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

Resource discovery and hard-to-reach users

I gave this presentation at the recent EDS Conference in Liverpool.  EDS stands for EBSCO Discovery System, a type of resource discovery interface which allows users to explore a whole library collection from a single search page, rather than multiple catalogues (e.g. for books, e-resources, and special collections).

Find out more about the EDS Conference on the conference site, and from Emma Coonan‘s Storify summary.

EDS and hard-to-reach users

What makes a group hard to reach?

Presentation slide 1Hard-to-reach users fall into 4 broad groups:

  1. Can’t – obstacle such as geography or technology e.g. partner college students and staff; IT/email issues
  2. Won’t – passive non-engagers e.g. students, library staff
  3. Shan’t  – attitude of change-resistance or even hostility e.g. academics, library staff
  4. Last mile, or the last 10%, or the high-hanging fruit – law of diminishing returns.  It’s hard to get everyone on board. Give yourself a break about this group – you can’t force them; you can only provide opportunities for them to engage.

The adoption curvePresentation slide 2

Source: Rogers, E. (2003) Diffusion of innovations, 5th ed. New York: Free Press, p410.

The adoption curve is often applied to technology, but applies to all change.  People respond to innovations in very different ways.  Rogers groups these behaviours as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

User behaviour typesPresentation slide 3

  • Innovators – first to adopt, risk-tolerant, social
  • Early adopters – more selective, highest opinion leadership, and highest social status.  These are the people with influence, not the innovators.
  • Early majority – after a slow start, the innovation is taking hold once this group are on board.  They are seldom opinion leaders, but have above-average social status.
  • Late majority – a sceptical group, with little opinion leadership, and below-average social status.
  • Laggards – these are the last to adopt, as they treasure tradition.
  • Also – leapfroggers! When former resistors upgrade, they will often need to skip several generations in order to reach the most recent technologies.  Maybe you know someone who has never had a home computer, but has a tablet.  Another example is telephone networks in rural areas – landlines were too expensive to set up, but once mobile phones and better reception became commonplace, such communities went directly to having mobile phones, skipping over the landline stage.

StrategiesPresentation slide 4

Use different approaches, and with different groups of people, as the implementation of your resource discovery tool progresses.

Pilot it with the innovators – these people will enjoy testing the system, and will perceive bugs or gaps as challenges to overcome, rather than as flaws of the system.

Nail it with the influencers, whose buy-in you need in order to bring the early majority on board.  This is a time for final tweaks only; the system itself must be reliable by this point.

Scale it with the early majority, and milk it with the late majority.  Do what you can for the laggards, and don’t be too hard on yourself and your marketing efforts if they refuse to join in.

Although the resistance of the laggards is an obvious obstacle, the late majority can also be a difficult group to win over because they tend to be sceptical.  Continuity makes people feel secure (especially in academia), and the late majority may feel stressed if they can see that those around them have adapted and they haven’t.  Furthermore, if they took an entrenched negative view early on, it will be hard for them to change their minds and come on board.

Tailor-made messagesPresentation slide 5

Tailor-made marketing messages are essential for spreading awareness of and engagement with your new discovery tool.

For whom? Consider your audience.  Different messages for different users.  Are you communicating with new students, returning students, academic staff, library staff, other groups?

What?  Sometimes the core message is enough; others may need more detailed or more technical information.  Pitch your message according to how much your target group need to know.  For academics, use flattery – a key academic liaison technique!  This could involve making it clear that interface is primarily for students, or aiming high with detail in the hope that 10% might be retained.  Academics are impressed by someone who knows details, even if they don’t understand them.

When? Don’t just do it once!  Repetition.  Don’t be afraid to do virtually the same thing again and again.  Repetition.  Other factors, not least of all the participants’ willingness to co-operate, and need for your information, will be different each time.  Repetition…

How?  Recycle and repackage your messages.  Use a variety of methods: live presentations, demos, leaflets, videos, screenshots, handouts, webpages – different media appeal to different people.

Don’t give up hope with laggards – one of them may be a leapfrogger!  If you have an academic who resisted the shift from print to electronic journals, a new tool could provide a way for them to appreciate the flexibility of e-journals from a different perspective.

Resource discovery systems and usage statistics

Storify record of discussion on Twitter this morning about the recently-released UKSG report Impact of library discovery technologies:2014.01 Storify RDS

Please click through to the full Storify (sorry, I can’t get it to embed in WordPress).

I think Ben has summed it up well: a scientific approach is at odds with giving students the best chance of succeeding at university, and using the full range of resources (which also gives them skills for further study and/or employment).  Ethically, we can’t create a control group of students who only use traditional library search tools, and not the RDS, in order to compare their usage and learning outcomes with a parallel group using the RDS.

Beyond the Blurb – resource discovery services conference

A resource discovery services (RDS) is a type of software that allows a library user to search multiple catalogues from a single search interface.  It is sometimes called “a Google-like search” because the front page is normally simple, with a central search box.

This conference in Bath brought together librarians, library systems people, and systems vendors for an exploration of the issues in selecting, implementing, and operating an RDS.

And here’s that joke again:

A library systems vendor dies and goes to hell.  He’s ushered into the great hall of suffering, where he sees people writhing in torment and smells the sulphurous brimstone and feels the scorch of flames on his face.

He turns to the imp at his side and says “Wait a minute.  This isn’t what I was promised when we made our deal.  Where’s the party?  Where are the beautiful women and the delicious food?  Where’s the music?”

The imp replies, “Back then you were a prospect. Now you’re a client.”

Board the good ship Discover as you embark on your voyage across the Sea of Information!

At today’s Student & Learning Services innovation event, I was presenting about Discover, our resource discovery interface.  I decided to go with a seafaring theme…

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Laptop, map, and parrot ready to roll

When landlubbers came t’see me display, I’d invite them to sit awhile and hear me yarns of adventure on the high seas…  Here be the map:

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As ye set sail on the Sea of Information, trust not the shoddy raft of Google for yer academic research.  Rather, board the good ship Discover and I’ll see yer safely through the choppy waters.

Beware the Login Cliffs, the steepest face of the paywall coast of the Island of Knowledge.  I’ll see you safely past, with Single Sign-On.  

As we reach Search Point, you must choose between the Basic or Advanced route.  Use the Facet Sharks to narrow down your search results.

If the wind is rising and you need to take cover, rest awhile at MyDiscover Cove, a folder where you can store your search results for future reference. 

Carry on to A-to-Z Bay to go directly to the resource or platform you need, or head straight for Full Text Beach.  Beware the Data Pirates, a lawless bunch with scant respect for copyright, or the terms and conditions of our e-resources licenses.

X marks the spot where you will find your treasure chest of knowledge, and you can rest awhile and read.  When you’re ready to set sail again, fish for new citations at Abstract Lake, and these will set you off on a new research adventure…

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Aaaaaaaaaaar, me hearties!

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.