“Eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”

Sarah from the University of Leicester has blogged about the event:

The big message of the day was that discovery systems allow us to give up teaching complicated and arcane interfaces and focus on the higher level information literacy skills such as selection, evaluation, context, appropriateness, and synthesis.

Many libraries use their discovery search and subject pages as their twin tools. Some are abandoning their library catalogues completely […] and at many others they are much less prominent.

Information Literacy in an era of web-scale discovery

Just a quick plug for Alan Carbery‘s recent blog post “Information Literacy in an era of web-scale discovery“…

Web-scale search products should give us the chance to rethink our concepts of information literacy teaching. If we’re lamenting the single search box because it means it’ll be harder for us to teach students complex search skills, then we’re missing the point. If we think our students aren’t going to find the single search box on our website, and not use it, we’re wrong. If we think that students are going to choose an A&I resource over a discovery service that finds full text resources, we’re wrong. If we think students are going to choose the complex, confusing and never-ending list of search options from the single database, versus the simplicity of a single search box, we really don’t understand our students […] We can’t ignore discovery services, and we can’t ignore the opportunities they afford us to rethink our own approaches to teaching information literacy.

Alan also links to an article I’d not spotted before: “Beyond simple, easy and fast: reflections on teaching Summon” by Catherine Cardwell, Vera Lux, Robert J. Snyder.

What a day that was!

First of all, a big thank you to the staff at Sheffield Hallam for organising and hosting yesterday’s event, especially Angie, Caroline, Matt and Rod, and to Serials Solutions for sponsoring the day!

By my reckoning, librarians and library staff from 24 different libraries attended “Information Literacy and Summon” yesterday — so a big “thank you” for coming to the event! I hope everyone had a safe journey home and that you all got something out of attending 🙂

Almost time for #SummonIL to start!

So, what happens next?

We’ll be asking those who presented yesterday to write a blog post and hopefully we’ll be able to make slides available too. We’ll also be inviting all the attendees to contribute a blog post, summarising what they got out of the event.

My own feeling was that a common theme came out during the day:

  • The old way of doing things is broken. Long induction/instruction sessions that involved the librarian showing students how to search a dozen different database interfaces (“click here, then scroll there, click that, etc, etc”) achieve little for information literacy and don’t engage the students. Andrew Walsh, after teasing us all with cute videos, embarked on giving us the “Information Literacy session from hell“, which included telling students that using Google would make them go blind and give them hairy palms 😀 To varying extents, I think nearly all the presenters echoed that the traditional way of doing things was unsatisfactory, but was necessary as students needed to learn how to search a myriad of resources.
  • Summon is different and it requires a mind shift. I touched on this in my talk (“The Path of Least Resistance“) by saying that we go through the Gartner Hype Cycle with Summon (and with any new or disruptive technology). Whilst we’re in the “Trough of Disillusionment”, we’re obsessed with the wrong things: which databases does Summon cover? …why doesn’t the advanced search page have more options? …why did this result come higher than that one when I tried a 5 level nested Boolean mega search?!? As Matt Borg explained in his session, he found Shoshin a useful metaphor: Summon was designed from the ground up for ordinary students and we need to view Summon in that context. We can’t treat Summon as “just another database”.
  • Summon frees up time for Information Literacy. This message came through loud and clear — you can show students the basics of searching Summon in 10 minutes (“just search Summon in the same way you search Google”), which means you can spend the rest of the session concentrating on Information Literacy. Or, as Alison Sharman put it, she can go up to academics and tell them “just give me 10 minutes” in a teaching session and I can show your students how to find quality resources. Using Summon introduces students to the key databases (as they click through on the results) and gives them the confidence they’ll need to tackle searching the key subject databases they’ll need later on in their studies.

This isn’t to say Summon is all singing and all dancing — in a few subject areas (e.g. law), some content isn’t indexed in Summon and there remain issues with linking to a handful of databases and resources. However, I would say that my own personal experience is that I’ve seen continuous improvements over the 3 years we’ve had Summon at Huddersfield: databases that we never thought would ever be indexed are in Summon today and changes (such as “Direct Linking”) have improved the accuracy of linking to the full-text. Given the glacial development speed of most library products, I’ve found the pace of development of Summon quite astonishing. As for the content that isn’t indexed in Summon, we can all play a role in putting pressure on publishers and database providers — I know of at least one US library who no longer negotiates with vendors who don’t have their content indexed in Summon!

Finally, I would encourage everyone to remember that they’re not alone. I think I’m right in saying Summon is the most widely implemented discovery product in the UK and the User Group has a strong collective voice. If you’re experiencing any issues with Summon, chances are someone else has either resolved them or figured out a workaround — as the current Chair of the User Group, please feel free to get in touch (d.c.pattern@hud.ac.uk) or just tweet me (@daveyp)!


