Thursday, January 10, 2008

Next Generation Resource Discovery

What is the Resource Discovery Exploratory Task Force?

The Resource Discovery Exploratory Task Force is charged with developing a vision for information resource discovery in the Libraries that supports teaching, learning and research at UW-Madison. The Task Force will conduct an environmental scan of current options, including the opportunities and challenges of each. Our tasks include looking at available software options and querying our patrons and staff about their information seeking behaviors and how we can better satisfy their information and resource discovery needs.

The Resource Discovery Task Force members are:
  • Allan Barclay
  • Susan Barribeau
  • Sue Dentinger (co-chair)
  • Kelli Keclik (co-chair)
  • Eric Larson
  • Albert Quattrucci
  • Karen Rattunde
  • Curran Riley

The task force is slated to present its findings to UW Madison library management by the end of May 2008.

Why do we need a Resource Discovery Exploratory Task Force?

Resource discovery with traditional library tools is a frustrating and time-consuming process for many researchers. As a result, information seekers frequently bypass the library in favor of tools that provide quick and easy results and are fun to use, like Google. Google offers features like relevancy ranking, customization, spell checking and provides instant access to a variety of information resources (web sites, images, videos, etc) without asking you to select an index. Compare Google searching to the many steps and decisions one must make in order to locate a scholarly article on our web site and you start to get a sense of the problem.

What’s in the future?

Luckily, there are several commercial options, like Primo and Endeca, and several open source options, like VuFind and LibraryFind, that are working to close this gap. The task force will explore these different products and approaches and make a recommendation based on user needs, our vision for the future of resource discovery, and the current library technology infrastructure. We will also define the broad technological infrastructure required to be well-positioned to handle future information discovery changes. How can we create an environment where change happens more rapidly and easily?

Why do we need this blog?

The purpose of this blog is to promote discussion and learn about your vision for the future of resource discovery. We will ask big picture questions and solicit feedback on particular products and tools. This blog will function as a companion piece to our monthly open forums. Staff, students, and faculty are encouraged to contribute to the blog and attend open forums. Open forums will be held in Memorial Library 126 at the following times:

  • Thursday January 31, 2008, 12:30 – 1:30 pm
  • Friday March 7, 2008, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
  • Friday April 4, 2008, 12:00-1:00 pm
  • Friday May 2, 2008, 12:00 – 1:00 pm

A more complete description for each session is forthcoming.

A question for you!

Where do you typically begin your search for information on a particular topic? Why?


Dorothea said...

If I have no compelling reason to choose some other entry point, I typically begin a wide-open topic search at

I am assured that whatever I find will be immediately available without having to jump through hoops, and a reasonable proportion of the time, I can satisfy my need in three searches or fewer.

For a specifically profession-related search, I often go to, a Google Custom Search engine that searches librarian weblogs. Information from weblogs is usually more current than the professional literature, and it filters the said literature to what is actually worth reading.

Just to get the ball rolling!

Steve said...

1. "HEY, PETE! How do I do X?"
2. Do we have a book in LTG that will tell me how to do X?
3. <Ctrl>+<T>, <Tab>, Google search from Firefox for doing X
4. Somewhere from the library home page.

Barbara said...

If I'm doing something for my life outside of work/school I generally begin with some aspect of Google. Mostly because it seems to be a good place to begin for almost everything. I also ask people who I think are knowledgeable to recommend things to me.

In addition I keep tabs on some of my favorite things via my de.lic.ious bookmarks collection and I use this for both work/school and non work/school- related searching.

For course-related research I generally start with the Subject approach to the E-Resource Gateway, though my classmates, once they discover I am a librarian, complain about how complex the approach to all our databases is. They also wish we had books online as much as we have full-text articles online (This is true, I swear!)

I know we are all still longing for the One Great Database in The Sky. I hope this Resource Discovery effort will nudge us a little farther along the road.

Sue D. said...

Wow! The thing I am struck by is how very different each of the three previous commentors typically begin a search strategy.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I'm usually not researching anything formally. I'm 'investigating', or just curious, or following up on an article someone recommended -- and then following links from that as my interest strikes.

So I am usually starting from a recommendation and checking the bibliography and links from that. I definitely build on the work of others. I rarely just formally start a search on an topic where I have no point of reference to start with. Because without this, the world is overwhelming.

But I do have one pet peeve. Whatever method I use, it's got to be simple and FAST. If documents take me 30 seconds to open, they go down in my estimation. And for some unknown reason, they don't get read as often. And if a website persists in being slow, I stop using it. I've got other things to do!

I in general don't want comprehensiveness on a topic--I don't have all year and I'm not an academic. I either want 'the best' (i.e. someone else to make a judgement for me that this is the best information on this topic) or I want a summary giving me succinctly all the viewpoints.

So for my purposes, starting with people, document or websites that I know are 'expert' in this area save me time. It's worth it to me if some website has added value and said this document is worth your time on this topic. Conversely, relevance ranking as google does, APPEARS to work, quite often for my general needs, although I've certainly seen it fail when I know exactly what I want and can't get that site to 'float' to the top.

I should add, that quirky funny writing will often suck me in as I get interested in the authors viewpoint for it's own sake.

And yes, I often use plain old google to get info on say 'water purification systems' because I'm starting to explore buying one and want to know their differences. I'm continually amazed at the range of documents that return on consumer topics like this. Could I have used or a blog or consumers digest instead of plain old google? Yes, and sometimes I do. Like just now I tried

But perhaps I failed to mention how lazy I am?