Earlier this year, I watched a webinar about a search interface from Innovative Interfaces. I wanted to share my notes on what it allows – and some questions the demonstration didn’t answer.
Encore is the most current library catalog product from Innovative Interfaces, Inc., and it supersedes the OPAC that Dartmouth College Library uses now. Encore Duet is an expansion of the Encore product to include access to electronic articles, e-books, locally created digital collections, and the library’s traditional collections of materials, in one search interface. Duet’s default search presents results from across all the different content types available. It’s offered as a service that can be hosted either locally or in the cloud.
The goal of Encore Duet is to provide a user experience that’s integrated. They are building their own relevance and value ranking into their system. The product includes instant updating of indexes and real-time availability, and it is being presented as something that can save library staff time by including these features. (There is a demonstration instance of the system available at http://encore-academic.iii.com, although some features will not be working because it won’t have an institution’s subscribed content included.)
The interface is built around a search box with three default tabs to search in: CatalogPlus / Catalog / Digital Content. The CatalogPlus tab is an all-in-one search which integrates all of the content that Duet can access. The catalog tab searches within the records that make up the library catalog (content currently served at http://libcat.dartmouth.edu). The Digital Content tab provides searching across the harvested digital objects that the library has configured.
The search of the catalog records integrates many of the features of the catalog itself – placing holds, requesting or renewing items are all functions that can be done in the Duet interface. Current availability of item records is also included. One interesting feature that’s built in is a shelf browse widget – clicking on the call number displays a small number of the titles that would be nearest on the physical shelves to the record selected, allowing for a browsing experience that approximates visiting the shelves in person. This browse display can be either a graphical representation with book jacket thumbnail images, or a simple list in call number order. The library can determine which facets are available to users and can have them re-ordered, removed, and/or set to be open or closed by default. Additionally, locally created indexes can be used as the basis of facets beyond the standard ones that Encore Duet provides. Another interesting feature is the “Promote relevance” button. This feature is available for library staff to boost specific records in order to move them closer to the beginning of search results, but no details were given on how that is accomplished.
The interface provides direct linking to pdf’s of article content in some cases, with OpenURL linking being used as a fallback. Their link resolver is included with Encore Duet, although it’s not clear if it’s a new product or just a bundling of WebBridge, the OpenURL resolver product they’ve sold for years. The article searching is provided through a partnership between III and EBSCO. Content provided by EBSCO and ProQuest was shown in the course of the demonstration, and the presenters claimed that the interface doesn’t privilege results from one provider over another, but ensuring the inclusion of content from all the providers a library subscribes to is important. E-books from EBSCO and Overdrive were highlighted, and the ability to checkout ebooks from Overdrive while in the Duet interface was shown. The system is based on the idea of using Duet as the library’s knowledgebase. This would obviate the need for some of the work that we currently do in the Electronic Resource Management module in Sierra.
Duet can be configured to harvest digital objects from up to three external repositories, to be indexed and included in the main search. The example that they showed brought thumbnail images and metadata into Duet from a contentDM instance. This is interesting to Dartmouth, as we already have ContentDM for many of the objects we’ve digitized.
The tabbed setup might cause confusion about which things are where – certainly some results returned in the Catalog and CatalogPlus tabs will be digital content. There is a similar source of confusion in the faceting that’s provided – users can limit to the catalog by using the tab or the facet on the left. “At the library” is a facet under the heading “Availability” with nothing to show how it’s different from “Library Catalog,” and users may be uneasy with this ambiguity as well.
Questions that I still have:
- Does it integrate with StackMaps?
- Is the relatively slow response time seen in the demonstration typical?
- How can we prevent users from coming to dead ends in their searching? During the demonstration, the presenter used the facet for EBSCO EDS full-text – and the link brought her to a page saying that there were no matching results. (I tried the same search in Summon and got a link through to the article, which is apparently available through Wiley Online Library. I wonder if that’s one provider that wouldn’t work with Encore Duet?) It might be significant that some of the articles found had links for both full-text finder and “WebBridge” which is III’s OpenURL link resolver – which might be confusing to users and it’s not clear what if any maintenance by library staff this would require.
- What would a service like this cost, especially in comparison to something like Summon?
- We know that library users want simplicity in finding things, and a single search box with a unified results set seems like a good attempt at simplicity. But many of our peer institutions have been moving toward bento-box style results, with different types of search results broken out into different compartments within a results page. Which approach will better serve our patrons?
- Have there been published reports on the usability of the service?