Notes from Readings on Discovery: Who, What, When, Where and Why of Library Discovery

Peter Murray gave the concluding remarks at the NISO Forum on The Future of Library Resource Discovery, and he recorded his thoughts on his blog. I have pulled out some points worth further reflection:


One vision of a discovery service — ask a question into the air and get an instant, accurate, and concise answer back- the Amazon Echo as an example. Is this what many library users are looking for when they come to our one-search-box discovery service? Do we want our discovery service to look like this and in what ways do we want our service to be distinctly different?

Do users know how to navigate the web, operate a mouse, and understand the user interface cues that are now ingrained in our[the librarians] experience?

Do users have speech, mobility or visual impairments? Do they have the life experience needed to even form the question they are asking, or are they a budding scholar in an unfamiliar research area?

Our discovery services need to take this range of “whoness” into account. They need to work for a wide variety of skill, abilities and knowledge.

Our discovery service should be deeply rooted in the tradition of the reference interview.

The art of the reference interview carefully guides the user through the maze of possibilities. The user might not even know they’ve been lead through one of a thousand paths that could have been taken when the question was first formed. Do our discovery layers account for that complexity as they lead users to their end goal?

While our library discovery interface should have all of the responsive design techniques that make it scale from phone size to wall size, we should not lose sight of where users will conduct their research — on their tablets and desktops.

Within our own community I think we are looking for the ubiquity of our discovery service in all the places the user is.

Contextual clues that the discovery service could use to tune its reference interview algorithm is the time of day, day of the week, and week of the year.

In a world that is being given customization, complete contextual awareness, and near prescient capabilities for meeting its information needs, is it important that the library profession should chase after those capabilities. I don’t know.

Smaller devices are more likely to be used for “known item” searches — such as when the patron wants to send a citation to a collaborator in the course of a conversation.

I will still argue that very, very few are going to conduct a full-blown literature search — with all of the bells and whistles — on a small mobile device.

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