Web discovery tools and user experience

This presentation was given in two parts: a perspective from Sheffield Hallam University and a case study from the British Library

1. Matt Borg & Angie DonoghueSheffield Hallam University (SHU)

At SHU they have recently implemented Summon – a shift from systems that librarians know how to navigate to ones that are intuitive.  An excellent user experience requires the right systems

Connecting users with the information they seek is one of the central pillars of our profession.  James Vaughn

Summon was rebranded to “Library Search”.  The implementation of a web-scale discovery service allowed librarians to focus on the process, not the tool, when delivering information literacy sessions.

The trouble with Summon is that students don’t need to be taught how to use it, but librarians do.  Matt Borg via Daveyp

Matt told us about the concept of shoshin, or beginner’s mind: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”  Use the system like a user, not like a librarian.

We are not our patrons

2. Louise Doolan, British Library (BL)

In 2008, the BL had 37 online catalogues.  One of them looked like this:

Old BL Catalogue

The British Library chose Primo as their resource discovery interface, and branded it as Explore.  It was launched in 2012:

Primo at the BL

The old catalogue only indexed about 8% of whole collection; Explore/Primo now indexes 33.5%.  Explore is the main gateway to the collections, but it’s still not the only catalogue.

“We had to take complex Boolean searching away from our librarians.”  The culture change began as a drip feed – they wanted to get the doubters on board.  Theories and an academic framework were used to ensure buy-in from stakeholders who would respond to this type of approach.  Information literary was not mentioned.

A communication and training programme for library staff was initiated to ensure that all staff could support researchers, taking account of users’ variance in information literacy skills.  SCONUL’s 7 pillars of information literacy model was adapted – ‘researcher’ was changed to ‘librarian’, and the ‘evaluate’ and ‘present’ pillars were not relevant in this context:

  • Identify: a librarian is able to identify a need for information to address the research question
  • Scope: a librarian can assess their current knowledge and identify gaps
  • Plan: a librarian can construct strategies for locating information and data
  • Gather: a librarian can locate and access the information and data they need
  • Manage: a librarian can organise information professionally and ethically

Researcher Development Framework (RDF) – describes knowledge, skills, behaviours and personal qualities of researchers at different stages of their careers and encourages them to aspire to excellence.

The adapted pillars of information literacy and Domain A characteristics of the RDF also fed into the BL’s list of professional competencies and are used in appraisals.



  1. Pingback: Summary of IFLA information literacy conference « Laura's Dark Archive

  2. Pingback: Summary of IFLA information literacy conference | Laura's Dark Archive

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