Ebooks: The Library Catalog and Federated Searching Part 2

Today I am going to talk about the need for federated book searching in medical libraries.  Full disclosure we do not have a federated search product and most of the ones I have played with on other library sites have left me frustrated.

My library does not have a federated search product. Probably the biggest reason why is while our users say they want the Google experience, we have observed that this isn’t quite the case.  I think they think they want a federated search type product for article searching and a separate type of federated search product for books.  From what I can tell when they are looking for information they usually know if they want journal articles or books on a topic.  They usually don’t want both.  This is probably because we are a hospital library and the patrons tend to want the most recent research which is usually in a journal article.  They usually consult books when they are looking for more in-depth or background information on a topic.  The people who want information on a topic from both books and journals usually are doing research for school.   There is nothing wrong with that but they just aren’t the majority of our clientele.

I will leave the idea of a federated search product for searching journal articles for another time for two reasons. First, this post is primarily about ebooks not journal articles. Second, I have some big reservations about federated searching the journal literature and quite frankly I need to sort them out before I put them in print.  So, on to federated book searching.

From what I can tell EBSCO and Serials Solutions offers federated searching and they will search for ebooks.  I know Mark said on the webcast that there were no medical libraries currently using either of those two products for ebooks.  However, there were a few who tweeted that their library indeed was using one of those products.  I would love to hear their thoughts.

I know we looked at federated search products a while back and at that time they didn’t meet our needs, which is how we thought our patrons would use it.  What we wanted was a federated ebook search that would look across ebook platform silos and retrieve search results.  Basically a one stop shopping for ebooks.  Type in heart and it would retrieve results from various platforms like, Braunwald’s Heart Disease on MDConsult, Hurst’s the Heart on AccessMedicine, Short stay management of heart failure on Books at Ovid.

We didn’t want it retrieving the journal Heart from BMJ, The American Heart Journal from Mosby, or the Harvard Heart Letter.  We also didn’t want it searching our databases returning every article known to mankind containing the word heart. 

Ideally it would be nice if it could retrieve our printed books too.  Of course you probably are saying “but wait the catalog does that, why are you looking for a federated search for ebooks when you can add your ebooks to the catalog?”  Well as I mentioned most users aren’t using the catalog.  Now if ILS companies and librarians could make some major sweeping changes and patrons begin to use the catalog more, then yes that would be a good idea.  But there is another problem with that scenario, catalog systems are kind of weak when it comes to searching.  Why?  They are missing content.  There are an ton of records out there that don’t even have the TOC.  So when somebody wants to find information on aortic arch development (which is a section in Chapter 8 “Molecular Development of the Heart” from Hurst’s the Heart) they aren’t going to find anything in the catalog even if it did list the TOC.  But they will find it with a federated ebook search.

Mark did mention the Univerversity of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Library System has their own home grown federated ebook search that searches the full text of over 1000 health and biomedical science ebooks.  I have to say that is pretty nifty.  Searching the term heart retrieves books that not only have the term in the title but also the chapter.  I am sure this took a lot of time for them to create, I would love to know more about what went into its development and how they maintain it.  So if anybody from there is reading, please comment to tell us about development, maintenance, and it usage among your patrons.

A ebook federated search would be extremely helpful for librarians and patrons. Ideally I would love it if you could marry the ebook’s federated search to the catalog, but then that would mean we would have to really boost up our catalogs and their records and figure out a way for our catalog systems to search the full text books in multiple silos.  I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

One thought on “Ebooks: The Library Catalog and Federated Searching Part 2”

  1. Hello!

    As the Assistant Director for Computing Services, for the University of Pittsburgh’s Health Sciences Library System (HSLS), I’d like to thank you for the HSLS e-book search (www.hsls.pitt.edu)shout out.

    Although the e-book search is homegrown, it does use a licensed search tool as it’s base- Vivisimo’s Velocity. Our Knowledge Integration Librarian is programmer who makes it all work.

    Development was documented in a 2007 JMLA article (PMC1773047)and many of the challenges remain the same: working with the vendors and the underlying e-book platforms. Problems arise when vendors make changes to their platforms However, many vendors are supportive and some provide an “extra” seat for our search server. Speed can also be an issue as the tool is only as fast as the slowest vendor platform.

    As for usage, we average about 2500-3000 searches per month.

    Finally, please be on the watch for an upcoming JMLA article from HSLS about e-book use!

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