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 :-)
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 :-D 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just tweet me (@daveyp)!