Monday, January 13, 2014

Blog Post - Adele Bildersee - January 13, 2014

EBSCO Discovery Service  (EDS) - A different way to search!

This year the Dalton School Library adopted EDS (EBSCO Discovery Services) as an enhancement to the library catalog.  Discovery is the latest and greatest method for doing research.  It will soon be the lingua franca of search methods, not only on Google, but in colleges as well.  I think of it as going into subject matter through the back door instead of the front door.  What does that mean?  For ages we have been teaching Boolean searching, using AND, OR, and NOT operators to narrow the searching process and to teach our students how to focus.  Venn diagrams helped make the process graphic. 

But the Internet age has turned the process 180 degrees.  Now one starts with a big idea or concept and then begins narrowing the process using “facets.”  Rather than searching the catalog and then each database separately, the “discovery” software finds everything at once – instant gratification!   If thousands of results did not appear at once, that might be the end of the conversation – or instruction process.  But there is a critical sorting process, not always so straightforward.   Lists of “limiters” or “facets” allow the researcher to check off any number of selections:  books only, for example – in the quest for relevant information.  A number of subjects and formats are also listed that can then be pared down.

So, there are some great things and some not so great about this!   More results expand the possibility of finding what the researcher is looking for, often turning up serendipitous and valuable information.  Yet some searches can produce so much that it is overwhelming.   Also, there can be glitches in the system.  If the metadata of a resource is not in sync with the search terms, results may be either skewed or not available.

That said, we are clearly on the path to helping our students engage in more rewarding research in a new and effective way.  With technology changing so fast, “bugs” do not always get fixed on the first round.  Just consider the web problems in rolling out Obamacare, for example.   But like that, we are confident that the end result will be a smoother and more effective searching system that is here to stay.

To quote Marshall Breeding in the January/February 2014 issue of American Libraries:
Discovery services can play a vital role in a library’s strategic infrastructure.  But it’s not a one-size-fits-all arena.  The needs of public and academic libraries, for example, differ enormously. “

If you would like to look at our new EDS library website and try it out for yourself, just go to:

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