Dave Pattern (Huddersfield)

Dave talked about the Gartner hype cycle – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle which gives peaks and troughs of user experiences with new technology.  At the start – when Summon was announced at midwinter ALA, everyone experienced the “peak of inflated expectations”.

After that comes the trough of disillusionment, slope of enlightenment, plateau of productivity – where are you with your Summon implementation? Whatever stage you are at, the way Summon works starts to make sense after a while.

Dave mentioning this blog – (linking to it is too meta – it’s just here)

Lots of interest in today – we’re going to aim to have a blog post from each presenter – and even have a blog post from all participants. It would be great to capture as much content as we can.

Some stats go down when you implement. CINAHL not bad, but experience is showing that Business Source Premier has gone down.

Huddersfield have their own reading list software that they’ve plugged into Summon as much as possible. There’s potential to plug that into Aspire.

Now talking about the “Path of Least” resistance – principle of least effort. Students don’t use Google and wiki because they are lazy – they use it because these tools are  easy.

 Students should not have to become mini-librarians to use the library

quotes from @carolgauld – “Library search tools. Could we make them harder to use?

Research has shown that there is a strong significant relationship between average hours in the library and final grade. (Live blogging is hard!)

Let’s give our students more time to do stuff – like maybe evaluate what they find.

Last 2 or 3 months Huddersfield have “hacked” summon – and looked at things like how many search terms are used, what refining options are used, what number result do they actually click on?

86.8% of clicks are from the first page of results. Big drop off on page 2.

28.1% of searched used at least 1 facet. Content type most used. publication date = 8.4%

Average number of keyword is 4.6

Searches containing boolean – 2.57% in total. AND used most (2.46%)

(data based on 78,274 searches).

Jean McGuiness (Abertay Dundee)

Abertay have had Summon for 18 months and went for a soft launch, gradually enabling resources in the knowledge base.

Decided to show all undergrad students Summon and postgrads were shown Summon and subject databases.

Summon was introduced at a time when Aberay were already redesigning the way they did inductions and tutorial sessions — e.g. reducing session length from 2 hours to 1 hour or 30 mins.

Showing Summon has freed up time to talk about other things, such as the information landscape the students need to be aware of (e.g. law students need to find cases and legislation).

Librarians are perfectionists, so we need to constantly ask ourselves “do students really need to know that now?” and we need to not be scared of making mistakes — mistakes are learning opportunities.

Before Summon, Abertay had WebFeat (federated search) and some people miss the discipline scoped searches (esp. academic staff).

The Summon search box is front & centre in the various subject guides, as well as in the library resources page in the VLE.

Shock in the room! One of the academics said they wanted a link to Google Scholar rather than to Summon 😀

Jean Portman (Surrey)

Jean is talking about the Summon experience at Surrey.

Introducing Summon

Introduced in June 2011 with a soft launch to academics and postgrads.

Allowed time to prepare teaching materials for 2011/12 academic year.

Fully launched in Sep/Oct 2011, along with lots of other changes in the library (new building, etc). Beacuse there were to many changes, the promotion of Summon was sometimes lost in the hoise.

How has it changed our teaching?

We’ve tried to wean students off Google and Google Scholar — Summon is introduced as “our Google”.

Summon is promoted as the first place to go to find articles.

For new undergrads and some second year students, it’s used as the primary search tool (which alarmed some academics!). For all other levels, we stress that Summon does not replace databases for in-depth searching.

Good Things
– positive feedback
– much easier to find a lot of journal articles
– library like it (but not as much as students do!)

Bad Things
– issues with linking to EBSCO and Wiley content
– not everything indexed on Summon
– articles in Nexis don’t link
– de-duping sometimes not good
– slight differences between Harvard refencing and “Cite them right”

Alison Sharman (Huddersfield)

“Give me 10 minutes!!!”

In the days of MetaLib
– long inductions
– confusing
– lots of yawns from students

After introducing Summon
– inductions got shorter
– just on place to go to search for journal articles

Alison shows a quote from a student saying that he would never use MetaLib for journal articles (too hard) and that changed completely once he tried Summon.

Another quote: “Summon is like Compare the Market.com!”

Alison’s now talking about the Roving Librarian project where librarians take a iPad/tablet out into the academic schools, cafes, etc and do live demos and offer research help to students.

Alison says that all she needs is 10 minutes to show students how to use Summon, which allows her to get to do more demos to students during teaching sessions.

In the 10 mins:
– live demo and she’d make mistakes
– get a volunteer to come up and do a search
– emphasise keywords
– refining by date, scholarly articles and ebooks

Some final points
– Alison has created some short screencasts (which are embedded into the VLE)
– some business databases aren’t in Summon, so need to be taught separately
– problems with EBSCO linking, esp. Business Source Premier
– decreased usage for resources not within Summon