Boxed in: a set of search boxes

Libraries have major challenges in developing their websites. Think just of the information resources they provide access to. There are locally managed resources: a catalog, a repository or two, informational pages, and so on. And there are many remote resources: licensed databases, links to web pages, and so on. And there are pages which try to pull these together: resources organized by subject or department, for example.

These resources may be different in scope (reference, discovery, full-text or other content, ...), in type of content, in terms and conditions, in specialization, and so on.

Abstracting up to that single - or small number of - search boxes that are presented as a goal is not straightforward. And indeed it is still common to see various searches/entry points offered: the catalog, metasearch, a list of databases, a search of the library website, ....

In this context I was interested to see Suzanne Chapman's "search box round-up".

She does a nice job of commenting on several approaches, and has a companion Flickr set of search box pics.

Incidentally, over time I reckon that 'single search' alternatives to 'metasearch' for general article access will emerge. By this I mean that services will consolidate article level metadata to facilitate access. This is not to say that there will not be target markets where niche databases continue to exist, rather that alternative solutions for general article searching seem inevitable. And of course, we are also seeing integrated search solutions for local resources emerge, Primo for example. In this way, the multiple resource challenge may get simpler, but will continue to exist in some form.

Related entries;

Comments: 0

May 11, 2008
Tony Hirst

Every so often I do an 'audit' of search boxes around campus, (it's surprising just how many siloed search-engines you can find!) as well as across our academic library.

The big search engines have face a similar problem, reconciling web search with image search, video search, blog search etc etc.

One approach all the big players have started experimenting is surfacing results from their 'specialist' search engines in the main web search results page.

I wonder if, with appropriate design of the results page, there is an opportunity for a similar 'universal search' approach on library websites?

May 15, 2008
Lorcan Dempsey

Tony - I think that this is the direction in which we are headed. Most libraries rely on solutions from their vendors and we are seeing quite a bit of interest in integrated environments like Primo which search across all local resources, and may try to integrate metasearch into this.

As libraries generally don't locally load data, and as databases are available under different terms and conditions, perform differently, and may have different controlled vocabularies etc, there are all sorts of boundary issues. Many of these reflect the historic business arrangements that have grown up around these resources and map less well developing user needs and behaviors.

That is why I think we will inevitably see something like you describe. The popularity of Google Scholar is an indication here.

Certainly it is a direction in which we are moving at OCLC.

May 15, 2008
Roddy MacLeod

Seeing the Philadelphia use of Find reminds me that we're redesigning our library website (it badly needs attention), and after thinking about various ways of organising it, have decided to try arranging it entirely by 9 verbs. Find, Ask, Learn, Update, Teach, Get, Access, Comment, Study.