Journey to Full Text Finder: A Pilgrim’s Progress

I gave this presentation at the recent EDS Conference in London.  EDS stands for EBSCO Discovery Service, a resource discovery interface which allows users to explore a whole library collection from a single search page, rather than multiple catalogues.

Image credits: all British Library public domain unless otherwise stated (images linked to source)

Journey to Full Text Finder: A Pilgrim's Progress (with apologies to John Bunyan)

A pilgrim with staff

I based my presentation on the idea of the migration from the old A-to-Z admin to the new FTF (Full Text Finder) admin as a pilgrim’s journey.

Here are three definitions of a pilgrimage (source: Oxford Dictionaries).   My experience of migrating to FTF has something in common with all three dimensions!

pilgrimage /ˈpɪlɡrɪmɪdʒ/ 1 A pilgrim’s journey; 1.1 A journey to a place of particular interest or significance; 1.2 (chiefly literary) Life viewed as a journey

Let’s consider the origin of the word “pilgrim”… It first appeared in Middle English from the Provençal pelegrin, from Latin peregrinus meaning ‘foreign’, from peregre ‘abroad’, from per– ‘through’ + ager ‘field’… Which brings us neatly back to a familiar aspect of EDS: field [codes].

Slide3

How to prepare for a pilgrimage? Here is St Luke with an ancient laptop 😉

St Luke

To prepare for your pilgrimage, begin with a period of study and reflection, and seek answers to the following questions:

  • What (place you’re aiming for) – destination
  • How (plan) – break down into stages
  • When (particular times) – milestones
  • Where [else] (repercussions) – knock-on effects of the change e.g. linking, user guides, library staff training and expectations, academic staff
  • Who (people) – corral your team: self, colleagues, EBSCO – and keep in touch with them
  • Why (purpose) – improvements to self/system (and because we have to…)

Remember ‘what’ and ‘why’ to guide you when other plans need to change.

Now we have a beautiful plan mapped out!

John Bunyan, The Road From the City of Destruction to the Celestial City (Wikimedia Commons)

What could possibly go wrong?  Unfortunately, the Slough of Despond is also on the map…

Slide8

Testing times – and again, preparation is key.

Slide9

Prepare – parley with your fellow pilgrims. Speak to people at this conference, at any networking opportunity, use the EDS Partners maillist. People are generally more generous at sharing rather than reporting.  Andrew Preater recently wrote about this in the context UX (user experience) work, suggesting reasons such as time, money, culture, competitive edge, external validity, fear of criticism or lack of confidence in the work.  I think all these are true in the discovery environment, and I learn much more from a face-to-face conversation than I could from searching for text-based information on the web.

Contingency – build in extra time, and then some more, and keep your real deadlines private (EBSCO are probably doing this too).

Murphy’s Law decrees that tasks won’t be finished early — especially when you need them to be. Some things will go wrong and take longer.  You just don’t know which ones…

Get involved – learn as much as you can, and watch everything that is going on in the migration project.

Let go – be clear about what you can’t control. Let EBSCO be responsible for their bit.

Have we now reached the Enchanted Ground?

Slide10

It’s the end of one journey, and the beginning of the next chapter, as the migration of data is complete and the phase of testing begins.

  • Checking… everything: databases (screenshot of comparing old/new EDS), authentication… and all this takes time
  • Updating guides
  • Updating staff
  • Update linking, and monitor integration with reading list software (which is itself being upgraded in August)
  • New single search box
  • …At same time as launch of new library website

But there are some positives:

  • At least we will only have 1 authentication system!  From 1st August, we are only using Single Sign-On (no more Classic Athens)
  • Good opportunity to review branding
  • Useful to have site visit from EBSCO

Effect on other areas of library work e.g. serials management, acquisitions decisions – no specific effect of FTF yet, but interoperability of subject content with discovery interface from same/similar vendor is becoming very important.

Alain bringing the Grail

Have we now found the Holy Grail of better search and discovery?  For me, “better” means a closer match between expectations and reality.

I normally present about projects I’ve worked on in the past, and the distance between the event and the present helps me to remember and comment on it calmly.  This time, the move to FTF is still in progress, and I am surrounded by the intense pressure on me to have everything working perfectly. I need to remind myself that I will do everything as well and as fast as I can, but I can’t be responsible for the things beyond my control.

I also find it helpful to remember the broader context around this Holy Grail of library discovery.  Even if the FTF migration all goes to plan, it’s not going to solve all our problems. I sometimes feel that librarians put too much faith in some mystical, expensive technology to transform our students into graduates, our academics into researchers, and our investment in content into KPIs and targets met. So I will leave you with some thoughts on this alchemy…

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Do we prefer a simple but wrong answer to one that is complex but right?

In the first boom of the book-printing industry in Venice in the 1500s, some thought that more books would bring more learning. But… most people were illiterate.

In the sphere of learning, academia, and information literacy, we believe that more teaching, greater volume of published works, and more complicated discovery technology will bring more learning, more satisfied users, better feedback. But… learning to read and think for yourself is difficult.

What is the limiting factor? Is it tools, or human skills?  If the core of a problem is “humans”, the solution won’t be found elsewhere.

When looking for solutions, we must be be sure to define an appropriate problem.

Black Books season 1, episode 1 “Cooking the Books” (Channel 4)

Thank you to EBSCO staff Seoud, Adam, and Abid, with whom I have been working closely on this project.

For the audience, please take a moment now to note 3 ideas you’ve had during the course of this talk, 3 people you’d like to meet, and 3 questions you’d like to ask – and let’s see if during the course of this conference, we can connect you with people who can help you on your pilgrimage.

Pilgrim’s Path, Holy Island of Lindisfarne (photo by me) – the end of St Cuthbert’s Way long-distance hiking route

Update: find out how I got on in Journey to Full Text Finder – arrival in the Celestial City

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Journey to Full Text Finder – arrival in the Celestial City | Laura's Dark Archive

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