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Teaching Machines: Creating Better Search Engines

Mike DeMars, Systems Librarian, California State University, Fullerton presented this session that focuses on how libraries can utilize website search logs to improve search results for users. The Pollak Library monitors all of the queries that users perform on both the library site wide search and on Xerxes, its customized Ebsco Discovery interface.

Analyzing these queries provided insight into how the library’s users were interacting with its site and brought to light some common mistakes our users were making. This analysis allowed the library to design new methods to more efficiently route users to the information they are looking for and to correct searches that would otherwise fail or return zero results. By teaching the machine how users search for items, the library greatly increased the likelihood that searchers are connected with relevant information.

Watch the Session

Mike DeMars currently works in both the Library Systems Department and Reference and Instruction Department at the California State University Fullerton Pollak Library.  This split assignment gives him the opportunity to design new research tools while also observing how they are applied. Mike’s ongoing study of the interaction between users and the library research tools has led to development of innovative ways to ensure technology is meeting patrons’ information needs.


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