Discovery Layers, a CRIG seminar.

On Friday I attended a CRIG Forum about Discovery Layers.  The travel there was with some work colleagues in my car.  The conversation at some points centred on our current uncertainty about work restructure and prospects so was a bit unsettling.  When arriving at a certain planned car park I found that it was only available for certain members for  use of which we were not,  but fortunately we found an alternative inner city car park close by, and paid the outrageous price for the privilege of parking convenience.  The venue for the seminar was part of my old stomping ground of Victoria University. It has been some time since I had been there, and the venue was on a level and area I’d not been to before so it was interesting to revisit.

First speaker was Justin from Swinburne University of Technology library.  His presentation is here.  His main emphasis was the tweaking of PRIMO, their discovery layer, to better suit the users.  He talked about the lessons learnt over five years and what they might have done differently if they had known.  He talked about cutting facets to simplify things,  tweaking the front page, and utilizing the Ferber ( which puts like things together) and giving local content more precedence and prominence.  The simplification of the front page came about through a large amount of work in the background which has ultimately allowed for a better user experience.  It was noted that PRIMO does not handle journals well, and that Swinburne have a separate journal and database listing.  And that without an SFX replacement the transition between citation to article does not work well.   It was mention that the drop down options might be replaced by an advanced search feature.  There was a chorus of librarians from Swinburne who stated that they use the current drop down.  A common theme over the day was that the discovery layers work okay and simply for undergraduate students particularly, it is the librarians that have issue with wanting and looking for the known items or by having memories of previous systems want the new system to perform like the old one which they will possibility never do.

Second speaker was Dana McKay also from Swinburne who is currently undertaking an interesting PhD topic on library shelf searching and retrieval.  She presented user studies of the discovery layer and emphasized how important it is to have real data and evidence for change than to just go by isolated user experience feedback or small subset focus groups that only give a small picture.  The results presented came from number crunching and testing of their discovery layer format of 2012 and 2013, and sampling in March, and then in May, and seemed to draw some evidence that students seem to pick up better ways of searching later in the year.  Known item versus keyword searching seemed consistent in results.   One message she emphasized to broadcast was to not let clients cut and paste their citation into the discovery layer like they do with Google Scholar,  it doesn’t work .  There was an emphasis again that the discovery layer seems to work okay for undergraduate students and that advanced or more detailed searching came about via database searching and via librarian teaching intervention.

Post afternoon tea break an interesting panel included Sabina Robertson from Deakin University, Amy Han & Kerry Bedford from  Monash University,  & Jenny Ellis from University of Melbourne, and chaired by yours truly.  The  overall theme of discussion was Discovery Layers – why do libraries use them? We looked for questions and feedback from the audience of librarians present with a handful of planted prompt questions from the CRIG committee.

It was all a bit spontaneous but I thought it good to set the mood by allowing each panelist to give a brief opinion and overview of their thoughts.  Most stating that the discovery layer give the user what they want, and allows the undergraduate to have an easy googlish experience, but also recognized that there is still a requirement for librarian intervention and teaching for better ways of searching and channeling to advanced database use as discovery layers have their limitations.

Questions from the floor included is teaching boolean logic dead.. not so…still needed for database searching.  Information literacy training is still required to find the good stuff.  Overcoming or being aware of the embedded discovery layer analytics and the often not so good display of results.  For example seeing the required known item in a list is sometimes fifth or  lower, and not in the top three like with google. And thus working and notify clients of this limitation not to just accept what they see but to question and seek information.  There was also an expressed need to work closely with academics to work with curricula and to imbed and teach the limitations of the discovery layer and guiding to other sources.

It was an interesting afternoon and allowed for some good interaction and conversations with colleagues.  Well done CRIG! There was a bit of a void of tweets coming out of the seminar.  I sent a few #CRIG

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One Response to Discovery Layers, a CRIG seminar.

  1. Cath Sheard says:

    This comment “it is the librarians that have issue with wanting and looking for the known items or by having memories of previous systems want the new system to perform like the old one which they will possibility never do” really strikes a chord with me. Our first LMS was installed in 1993 and I still have people tell me sometimes that “xyz system did *this*”. I want to say “and ?” … because the reality is, two more LMS down the track, we are much better off if only a very few staff would move on.

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