02 June 2015

Recent reading - Implementing Web-Scale Discovery Services

Thompson, JoLinda. 2014. Implementing Web-Scale Discovery Services: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Rowman & Littlefield.

As part of my new job, I'm now responsible for strategies around library systems, including my university's discovery layer (we use Summon from Proquest). As I've never been involved in the implementation of a discovery layer, I was hoping to find a resource that would quickly give me an overview of the types of decisions that the project team at the time would have made, and the kinds of things that might need to be re-visited at as part of a program of continuous improvement.

I got a copy of this book through the power of interlibrary loan (thank you very much, UTS, for sending this via the Bonus+ scheme), renewed it for a second month and then still took it back late, which is a good sign that I was finding it really useful! I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about how systems like this work behind the scenes.

The book is well-structured, easy to read and, as the title suggests, very practical in its orientation. All the major discovery products are included and the discussion of their various features is very balanced. There is no sense that Thompson is pushing one product over others; in fact, a lot of emphasis is put on finding the right discovery layer in the context of your specific library, and not assuming that what has worked elsewhere will be best for you. There is also a good amount of space given to non-technical aspects of implementation; how to communicate with people who will be affected and how to conduct a roll-out in ways that will minimise disruption and ensure a good uptake. One of the most useful features is a number of checklists that could be used when deciding which discovery layer to get and how best to set it up to suit the needs of your community. Each section finishes with some key resources for those that want to build their understanding through additional readings.

As a result of reading this book I sent an email to our Resource Discovery Specialist to find out more about how we have configured Summon at Griffith. He has invited me to sit down with him in the next few weeks to have a look at the admin console, which is where all the major tasks are undertaken. I feel like I will be able to ask more sensible questions and know what I am looking at as a result of reading this book. Combined with the evidence that we have at Griffith for how highly used Summon is, the book has also made me think that we should be providing more information and training to our librarians and to our academic staff and students on how to make most effective use of it.