Here at Out-of-Door I took the plunge and upgraded from EBSCO’s Integrated Search to their Discovery service in 2010. This coincided exactly with the gestation and arrival of my younger son, and the processes did feel rather similar. They involved monumental changes, they took a long period of time, caused me to feel both elation and uncertainty, and in the intervening years I have never been sorry I undertook the endeavor.
Enough sentimentality and metaphor! Onto practical matters. For those of you who are using EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), I hope these help. If you’re not, maybe these tidbits will make it seem more feasible. If you see things I’ve overlooked or have a better way to do it, please share in the comments below.
- Let’s start with the most basic of all aspects: price. It is the most expensive single item in my budget. I find it to be worth every penny in terms of the firepower it brings to research, and we are able to purchase it through the MISBO consortium at a very substantial discount. You can add or subtract EBSCO packages to the base price of the EDS architecture, so there is some flexibility in what you’re buying.
- Remember to update your local collection within EDS periodically. When you add new books or other materials to your collection, these items do not update automatically in EDS. I export my entire catalog and then upload it via FTP about once every three months to ensure that new books will appear in an EDS search. It takes about 24 hours for the update to take.
- Check periodically to make sure it’s really federating everything you want. Sometimes the link between EDS and other subscriptions you have set up inside it will expire, and then you will not see results from databases to which you subscribe. Our Gale Academic OneFile link expired earlier this fall and it seriously impacted my results. If the link is expired, simply get in touch with their help desk and they can fix it almost immediately. By the way, one of my favorite things about EBSCO is their customer service and support. Their tech help desk is staffed by software geniuses who must have psychology minors – their people skills are spectacular and they’ve solved every problem I have laid at their feet.
- Managing your results. The chief complaint is that holy cow, does it return a LOT of results, so many that students’ eyes cross at the thought of sifting through 3,743,289 results for a basic search on Shakespeare. Here are my favorite strategies:
- Make sure to set up your relevancy rankings so that your own local holdings appear at the top. This highlights items in your own collection, can boost circulation numbers, and at the very least gives you an opportunity to talk to students directly if they come to you to find those resources for a project. Face time AND a circ boost, win!
- This is crucial: at an administrative level, turn off the databases that are irrelevant to you. Many of the results you are getting are for things that are indexed but not available to you in full-text form. It is entirely possible your users will want those results, but I find that mine really want things they can actually read, so knock out some of that metadata and your results will be much more satisfying for most users.
- On that same note, every month or so you are informed via email that EBSCO has added this or that (or all of these!) database/s to what is being indexed. It really pays to visit your administrative settings frequently to turn off whatever has just been added if you don’t want that metadata to appear in your results page. “Citation creep” is real!
- When you demonstrate EDS to users, remind them they can filter their results themselves quite narrowly. You can filter for full-text only and you can filter by the type of publication. This means you can filter out all those pesky book reviews that so often clutter up the results page. I’m sure our users need book reviews once in a while, but I find that generally most of them don’t. You can also filter very tightly for date range: only newspapers from 1960-65 on the subject of the Cold War, for example. With advanced searching techniques, even narrower results are possible, such as those by a particular author or in a certain publication.
- Your audience. Is it suitable for a middle school audience? That depends on the databases you decide to federate into it. If you truly federate everything, then there will be results presented that may be unsuitable for middle school readers. I don’t mean in terms of content, although certainly that is very likely, but rather it may give them things they can’t successfully read and interpret. The user can limit the search by content provider to narrow it to age-appropriate databases, but that’s only possible after an initial search returns results to be filtered. It is possible to search within selected publications, such as Calliope or Highlights, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a discovery service.
As always, feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got specific questions, and I really encourage other users to post their tips and tricks in the comments down below.