Out-googling Google: Federated Searching and the Single Search Box (Contributed Paper)

Katy Silberger and Verne Newton from Marist College shared their experiences implementing Central Search, a product from Serial Solutions. Federated search was implemented as part of a web site redesign. Direct links to discipline specific resources and federated searching is available on the library's front page. Their federated search is dubbed Fox Hunt, after the college's mascot, the red foxes.

A conscious decision was made to include Google and Google Scholar as part of federated search. The single federated search box includes the phrase, “Search library databases and Google at the same time," to get student's attention. Katy shared that during instruction she informs students that Google is not able to index the deep web (like subscription databases). By using Fox Hunt, students have a better chance of finding more relevant sources for their assignments. Usage statistics show a dramatic increase in the number of full text article usage and PDF downloads.  

Image searching was an additional benefit for Marist from their implementation of federated search. The college offers a fashion design/merchandising major. It was often challenging for students to find pictures of fashion for class projects. The Library's solution to this problem was to include the NYPL Digital Gallery, NYPL Picture Collection Online, and American Memory web sites as part of the fashion design/merchandising federated search. Katy indicated that the descriptions in American Memory are very detailed and often include clothing descriptions. 

The conference paper, presentation, and demos of Fox Hunt are available on Marist's web site.  

I was most impressed by their decision to include the image collections in federated search. Image searching is not currently included in OhioLINK's federated search tool. I am not sure if it has been considered, but worth suggesting. Ohio students (and all Ohioans with a public library card) are able to search across multiple art collections within the Digital Media Center. However, it would be nice to include other open digital collections in the OhioLINK federated search tool.

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Federated Searching: Do Undergraduates Prefer It and Does it Add Value? (Contributed Paper)

Jeffrey Belliston and Jared Howland from Brigham Young University shared initial results from their research on undergraduates' use of a federated search tool at BYU. I applaud them for making this session interactive. I think they distributed around 100 clickers to the audience prior to the session beginning. We were asked to vote on our opinion of federated search, if we had a tool deployed locally, and what we thought their results might show. It was a great way to get everyone focused at 8 a.m on a Saturday morning. I was sitting with librarians from Maryland and Massachusetts and we shared a clicker. It was fun.

Jeffrey and Jared developed a search problem and had students at three different BYU campuses (Utah, Hawaii, and Idaho) find information using regular A&I databases and BYU's federated search tool. They wanted to know if federated search saved students time and if students preferred federated searching over traditional A&I database searching. Iris has a written a more descriptive post of this session. Jeffrey and Jared indicated that they are writing a paper for publication based on their research and are still analyzing data.

The initial outcomes from their research are what you expect. In general, federated searching saved time (roughly 10% for the students in Utah) and they preferred using federated searching (70%) over traditional A&I databases. The data is different for each campus, which could be related to how the search tool has been customized and implemented locally on each campus. Their research was also focused on one discipline, biology, and other disciplines may experience other results.

Our students and faculty at Muskingum College heavily use OhioLINK's federated search tool (Metalib).  Since August 28, 2006, the beginning of our Fall semester, there have been 10,740 searches executed. Our campus is currently ranked 12th (behind Bowling Green State University, ahead of Ohio University) in usage from August 28. This is attributable to having the federated search box front and center on our web site.

I know some librarians believe we do our students a disservice by providing federated searching. I believe that it is better to give them a "Google like" tool so that they can find quality articles from journals and magazines vs. the questionable content on the open web. This is especially necessary when many of our students wait until the last possible attosecond to start their research and tend to take the path of least resistance to full-text.

What do you think? Is federated search a necessary evil?  Have you had good experiences or bad experiences? Do you teach it during instruction? 

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Are you ready for the new LexisNexis Academic?

LexisNexis turned on the link to the Academic beta during the ACRL conference. I stopped by their booth and confirmed that the new interface is going live at the end of June. I haven't had a lot of time to kick the beta's tires yet. The new interface looks similar to Westlaw's Campus Research.  Iris has posted notes from the LN update lunch held during ACRL.