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Thursday, June 6 • 10:45am - 11:45am
Optimizing Discovery: Developing a Holistic Approach to Managing a Discovery Service

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The discovery service has become a prominent and valuable tool within many of today's libraries. Created to meet user expectations in the age of Google, these services aim to provide a single search platform for an institution's digital collections. Ideally, they seamlessly connect users to resources spread across various publisher sites and databases. However, without proper configuration and regular assessment, these services can may have frustrating barriers that potentially drive users away. This presentation will outline a holistic approach for identifying such barriers and optimizing a discovery service, focusing on system knowledge, user experience, and strong communication.

The approach described will be applicable to most institutions and discovery systems, but will draw examples from a recent project to help illustrate the ideas. In 2012, Ohio University Libraries adopted EBSCO Discovery Service, but by 2017 the public interface and back-end functionality remained little changed. Anecdotal evidence suggested it was poorly viewed by both users and library staff. Improving the service was prioritized in late 2017, when a working group was formed to assess and improve it. The E-Resources Librarian maintained responsibility for managing the system, but working group meetings proved valuable in connecting technical management to public experience.

The presentation will discuss three key elements for optimizing a discovery service. The first element is understanding the functionality of your discovery system to actively manage it. Doing so may require seeking documentation, educational sessions, and presenting questions to vendor representatives and colleagues. The goal is to reduce reliance on support representatives for routine maintenance and troubleshooting. These representatives are valuable contacts, but are not fully aware of an institution's unique needs and configuration (e.g. regional access, proxy servers, subscription details). Understanding the ins and outs of a system will allow timelier troubleshooting and hands-on customization.

The second element is better understanding users through feedback and interaction. Usage statistics are crucial for managing e-resources, but qualitative feedback can provide further insight into common search strategies and the general opinion of a service. This presentation will reflect on recent usability testing at OU Libraries, conducted to better gauge user experience. Though more difficult and time consuming than gathering statistics, the feedback proved crucial to developing improvements in linking and the visual layout.

The final element is communicating and collaborating with colleagues. Discovery service management often rests with technical services librarians who may have little direct contact with the average user. Reference staff and instructional librarians may serve as advocates for users while also playing a major role in promoting the value of a discovery service to users. The latter requires buy-in from the staff, which can be fostered through routine and transparent communication when updating the service and addressing issues. OU Libraries has seen the value of this approach firsthand through the formation of the aforementioned working group, in which four of the six members work in public services. The group also held open staff forums on the discovery service and actively sought feedback on proposed changes.

avatar for Seth Sisler

Seth Sisler

Electronic Resources Librarian, Ohio University

Thursday June 6, 2019 10:45am - 11:45am EDT
Three Rivers - WP Floor