The Ohio Library and Information Network, OhioLINK, is a consortium of 90 academic libraries and the State Library of Ohio that work together to provide Ohio’s 600,000 students and faculty with the information they need to fulfill their research objectives. Together, OhioLINK and its member libraries provide access to nearly 50 million books, 17 million electronic journal articles, more than 81,000 eBooks, 45,000 theses and dissertations, more than 100 electronic databases, and thousands of images and videos. In 2012, OhioLINK purchased EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), a robust library research platform that creates a unified index of an institution’s information resources and provides users with a single search experience. More than two-thirds of OhioLINK’s member libraries have opted to implement EDS, and initial feedback indicates that the service is a success.
Before Gwen Evans became Executive Director of OhioLINK, she worked at member institution Bowling Green State University as the Coordinator of Library Information and Emerging Technologies. Armed with iPads, a group of University librarians circulated the campus asking students to find information on various topics using the library’s resources.
“They were shocked at how fast library users would depart for Google,” Evans said. “They said, ‘We have to do something; we are paying a lot of money for these resources and our students are not finding them.’”
In October 2008, OhioLINK issued an invitation to negotiate with any vendors able to build a state-of-the-art, unified search interface for all OhioLINK content and that of its members.
“At the time, we were using a federated search product, and people were very dissatisfied with it,” Evans explained. “The perceived need was there, and in fact, OhioLINK was imagining a discovery layer product that didn’t exist. We had a lot of resources that people wanted in an all-in-one search service, and they wanted it to search across full text. They wanted a better experience than federated search was able to provide.”
However, efforts to respond to the scope and cost of the project delayed the product’s development. Meanwhile, several vendors began releasing commercial discovery products, and member libraries were eager to move forward.
“The institutions were concerned,” Evans said, adding that some member libraries went ahead and purchased discovery products on their own. “They were worried that the delays in the project were denying their students a tool that they badly needed.”
In 2012, OhioLINK formed a discovery task force to develop criteria for evaluating the commercial discovery products on the market and ultimately select a vendor.
Content neutrality was very important to us.
Content neutrality was very important to us.
Several key factors led OhioLINK to choose EDS.First, the consortium wanted a discovery product that could meet the complex information needs of its top research universities. However, the product also needed to provide a robust enough support structure to assist smaller institutions with implementation and maintenance.
“We have five ARLs in the state,” Evans said. “The product had to be capable of meeting their needs. But we also have some very small institutions. The product had to be implemented without a lot of staff time and trouble. How much support would the vendor give to us to implement the discovery layer on our individual campuses, and what kind of support could we expect moving forward once the product is a mature implementation?”
In addition, the discovery layer index would have to cover at least 80 percent of all OhioLINK content, and searches would need to return the most relevant results, regardless of content provider.
“Content neutrality was very important to us,” Evans said. “We were very careful to assess whether non-vendor-owned content was still in the vendor-supplied discovery layer.”
Implementation, Customization & Branding
After signing a contract with EBSCO in December of 2012, OhioLINK members libraries began implementing EDS on a metered basis. EBSCO and OhioLINK agreed that there would not be more than 15 institutions implementing per quarter.
“It’s gone very, very well,” said Eliza Sproat, Discovery Layer Implementation Manager and Communications Liaison for OhioLINK. “EBSCO Support has been phenomenal.”
OhioLINK has incorporated seven proprietary digital data sets into EDS, including the central union catalog, and member libraries can choose which of these collections to include in their individual implementations.
Institutions were also able to retain the individuality of their libraries’ information and services by branding EDS with unique logos and colors, customized search boxes and toolbars, and guest access entry points.
For example, librarians at Cedarville University renamed EDS as “OneSearch” and branded their custom search box with the institution’s blue and gold colors. The search box also includes links to the library catalog, A-to-Z lists, and OhioLINK.
To ease the transition to EDS and ensure a consistent user experience, Wright State University added custom logos and an Ask-a-Librarian chat widget. “Our goal was to keep the branding of EDS similar to that used in our EBSCOhost databases because our users are already familiar with the EBSCOhost products,” said Systems Librarian Leigh Duncan. “This allows for ease of use across resources.”
Training & Promotion
Because librarians at the different member institutions had different levels of comfort with EDS, OhioLINK offered a number of trainings to shepherd them through the implementation process.
In addition, OhioLINK shares information on its own listserv and website, and points librarians to the EDS listserv and the EBSCO Support Site for more help. “Information is shared quite rapidly on listservs,” Sproat said. “People all over the world are talking about EDS.”
Evans agreed, pointing to a climate of cooperation among librarians across the state of Ohio and beyond. “There is a very transparent, easy sharing of best practices,” she said.
Benefits & Results
Input from librarians at some of OhioLINK’s member libraries suggests that EDS has had a positive impact on students, faculty, and libraries.
“The discovery layer has empowered our less-skilled researchers to find quality materials in one place,” said Suzanne Johnson-Varney, Technical Services Librarian at Shawnee State University. “It takes a lot of the stress out of navigating the myriad of resources in the OhioLINK portfolio.”
Johnson-Varney said EDS is included in the library’s Information Literacy Instruction classes. Teaching the resource has been easy, she said. Students are already actively cross-searching from inside records and utilizing the tool’s personal account, alerting, and citation export features.
“It really takes very little time to teach a student how to use the interface to start exploring a topic,” she said. “I’ve found it helps them with the crucial step of deciding whether there is enough information, or [if] they perhaps need to tweak or change their topic.”
David Tipton, Library Director at Mount Vernon Nazarene University said that he has seen a rise in the number of Inter-Library Loan requests. EDS offers libraries the ability to enable a link to an ILL form right from the results list.
“So far, everyone seems to love it,” Tipton said. “It is fun to be in a classroom and watch jaws drop when we do a search. Sometimes faculty will say, ‘If only I had this for my dissertation,’ or a student will say they have ‘looked everywhere’ and found nothing, only to find hundreds of thousands of hits in EDS.”
Joshua Michael, Information Services Librarian and Health Sciences Liaison at Cedarville University, praised the fact that EDS is uncovering more of the library’s resources for students and faculty.
“Databases which were not being searched before—due to size, time, or subject—are now contributing hits to the results set,” Michael said. “From the perspective of a librarian, I believe this will improve the return-on-investment of our smaller databases.”
To learn more about EBSCO Discovery Service, or to request a free trial, click here.