.  Matt used various examples such as the switch of left-hand driving to right-hand driving in Sweden (1967) – with regards to user experience.  He elaborated on the impacts of such initiative when user perspectives are not taken into full account.  Just as it is with usability studies in libraries, it’s always important to note:

  • behavioral patterns of our users when using the library; and this is not limited to just websites
  • techniques deployed when eliciting information on users’ behavior

among others.  Usability testing can be a simple information gathering process involving some library users and asking them simple and straight-forward questions to complex testings involving “follow the user” behavior method from the moment they step inside the library.  It boils down to how much resources that the library has and how the library can maximize those resources.

Another session that I found particularly noteworthy was Lancaster University Library’s approach and practices to innovation.  According to Masud, the library has taken 4 ways of developing internal innovation. They are:

  • Forced innovation
  • Exploratory innovation
  • Randomized innovation
  • Empowered innovation

(source: Conference notes)

Participants were showed the various stuff that the library did such as:

  • Jolt the Library
  • Smart Cushions
  • Adjustable Desks
  • Noise Canceling Headphones
  • Visual Maps in Primo
  • Charger cables

among others. (Source: Conference Notes).

Apart from that, I attended several meetings on Summon and 360 products.  I had the chance to meet up with the Support Team Lead and the Director of Support for EMEA region.  During that meetings, I aired our library’s issues concerning Summon and 360 products.

During the downtime, I had the chance to visit some of Trondheim’s places of interest namely: Nidaros, Old Town Bridge, Historic Wharves, Bakklandet.  Noted that most of the people in Trondheim cycled a lot, jog and walk around town.  Taxi rides are expensive. I took a 3 min ride and it costs around 20 SGD.

One of the things that impressed me was an incident at Trondheim airport.  An elderly lady apparently placed her passport in her check-in luggage by mistake.  The desk airport staff managed to resolve the issue in less than an hour; contacting the baggage airport staff to  isolate the bag and allowed the passenger to retrieve her passport.  Talk about efficiency 🙂

Here are some photos of my  trip:



Summon is now LIVE

At last, our new discovery service, Summon, has been launched (softly).  After all the hard work, discussions and aspirin / panadol(s),  I’m proud to say that Summon is officially live and kicking.  Now, the after-implementation works begin:

  • Communicating the new service to users
  • Receiving feedback from users
  • Marketing and branding
  • Educating researchers, faculty members, staff, students and the larger community

I’m hopeful that this would be a major milestone in KAUST library.

Thanks to the management team, the project team , library staff and all those who have in one way or another contributed to the successful roll-out of the discovery service.


On top of that, I’m also looking forward to the release of our new library website.  HooYah!

Waiting to Unleash the Beast – ‘Summon’ …


Sharing my recent experience in leading a project team to implement our library’s new Webscale Discovery Layer (WSDL) – Summon.  For those who are not familiar with the term Webscale Discovery Layer, just imagine a search engine like Google that has the capability to search for all the library’s collection of electronic book/journal titles, e-book chapters, e-journal articles, printed titles, audio-visual titles and so forth.  Add in features such as filtering results, exporting to citation management software, emailing, printing the results and many more.  (Hope you get it …)

Part 1: Background Research

The journey towards Summon began when I was entrusted to study, explore and compare the then library’s Web Scale Discovery Layers – Innovative Encore (WSDL) against the other products available in the market.  The end-result of this study was a document that provided comparative information to the library management and IT & Systems team for next steps in evaluating and selecting the next web-scale discovery system for the KAUST library.

