Discovery – shift away from library as starting point?

Yesterday Ithaka S&R shared an interesting conclusion from their recent 2013 Library Survey: 

Discovery in the Library – Shifting Ground? 

They found that fewer library directors agree with the following statement:

“It is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as the first place that they go to discover scholarly content.”

Their findings:

In 2013, 78% of library directors agreed with the statement quoted in the paragraph above, down from 84% in 2010. This decline was consistent across all types of institutions. Respondents may be moving to some degree toward alternative discovery strategies that focus on different aspects of the research process. As one respondent wrote, “I don’t want to presume that all patrons should begin with us… and that if they don’t, we’ve somehow ‘failed.’  After all, isn’t the outcome more important than the path traversed?”

I see this as an encouraging trend: discovery will always be a part of libraries, but we should shift investment away from the “starting point” or “portal” model and invest more in supporting discovery and access from anywhere.

4 thoughts on “Discovery – shift away from library as starting point?

  1. In some sense, this acceptance that the library doesn’t need to be the first stop for research is no more than an acknowledgement of reality: we know from the OCLC surveys that something like 85% of our users start their searches elsewhere–mostly with Google.

    When you say “discovery will always be a part of libraries, but we should shift investment away from the “starting point” or “portal” model and invest more in supporting discovery and access from anywhere,” I agree, but here’s my question: we know that 90% of the hits on our electronic resources are from outside the Library building; we know that about 55% of the hits on our electronic resources are from outside the campus IP range–so these are the (few?) remote users who took the time to log in and authenticate.

    Most of our resources authenticate automatically if you’re searching in the building–but only a tiny fraction of our users access our resources in the building. Most people start their searches with Google, and it is only quite recently that even a few the publishers have made their materials discoverable on Google Search–but only when the search is within our IP range.

    That leaves more than half of our users outside our IP range, mostly using Google Search to discover information, and our resources not available unless they consciously authenticate into our site using Google Scholar or forgo Google and go to the Library homepage.

    My question is: how do you capture those remote users who are not authenticating in? I don’t have the technical knowledge even to guess!

    1. Exactly! Well put! That is the problem I’d like to see libraries begin to spend their time and money on. When a user finds a resource online – say on a publisher’s site, or in a Google search, and they are faced with a paywall, how can libraries make it seamless for them to authenticate and access? Shibboleth is a start, but has many drawbacks. We need a universal login system for the Web that recognizes a person’s academic (and other) affiliations. Call me a dreamer, but if libraries began shifting their efforts towards that goal, instead of fruitlessly trying to draw users away from the open web, we’d all be better off.

      1. I wonder if something rather like Google Chrome’s sync function would be workable–a web-based tool that would not just sync your bookmarks and apps across computers/devices, but also your university affiliation info–thus acting as a sort of single sign-on that would authenticate the user in the discovery process using whatever browser they like? I’m sure there are security concerns with such a tool but if we can do our banking online, surely we could authenticate safely into our collections…

        1. I agree! This is something I’ve been wondering about for a long time. A quick scan of Google shows that the idea of a “universal online ID” or “OpenID” has been around for years. Google and Facebook are the most notable adopters – and even the US Government is looking into it, see this post: I am dismayed that the commercial sector is once more ahead of us, as more and more people rely on commercial identities to manage all their logins. I think this is a missed opportunity for the academic/library world!

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