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Summoned to Breakfast

Serials Solutions invited me (oh, and about a hundred other people) to breakfast this morning to present Summon and listen to Peter Jacso discuss search. John Law started off the morning, reprising much of what I’d heard before about Summon and its “web scale discovery” searching. He reiterated that Serials Solutions’ research shows that libraries have a great reputation for having the best content, but students find the interfaces too hard to use. Thus, they start their research with Google. They want something simpley, easy, and fast. Thus Serials Solutions decided to pre-harvest content and present students with a simple search box. John then went to a live demo.

Peter, a University of Hawaii professor and long-time author for ONLINE,  gave us 10 features that he considers important about Summon, particularly in contrast to Google Scholar. He thinks Summon is intuitive, has no a priori commitment to a single database, provides a guarantied full text option, utilizes common sense and logical Boolean logic, has a gingerly tender use of human-assigned descriptors, uses visualization, allows for hovering, peekaboo, view of abstract, reveals the size of databases, shows additional sources owned by other libraries, and exemplifies the synergy of new ProQuest components. He then talked about “library anxiety”–which yields 513 hits! This is related to “database selection stress disorder”.

Peter then demonstrated some of the absurdities in Google Scholar, particularly with misidentified authors (F Password, a street name construed as a personal name) and confusing numbers (any 4-digit number Google thinks is a date). Boolean doesn’t always work the way it should. It’s not transparent. He’s written an article about this that will be published in Library Journal next week.

Marydee Ojala, Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals

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