Different doctrines for discovery solutions in libraries

Discovery solutions for library collections in form of a large index, a modern search interface and a link resolver can be implemented in different ways. Discovery search services can serve as an interface to the complete collections of a library, including both digital and physical collections, but also to small, topical coherent databases of full text documents. This wide range of possibilities for deploying the discovery search service demands the library to make strategic decisions concerning both the coverage and the settings of the system, and how the discovery system is promoted to the end users. Together the strategies forms doctrines, major paths to implement and use the discovery search service for the library.

The doctrines are:

  • Full text interface;
  • Grande catalogue;
  • Topic exploration.

Features of a doctrine can be integrated any other doctrine, but only to a certain point as some features are mutually exclusive. The doctrines supports different end user search strategies and behaviour as they places the user in different positions in relation to the indexed content and to the library. None of the doctrines is superior to the others as they serve different purposes. The doctrines should not be interchanged with how the users actually uses the system, the doctrines describes different library approaches to the discovery system.

The doctrines differs in several dimensions:

  • Focus on electronic documents or on both electronic and physical documents.
  • Focus on the discoverability of the library collections or on topical discoverability regardless of the local collection.
  • Focus on one or a few subject fields (narrow topically) or on many subjects (general).

Features of the doctrines

The full text interface doctrine focuses on the existing electronic collections of the library and to ease the use of them. Locating and accessing the available full text is a challenge when the library has different content providers with unique systems of their own. The doctrine ensures the use of the collections paid for and creates a single access point to the electronic collections.

System features and settings for the full text interface doctrine:

  • only electronic documents
  • searching available full text as default

The grade catalogue doctrine has all the collections, both digital and physical, and their searchability as the central idea. In several aspects, the doctrine is similar to the full text doctrine, but it bridges the divide between electronic and printed material. The goal of the doctrine is to have a “one-stop-shop” where the whole library can be found, a clear and distinct alternative to Google for the patrons. To gather all resource and make it searchable in one system is superior in front of the functionality.

System features and settings for the grade catalogue doctrine:

  • both electronic and physical documents
  • searching in available full text and library holdings as default

The topic exploration doctrine focuses on promoting existing documents, not just documents available at the library. The topical coverage can range from very narrow to very broad. The system supports multiple search methods and it has expressed and functional support for more than localization of full text.

System features and settings for the topic exploration doctrine:

  • only electronic document or both electronic and physical documents
  • searching in existing documents
  • might be limited to a specific subject

Implications & conclusions

The doctrines include marketing, intended audience, teaching and help texts. In addition, the direction of the development of the system. When it comes to training the end users the doctrines highlights the implications of the decisions taken. The grand catalogue is in its purest form the only search service the user would need, which is closely connected to the collections of the library and its acquisition of resources. This means that the users should not be trained in other search services; the grand catalogue discovery system is a total solution.

Training in the full text interface doctrine is similar to the grand catalogue doctrine, but focuses only on the electronic collections. Efficient localisation of full text is an important aspect. Unlike the previous doctrines is topic exploration focused on subject searching, both explorative and well defined topical searches, without regard taken to the collections of the library. The training is focused on the different types of information needs of the users and how search strategies can utilize different system features.

The discovery search services has given the libraries a system which bridges the gaps between the library catalogues with information on the printed material on one side, the bibliographic databases on a second side and the web sites of the publishers with the full text documents on a third side. As the doctrines indicates can the discovery systems not only bridge the gaps, it can replace the previous systems to a large extent. The question is how and for what purpose.

The outlines doctrines are the major types of implementations of the discovery systems today. Perhaps will the inclusion of more encyclopaedic information into the discovery systems create a fourth doctrine, serving other types of information needs. Another possibility is to use the discovery system for more than one doctrine with distinct profiles separating them. Niche profiles could also be used for specific collections, e.g. small collections of digitized cultural heritage.

The implications for the users will be covered in a future post. There are several interesting aspects including look-up searching vs. exploratory searching, active/passive searching, and search strategies (different affordances and constraints).

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