Understanding the discovery landscape – Webinar with Marshall Breeding, Helen Livingston and Jane Burke

This post contains notes I took when I was attending a webinar: Understanding the discovery landscape: Federated search, web-scale discovery, next-generation catalog and the rest.


  1. Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research
  2. Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt UniversityHelen Livingston, Director, Library Services, University of South America Libraries
  3. Jane Burke, Senior Vice President, Serials Solutions, the innovators behind the Summon web-scale discovery service

URL to presentation (registration required)

Marshall Breeding (www.librarytechnology.org)

  1. Crowded landscape of information providers on the web. Lots of non-library web destinations deliver content to library patrons, e.g. Google search, Google scholar, Wikipedia.
  2. Look at Amazon.com for user expectations of an information provider.
  3. Evolution of library collection discovery tools. From bound handwritten catalogue, card catalogue, online card catalogue, web-based online catalogue, to next-generation catalogue.
  4. Catalogue is not the only source of information in many libraries. Currently, disjointed approach to information and service delivery, e.g. books, journals, databases.
  5. Users don’t understand the distinctions. Many non-library websites are more unified.
  6. Libraries should offer a single point of entry to all the content and services offered by the library.
  7. The answer is a web-scale discovery layer that works with the ILS.
  8. Some features of web-scale discovery tools:
    • Social Discovery
    • Deep indexing – beyond metadata
    • Pre-populated indexes

Helen Livingston
Story about how University of South Australia libraries implemented Summon:

  1. Be prepared to handle dirty data
  2. User survey right from the start
  3. Utilizing the iphone mobile application for Summon
  4. List of limitations and improvements

Jane Burke
The net-generation or milliennials’ expectations’ of library discovery service. Survey conducted on millennials showed a general belief that libraries are the best place to start a research, but actual search behavior of starting in the open web first contradict the expressed belief.

Reasons for contradictions:

    1. No clear compelling starting place
    2. Difficulty identifying appropriate resources
    3. General lack of awareness of resources

Summon was created to tackle the first reason. A single search box enables quick discovery of the most credible resources anywhere the library has them. (emphasis mine)

  • unbiased search results
  • customized to your library’s collection
  • available without authentication barriers

Burke provided a quick tour of Summon’s features and strengths.


  1. How quickly is the unified index updated? This is a key question that libraries must ask the web-scale discovery tool vendors.
  2. A comment that Summon needs to do more work on link resolver technology to offer even more seamless access.

Further readings

Published Report: “Academic libraries and the struggle to remain relevant: why research is conducted elsewhere”. ALIA Information Online 2009. Sydney, Australia