A “Star” in 1 minute

Yeap, that’s me. Doing my bit in promoting the new OneSearch – the library’s new search engine aka web discovery layer. Just to share a little bit about the video. That one minute of video involved more than 5 hours of video shot and retake. But it was well worth it. Among the new features of OneSearch are:

  • Integrated login to all your library needs
  • Request for library resources and track the status from one integrated platform Integrated login to all your library needs
  • Personalise your searches under My Favourites Integrated login to all your library needs

Last but not least, the library has also produced several others video to promote OneSearch:

Here’s some “behind the scenes” pictures 🙂

“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.