Some of my literature reviews:

  • Zhu, J., & Kelley, J. (2015). Collaborating to Reduce Content Gaps in Discovery: What Publishers, Discovery Service Providers, and Libraries Can Do to Close the Gaps. Science & Technology Libraries, 34(4), 315-328. doi:10.1080/0194262x.2015.1102677
  • Hanrath, S., & Kottman, M. (2015). Use and Usability of a Discovery Tool in an Academic Library. Journal of Web Librarianship, 9(1), 1-21. doi:10.1080/19322909.2014.983259
  • Deodato, J. (2015). Evaluating Web-Scale Discovery Services: A Step-by-Step Guide. Information Technology and Libraries, 34(2). doi:10.6017/ital.v34i2.5745
  • Silton, K. (2014). Assessment of Full-Text Linking in Summon: One Institution’s Approach. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 26(3), 163-169. doi:10.1080/1941126x.2014.936767
  • Pinkas, M. M., Baglivo, M. D., Klein, I. R., Brown, E., Harris, R., & Gerhart, B. (2014). Selecting and Implementing a Discovery Tool: The University of Maryland Health Sciences and Human Services Library Experience. Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 11(1), 1-12. doi:10.1080/15424065.2013.876574
  • Nichols, A., Billey, A., Spitzform, P., Stokes, A., & Tran, C. (2014). Kicking the Tires: A Usability Study of the Primo Discovery Tool. Journal of Web Librarianship, 8(2), 172-195. doi:10.1080/19322909.2014.903133
  • Collins, G., & Quan-Haase, A. (2014). Are Social Media Ubiquitous in Academic Libraries? A Longitudinal Study of Adoption and Usage Patterns. Journal of Web Librarianship, 8(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/19322909.2014.873663
  • Chambers, S. (2014). Catalogue 2.0: Facet Publ.
    Cassidy, E. D., Jones, G., McMain, L., Shen, L., & Vieira, S. (2014). Student Searching with EBSCO Discovery: A Usability Study. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 26(1), 17-35. doi:10.1080/1941126x.2014.877331
    Bull, S., Craft, E., & Dodds, A. (2014). Evaluation of a Resource Discovery Service: FindIt@Bham. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 20(2), 137-166. doi:10.1080/13614533.2014.897238
  • Breeding, M. (2014). Chapter 3: References, Resources, and Appendixes. Library Technology Reports, 50(1), 53-58.
  • Breeding, M. (2014). Chapter 2: Major Discovery Product Profiles. Library Technology Reports, 50(1), 33-52.
  • Breeding, M. (2014). Chapter 1: Discovery Product Functionality. Library Technology Reports, 50(1), 5-32.
  • Way, D. (2013). The Impact of Web-scale Discovery on the Use of a Library Collection. Serials Review, 36(4), 214-220. doi:10.1080/00987913.2010.10765320
  • Foster, A. K., & MacDonald, J. B. (2013). A Tale of Two Discoveries: Comparing the Usability of Summon and EBSCO Discovery Service. Journal of Web Librarianship, 7(1), 1-19. doi:10.1080/19322909.2013.757936
  • Ellero, N. P. (2013). An Unexpected Discovery: One Library’s Experience With Web-Scale Discovery Service (WSDS) Evaluation and Assessment. Journal of Library Administration, 53(5-6), 323-343. doi:10.1080/01930826.2013.876824
  • Doğan, G., & Doğan, S. C. (2013). Evaluation of Web Discovery Services: Reflections from Turkey. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 73(0), 444-450. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.02.074
  • Wilson, K. (2012). Introducing the Next Generation of Library Management Systems. Serials Review, 38(2), 110-123. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.serrev.2012.04.003
  • Moore, K. B., & Greene, C. (2012). Choosing Discovery: A Literature Review on the Selection and Evaluation of Discovery Layers. Journal of Web Librarianship, 6(3), 145-163. doi:10.1080/19322909.2012.689602
  • Moore, K. B., & Greene, C. (2012). The Search for a New OPAC: Selecting an Open Source Discovery Layer. Serials Review, 38(1), 24-30. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.serrev.2011.12.005
  • Little, G. (2012). Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? The Evolution of the Academic Library Web Site. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 38(2), 123-125. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2012.02.005
  • Little, G. (2012). Thinking About Discovery Layers. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 38(6), 346-347. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2012.09.019
  • Kornblau, A. I., Strudwick, J., & Miller, W. (2012). How Web-Scale Discovery Changes the Conversation: The Questions Librarians Should Ask Themselves. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 19(2-4), 144-162. doi:10.1080/10691316.2012.693443
  • Johns-Smith, S. (2012). Evaluation and Implementation of a Discovery Tool. Kansas Library Association College and University Libraries Section Proceedings, 2(1), 17-23. doi:10.4148/culs.v2i0.1612
  • Jantz, R. C. (2012). Innovation in academic libraries: An analysis of university librarians’ perspectives. Library & Information Science Research, 34(1), 3-12. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2011.07.008
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 8: For More Information. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 60-61.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 7: Questions to Consider. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 54-59.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 6: Differentiators and A Final Note. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 48-53.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 5: Ex Libris Primo Central. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 39-47.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 4: Ebsco Discovery Services. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 30-38.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 3: Serials Solutions Summon. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 22-29.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 2: OCLC WorldCat Local. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 12-21.
  • Vaughan, J. (2011). Chapter 1: Web Scale Discovery What and Why?</i&gt. Library Technology Reports, 47(1), 5-11.

