Discovery systems as convergence: blurring the boundaries between public and tech services

Jenny Bossaller & Heather Lea Moulaison, SISLT, iSchool @ UM

Tech as driving force of change in libraries

Discovery systems as an emerging case study

  • How are librarians talking about it, in general
  • Front of house vs back of house concerns, and how they approach change
  • Discovery system: driving dept convergence or still a point of separation?
  • Evolving inquiry abt discovery systems

About Discovery Systems

Dedicated systems that provide access to a variety of library resources thru a single search interface

  • Central index
  • Single search box
  • relevancy ranking
  • facets
  • Koha doesn’t do deduping on searches (I know Evergreen does) but it does all these other things

Major Discovery Systems

  • Ebsco Discovery Service (EDS) (EBSCO)
  • Primo (Ex Libris)
  • Summon (ProQuest)
  • WorldCat Discovery (OCLC)
  • BiblioCore (BiblioCommons)
  • AquaBrowser Library (ProQuest)

Some discovery systems pull in data from other systems and users.

Data pulled into discovery systems — databases, other collections, repository, econtent, and others….

What is innovation? 

(vs technology — hardware (pencil) software (knew how to use eraser))

  • Def — the act of introducing something new; something newly introduced
  • there is a connotation that an innovation, unlike something that is only “new” is also an improvement or is somehow incremental in its advancement over prior options
  • Discovery systems are a technology that represents a major innovation over previous models for access

Diffusion of Innovation

  • Not everyone is going to adopt a new tech right away
  • To adopt/not to adopt: appeal; cost; perceived benefits; ability to prioritize, etc

Roger’s innovation adoption curve

  • Innovators
  • Early adopters
  • Early majority
  • Late majority
  • Laggards

Professional literature

Each library community has its journals

  • Kind of library: academic, special
  • Kind of librarianship: systems librarians/technologists; tech services/cataloging; public services/reference; library admin

Librarian publications

  • research article in scholarly journal; white paper; conference; internal circulation
  • Scholarly journals arduous/writers probably have external motivation (tenure requirements)

Peer reviewed journals

  • vetted end product
  • gets the research out to a wider audience over time
  • audience predetermined audience due to aims and scope of journal/expertise

Building library silos? 

  • Specialization yields task-based depts: public/user services; tech services; systems; hierarchically on size, mission, budget
  • Leads to divisions


  • Reflects a need for holistic understanding of the library as a single unit
  • Capitalize on strengths
    • Staff reference with some tech services employees (Makinen, 1997)
    • Place public service librarians in services (vanDuinkerden, 2009)
    • Place reference librarians in cataloging (Kennan, 2014)
  • Why isn’t there more cross-pollination

“This growing dichotomy of public service vs tech service is a very disturbing element pervading libs. the truth that there is no division bw ref and tech services….” –Boone? (2000, p. 34)

Systematic reviews

Used in scientific domains — social/psychologicla/medical research

Synthesis: defined by purpose or research question; methods, theories, perspective; “….attempts to aggregate empirical research for the purpose of creating generalizations” (Cooper and Harris, p. 6)


  • Problem definition: what to include? Exclude
  • Collect research evidence: evaluate for inclusion
  • Coding procedures
  • Analyze
  • Present synthesis methods and results


Research of discovery systems

  • 2 studies in public libraries
  • a few that were general
  • 85% were in academic libraries
  • Community of librarians, by year
  • Lots of academic libraries; very, very little in public libraries

Journal types: most often: reference/public services; systems (most of this group); academic; general — very little in other; management; medical; cataloging/tech services

Trend — 2012 — lots of articles (20) in academic journals — lots of case studies in 2012

Research methods: log analysis; usability; theory; survey; literature review; single library/case study; comparative — systems; tech services; access people

Methods used in papers — many had multiple methods used: case study + usability + survey

Many, many case studies in academic libraries. None in public libraries.

Convergence literature? And what is missing

  • Everyone loves talking about discovery systems
  • But they’re not writing about them — public librarians and children’s interests

What does this mean? Academic librarians have a captive audience, need tenure, so write about captive audience.

The open discovery initiative — a model by which content providers work w discovery service vendors via fair and unbiased and indexing and linking

JISC Discovery Open Metadata Principles — librarians partnering with vendors and content providers

2014 — rec’d practice document

The problem with discovery

What’s going on under the hood? Differences in interface features are clear, search algorithm and search details are proprietary

ODI’s proposed solution — guidelines and rec’d best practices for both discovery system providers and for content providers; rank results objectively; adequate metadata provided

Templates filled out by content providers



Conclusions: we have a solid foundation to move forward. Librarians should: Work with vendors and content providers; be assertive; work together; identify problems and promote solutions — convergence?