Monday 1 October 2012

Sarah Price: Library Technology and Metadata - Measuring Impact

The afternoon session at To Measure or Not To Measure: Driving Usage seminar included a session from Sarah Price who is E-Resources and Serials Coordinator at the University of Birmingham and Co-Chair of KBART.

One of key things librarians are interested in is ensuring that the content they buy is easy to use, is discoverable and accessible for their students. She provided a candid and compelling story of how the University had got to grips with critical feedback from students on the eLibrary provision, and how they instigated a major review and development programme to address the issue.

Traditionally, there were two access points to content: traditional library catalogue (mainly for print collections) and the elibrary service. Both were accessed via the home page, but didn't take into account special collections and other services they had. The user interface was very text heavy, old fashioned and not very user friendly and you had to search separately for ejournals and ebooks, making the experience confusing, unattractive and a source of dissatisfaction.

As a results the University has invest in a Resource Discovery Service which provides:
  • single search interface and search box (with a Google-like interface)
  • harvesting of collections across institutions
  • much faster search and results retrieval
  • discovery at article and chapter level
  • post search filtering and refinement.
The service is publicly available - with no (upfront) authentication - as a taster for potential students and academics. However, if you want to access in-depth content you have to sign-in with your university account. It is designed to have no dead ends and is integrated with other web services such as the University portal. They worked with Ex Libris to develop the product and included embedded searching as a function.

They added the Primo Central Index to this product which is a very important part of the discovery service delivering article level searching. A user can also narrow research from 'everything' to specific collections or using advanced search. You can log in with your own personal account which then provides access to the full set of content and lifts restrictions. When using a search term, the results will indicate what type of resource it is (e.g. articles, books, etc.) Where it is a book, it will show stock and location of copies on a site-specific basis, even including a map of the location in library. Print and electronic resources are listed alongside in a discovery tool. You can see where terms are where you searched to check relevance and you can also facet or post-filter (e.g. by article, book, library site, date range, author, language, electronic database, etc.), and it will attempt to group similar records.

Another interesting feature for scholarly publishers is the link to the in-house reading list management system on each textbook. This is flagged at the foot of the entry and you can click through to see full reading list and then continue through to other titles and services. Crucially, this will be helpful in checking against your records whether an academic has added a title to a reading list or not after receiving an inspection copy.

The resource is embedded on the university portal my.bham within a MyLibrary tab. This is a primary source of driving usage to the site. It's early days for analytics, but at the start of term they have the same amount of traffic from my.bham university portal as from Google Scholar. In addition, index based searching is generating a lot of traffic from their users.

During the implementation they decided to:
  • still provide database level link to native interface function
  • provide library catalogue only search but within FindIt@BHam
  • 'everything' set as search default but enable a limit of scope
  • linking SFX component of Metalib library catalogue to reading list management system and the University of Birmingham Research Archive (UBIRA).
They dispensed with the A-Z list and pre-search limiters and now rely on post filtering facets. They also dispensed with ebook MARC records as metadata input and now directly harvest from SFX. It was a bold decision, but they have found that it works for them. There has also been integration of the single search in the portal and library services homepage.

Price flagged the importance of metadata for discovery. It supports linking to the appropriate copy; allows an appropriate set of links to be presented in a single place; allows the library to accurately and comprehensively display an entire portfolio; accurately depicts the entitled coverage for that user; and allows users to find keywords in full text - not just abstracts.

As 'Resource Discovery Service' isn't the most exciting or engaging title, they ran a competition amongst staff for the new brand name. There were 80 suggestions, but the winner - FindIt@Bham - was felt to tie in with the overall university brand well. They thought long and hard about integrating the Birmingham brand and used pictures of the distinctive campus to customise the out of the box product. They have integrated with the University portal VLE and embedded in the library Facebook page. Other marketing and promotion included:
  • social media
  • lots of work with the Student Guild
  • postcards/bookmarks
  • university staff and student newsletters
  • focus groups, training and briefing sessions
  • integration and prominent website advertising
  • university-wide plasma screens.
It's early days in terms of measuring impact, but they are assessing reviews of user feedback post-launch and have a continuous improvement strategy and post-launch authority group in place. They will analyse future quality measures, service and resource usage and benefits realisation. They are expecting to see a big hike in full text usage, are anticipating a massive impact to their ratings and anticipate seeing value added throughout the supply chain.

It has been interesting to compare to a Google Scholar set of results for certain specific searches. These only give generic results, not library entitlement. It has been interesting to note that the top result on a title is a pdf from JSTOR of a similar book to the one searched - their system is much more precise.

When addressing concerns about wider access to content, a demonstration showed that while Google will present the results, it won't present the full text unless they are free for access or the viewer can log in with an entitlement through the library system. The system doesn't embed authentication without library intervention - the link resolver.

Already, in comparison with Google Scholar searches, the Library discovery is context sensitive to the definition and results are more focused. Library discovery allows added value with resources grouped by subject and scholarly recommender services.

Her advice to publishers on how to integrate titles into the system includes:
  • send your title level metdata to link resolvers (KBART)
  • keep it up-to-date (cessations, title changes, etc)
  • provide your deep linking algorithm
  • allow discovery platforms to harvest your metadata
  • don't be exclusive, be promiscuous!
  • assess usage patterns following integration.
She concluded by saying that integration with library discovery tools is essential to drive usage. This needs to be based on industry good practice and there is a growing body of evidence supporting usage increase (and decrease) dependent on RDS integration.


  1. I hope they do another series of web marketing forums like this one in 2013. I would like Big Data and Social Commerce to be talked about.

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  2. It seems library technology is shaping up in the same way as online marketing. I didn't expect to see librarians talking about metadata and measuring impact amongst readers; just goes to show how the times are changing fast.

  3. Very very useful informations i've got here...thanks a lot.
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