‘Library Search’ at De Montfort University was launched in September 2014 and on 22nd December the implementation phase was declared to be officially over. Over the Spring and Summer of 2014 there was a good deal of concentrated effort put into getting Summon to reflect the variety of print and electronic material available to members of the university and that effort seems to have paid off. I expect people soon to be wondering how they ever got anything done without it.
I did get the chance to ask a pharmacy student how she felt about Library Search last week. At first I was pleased that she knew what it was, but she explained that her tutors were always highlighting the importance of using academic content in her assignments and that Library Search was a good way of finding this kind of material.
It is an important comment for underlining how being able to find and use academic content makes a difference to assignments and eventually degree results. But it also highlights the responsibility of the Library, and Content Delivery team in particular, to ensure that the appropriate content is all findable within Library Search.
That is, in fact, where the emphasis of the team’s work is being focused in 2015. We are moving into the implementation phase of Intota, a tool for managing electronic resources. Behind Library Search is a whole range of electronic resources to which the university subscribes. Intota does not add to that range, only makes managing them easier and ensures, for example, that we do not lose access to anything just because anyone forgot to pay the bill.
One of the tasks that need to be completed in getting Intota up and running is to add prices for our individual journal subscriptions. Where we have made a start on this we have already found more content that we can activate in Library Search, so that more articles show up in the search results. Equally, we have also been able to tune the activated date ranges to exclude years were we no longer have access. This helps to avoid frustrating users with articles that can’t be accessed and cuts down on helpdesk calls as people try to figure out what went wrong.
Once we have prices for journals and start collecting usage figures for article downloads we can make evidence-based decisions on how to promote and manage our electronic collections.
As we gain new collections, like the recently added Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals they are added to both Summon and Intota so that we can keep track of them and make the content available to students via library Search.
New journals are also being accepted into the Directory of Open Access Journals and we are monitoring the additions and adding those relevant to the university. As the range of students and their interests becomes ever more international this can be an important way of ensuring that material is available in languages other than English.
One of the other key elements to the Library Search infrastructure is EZproxy, which in turn requires attention and further fine-tuning. When Library Search was first introduced the EZproxy logs were monitored daily to identify and fix any problems with the way the service was configured. Having a proxy service in place means that many login problems that could be potential obstacles for students can be precluded. But there is an art to proxy configuration and odd side-effects that need to be investigated and resolved.
The trend towards internationalisation draws increased attention to the licenses that accompany and regulate the use we can make of electronic resources. We are hoping that Intota proves a useful tool for keeping track of the licenses themselves and alerting us to provisions that need to be enforced.
Of all these activities to support Library Search perhaps the most exciting is the interpretation of the incoming usage statistics. It will be interesting to learn if there has been a ‘Summon-effect’ in the use of electronic resources. Already it appears that the Ebrary e-book collection has been better promoted, via Library Search, in 2014 than we managed in 2013. Where usage was more mature there may still be discernable trends apparent as Library Search gains in popularity. Whatever the figures, those for the first term of Library Search use are likely to be closely investigated as they present a new benchmark in electronic resource use in the university.