Coming soon…

Keep an eye on the blog for the 2013 event 🙂


“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 ( or just tweet me (@daveyp)!



This blog has been set up to support the Information Literacy and Summon event held at Sheffield Hallam University on 18/Jul/2012…

“Whether you’re about to implement Summon, have just done so, or are an old hand at this sort of thing, you’ll have thought about how using web-scale discovery impacts on your information literacy teaching. Have you hardly changed your approach or have you had a radical rethink? Or have you, like we have at Sheffield Hallam, thought about how the Buddhist concept of Shoshin applies to discovery systems?!”

The Twitter hashtag for the event is: