New Discovery Tools: Moving Beyond Traditional Online Catalogs


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Questions & Answers

Below are listed questions that were submitted during the November 9, 2011 webinar. Answers from the presenters will be added when available. Not all the questions could be responded to during the live webinar, so those that could not be addressed at the time are also included below.


  • Athena Hoeppner, Electronic Resources Librarian, University of Central Florida Libraries
  • Rice Majors, Faculty Director for Libraries IT/Librarian, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries
  • Joseph Allen, Library Manager, and Bryan Tyson, Technical Services Coordinator, J.S. Mack Library at Bob Jones University

Feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions about library, publishing, and technical services standards, standards development, or if you have suggestions for new standards, recommended practices, or areas where NISO should be engaged.

NISO Webinar Questions and Answers 

1. For Athena: Great analysis. When did you do all this? How recently?

Athena Hoeppner: I started the analysis about a year ago and re-examined the implementations and size reports within the last 2 months (Sept-October).

2. Is a subject or author browse search a thing of the past? I think most products produce a result list (like Google) with a result based on relevancy - one thing I hear from customers is that in our discovery product they miss the ability to do author/subject browse searches. Have you seen many with a controlled index result list?

Athena Hoeppner: There is no over-arching taxonomy or name authority file for the contents of Web Scale Discovery indexes. The WSD vendors do not map the subject terms nor authors from loaded metadata to index-wide thesauri or name files. I imagine that algorithms for name disambiguation and taxonomy generation must exist, are improving rapidly, and (I hope) coming to WSD systems soon.

Rice Majors: I do think we need to consider use cases where an author or subject browse is the best (or just preferred) way that patrons want to discover things. Right now our classic WebPacs provide those functions, but I’ll be interested to see when/how these kinds of features make their way into discovery tools. I think the real challenge is that we are now looking at combining such a heterogeneous set of resources (print, digital, electronic) that it’s hard to imagine just how these browse functions would work. Different databases will treat a name or subject very differently, and you’ll be back in the messiness of a pre-authority control kind of world.

3. Where in the results can you see from where the information is coming?

Athena Hoeppner: The metadata sources searched and/or displayed for any given record are shown in different places on the WSD vendor:

EDS (University of Georgia): On the initial results list on the left side of the screen under the heading Results List.
In the record at the bottom the Database is listed.

Encore Synergy (University of Nebraska, Lincoln): In the left side area, the open portfolio shows which databases were searched and the number of hits. Encore Synergy only lists results from one database at a time.

PCI (University of Iowa): Under the heading Collection in the left side area there is a list of databases and the number of results from each. You can click on the database title to limit the results list to records just from that database. Additionally, you can click on Details to show a full record. Some of the records link to external metadata sites, such as the National Library of Medicine. Finally, some of the records have the option to "View all Versions" of a record for an item.

Summon (Oregon State University): Click on the magnifying glass icon to see the full record, and look for Source. Most of the full records did not display the source - I only found Web of Science listed in some records.

WorldCat Local: In the initial results list, on the left side under the heading Databases.

Rice Majors: I’m not sure I quite understand what question 3 is asking, but generally the “location” or “click-through” for a resource will tell a sophisticated user where the resource is coming from (e.g. a licensed database, the traditional catalog). I do think this is sometimes very unclear – Summon in particular obscures where the “click-through” link will take you (and Summon seems the most reliant on link resolver technology to get the user to the resource). But maybe this doesn’t matter if the user gets what they want?

4. For Athena: As vendors hear of your work, it seems likely they will send you more specifics. If so, will you please do a Part 2 or post it on

Athena Hoeppner: Yes.

5. Have you thought about conducting your study with Librarians, to see what differences there might be?

Rice Majors: I did think of conducting a study of librarians, or even library employees (i.e. including paraprofessionals). However, I think that whether the tools work for those folks doesn’t or shouldn’t matter. Librarians need to adapt to tools that suit their patrons’ needs.

6. If you were not already a III customer, would you have still considered Encore?

7. For Bob Jones Univ team: Did you do any usability testing? If yes, what did you find?