I compared and contrasted the features of the various webscale discovery layers such as:

  • EDS: Ebsco Discovery Service
  • Encore Duet
  • Proquest Summon
  • OCLC Worldcat
  • AquaBrowser
  • Bibliocore
  • Encore
  • VuFind


Part 2: Compare and Contrast

From the products list, only 3 were selected for further review:

  • EDS Ebsco Discovery Service
  • Proquest Summon
  • Google Scholar (added to this list)

There were several main project tasks for this phase.  They included, among others:

  • Setting-up of trial websites for Summons & EDS
  • Delivering a Content Analysis Comparison Report
  • Online evaluation study – completed by library staff
  • Documentation based on the findings from the internal library staff.
  • Final Recommendation report

Our library staff evaluated the 3 products based on several criterion:

  • Navigation & Discovery
  • User Interaction
  • Content
  • Implementation

After reviewing and deliberating based on the evidences and data findings as well as the project team feedback, management decided to go for Summon based on:

  • ebook chapter searching capability
  • delivery features – linking to article(s)
  • database recommenders feature

In addition to that, we also decided to use 360 Link as our new link resolver.

Part 3: Implementation

One of the main aim of the implementation stage was improving access, organization, discovery and delivery of library’s acquired and subscribed resources (print, electronic etc) through the new web scale discovery service: Proquest Summon and Proquest 360 Link.  This was where the hard work began.  Tasks included:

  • Content Migration (All acquired and subscribed resources: print and electronic)
  • Uploading our research repository records into Summon
  • Scripts (Batch programs) for daily updates to Summon plus live updates as well
  • Widgets for Libguides, LibAnswers and relevant sites
  • Marketing materials: Summon giveaways
  • Branding / Logo that are consistent with our new library website

Next Steps

Work did not end even after the completion of implementation stage.  Things in the pipeline:

  • Marketing of new service
  • Liaising with Subject Specialist on instruction classes
  • Internal training for library staff
  • Monitoring Summon usage to get trends
  • Updating procedures and workflows including troubleshooting issues
  • Monitor impacts to Document Delivery services and Cataloging processes
  • Usability Studies

Project take-aways

I learned a lot from this experience.  There are sweet victories and there are also tough knocks.  They include:

  • Practice patience, perseverance and resilience
  • Every idea, feedback and comments matters: Nothing is too small to be ignored.
  • When you hit a brick wall, just find a way around it as long as it isn’t the Great Wall 🙂
  • Teamwork and more teamwork: Two or more heads are better than one
  • Learn, unlearn and re-learn: Learning is always a lifelong process
  • Adopt and adapt: Don’t be too rigid, learn to accept new ideas and even those that are quite radical 🙂