24:3 (2009:09) 24th Conference: Strategy Session: NELLCO’s Universal Search Solution (USS)

September 11, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Conference Reports, Strategy Sessions | Leave a comment

NELLCO’s Universal Search Solution (USS)

Roberta F. Woods, Reference and Electronic Resources Librarian and Assistant Professor; Franklin Pierce Law Center
Reported by Barbara M. Pope

A quote by Roy Tennant on the NELLCO (New England Law Library Consortium) website says, “Only librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find.”  This is a very apt point on the subject of Ms. Wood’s presentation.  She began the session by describing the problem consortium members had with resources not being utilized due to low visibility or lack of ease of use.  The libraries wanted to optimize existing resources and make them easier to use by being able to search everything at once.

Woods identified three project goals:  resource discovery; having a single search box; and a single search set.  The libraries wanted patrons to be able to search all resources from a single point.  They wanted the single search set of results to include items from the online catalog, databases, vetted free websites, and locally developed content.  She added that consortium members wanted the system to be Google-like and have scoped searching.

Woods noted that the path to the Universal Search Solution began with looking at federated search products.  The consortium was not satisfied with them because they did not have any legal databases.  Woods added that search results were unsatisfactory and vendors were not forthcoming with how relevancy ranking works.  For example, while the libraries wanted to make the online catalog more visible, catalog results were buried.  Search statistics were skewed.  Woods explained that the slow connection and loading times as well as increased traffic caused database servers to crash.

She added that the consortium also investigated using a Google search appliance.  When they tested it, online catalog results were again buried.  However, it was an improvement because the connection and loading times were fast.

Google Scholar contacted Woods about using Google Scholar.  However, doing so would have meant the libraries would be searching everything, not just their resources.  Ms. Woods noted that NELLCO turned them down.

After unsuccessfully examining these options, NELLCO applied for an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant to have a product developed.  Once the grant was approved, they hired Index Data to create the tool, which they dubbed Universal Search Solution.  The product is up and running and does index searches instead of real-time searches, making it fast.  It includes faceted searching by law school, author, vetted free websites, and paid databases.  It de-dupes results, displays them as a single set, and notes the owning library.  Phrase searching is the default, and while advanced searching is available, Woods notes it is likely not used by students.

Woods emphasized that while other products that the consortium looked at were unsatisfactory for various reasons, Universal Search Solution has fulfilled their needs by being simple and easy to use and increasing accessibility and visibility of resources.  She added that Universal Search Solution is still in beta, but once completed, it will be an open source product available for any library.  Ms. Woods invited libraries to try out the tool.  For additional information and to search, go to http://nellco.org/index.cfm?pageld+505&parentID=504.


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