Indiana University Kokomo

EBSCO Discovery Service alleviates students' research fears and frustrations

At a Glance

Indiana University Kokomo
Kokomo, Indiana

Institution Type:   Academic Libraries
Related Products:   EBSCO Discovery Service


Located in north central Indiana, about an hour north of Indianapolis, Indiana University Kokomo (IU Kokomo) enrolls approximately 3,900 students and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines including the allied health sciences, business, education, humanities and the social sciences, nursing, and public administration. To assist students and faculty members in their research, the IU Kokomo Library offers access to roughly 400,000 physical items—including books, DVDs, newspapers, and microfilm—as well as 300,000 eBooks, 200 databases, and 77,000 electronic journals. In September of 2011, to make its collection more easily accessible, the IU Kokomo Library launched EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS). The combination of creative branding, effective promotion, and targeted library instruction has resulted in widespread user acceptance of the new research tool.

EDS allows our students to find resources much more quickly, so they can spend their time analyzing the sources they’ve found, rather than tracking down materials.

Angie Thorpe
Digital User Experience Librarian
Indiana University Kokomo


Prior to EDS, the IU Kokomo Library website featured a tabbed interface. Depending on what they were looking for, users had to click on the catalog tab to search the library catalog, the databases tab to get a list of databases by subject or A-to-Z, or the journal articles tab to search the library’s journal collection.

According to Angie Thorpe, Digital User Experience Librarian at IU Kokomo, the different options proved confusing for students.

“We listed databases by subject, but it was still intimidating for students to look at a list of a dozen or two dozen databases, depending on the letter or the subject, and pick just one,” Thorpe said. “What we were really trying to do was come up with a solution that would mitigate that initial fear that students sometimes have about where to start, and present them with a really good option.”

In addition to creating a more intuitive search experience, the library sought to bring relevant content to the surface more quickly and efficiently. Like their colleagues at Indiana University Bloomington, the library staff at IU Kokomo observed that conducting a known item search was especially challenging for users. For example, sometimes a review of the item would pop up at the top of the search results list rather than the actual item itself.

“We wanted [a research tool] that would actually pull the right item up from the beginning,” Thorpe said, adding that online resources comprise most of IU Kokomo’s Library collection. “On our own, our library is able to provide users with a really rich collection. Our collection is further enhanced because we’re a member of the [Indiana University] system.”



IU Kokomo’s Library began evaluating EDS, along with other major discovery services, in early 2010. IU Kokomo later agreed to become a beta tester of EDS, the only product in contention. One of the first items on Thorpe’s agenda when she was hired at IU Kokomo in March 2011 was to evaluate EDS and decide whether to recommend it.

“We have a lot of EBSCO products, so we teach EBSCO already,” Thorpe said. “The students’ familiarity with the interface was a big selling point.”

Thorpe said that the price, the ability to customize and brand the interface, and the opportunity to include resources from other vendors were also factors in IU Kokomo’s decision to purchase EDS.

“We knew that EBSCO was developing or had existing partnerships with other vendors to really make EDS robust and not just a meta search of all EBSCO products,” Thorpe said. “We knew that the comprehensiveness [would] really reflect our collection as a whole.”

IU Bloomington’s decision to purchase EDS also made the choice easy for IU Kokomo. Since both institutions share a library catalog—IUCAT—the data migration process would be simple for Thorpe’s small library team.

“It’s been fantastic for us,” Thorpe said. “[EBSCO’s] team sends the updates, so it requires a lot less work to use the same product than to use something else.”

IU Kokomo launched EDS in September 2011 with a simple search box on the library home page. A few months later, Thorpe formed a task force to create a new EDS logo and plan a formal promotional campaign. In September 2012, the library held an Open House to publicize the research tool among students and faculty.

Customization, Branding & Authentication

First, the EDS task force brainstormed ways to communicate the benefits of EDS to library users. Thorpe and her colleagues decided that their EDS logo should incorporate the number “1.”

“Really it boiled down to the fact that you can search all of these different resources with one search box and it’s going to give you a great result set,” Thorpe explained. “It was the oneness we wanted to emphasize. We discussed how we wanted to present that, and the number ‘1’ made a lot of sense.”

Thorpe then asked library employees to submit a list of 20 words that related to libraries. Using Tagxedo, an online tool for creating word clouds, Thorpe entered the words she wanted to appear in her number ‘1’ design. Depending on the frequency of each word entered, the size of the text is altered. The more often a word is entered, the larger it appears in the design itself.

“The first few words that everyone came up with would emphasize those resources, such as books and journals,” Thorpe said. “Some of the other words—the smaller ones—were really unique and showed the character of our library. I liked it because it reflected us, not just a list of terms about libraries. It reflected what we perceive for our library.”

In addition to creating a unique logo, Thorpe said IU Kokomo Library customized the EDS default search to include results that are available in the library’s collection only. Users who wish to expand their search beyond the library’s collection can simply remove the limiter.

“While we embrace the idea of discovery, enabling the ‘Available in Kokomo Library’ limiter helped us reduce the number of items that are not immediately available to our users,” Thorpe explained. “Our users often request immediate access to materials, so this was a way to help them achieve that objective.”

IU Kokomo uses EZproxy® to authenticate remote users, who must enter a user name and password to view a detailed record or download full text. However, the library home page also includes a guest access link that allows people outside the institution to search the library’s collection.

“We wanted to make our collection more transparent to our non-University community as well,” Thorpe explained.

Promotion & Training

To promote EDS, the IU Kokomo Library hosted an Open House for students and faculty on September 12, 2012. For an hour and a half, librarians manned tables equipped with mobile devices—an iPad, an Android tablet, and a laptop—and students were invited to test-drive the new discovery tool. The Open House also featured lemonade, as well as free bookmarks and notepads featuring the EDS “1” logo. On the flyers hung around campus and on promotional materials handed out at the event, EDS served as an acronym for “End Desperate Searching.”

About 45 students attended the Open House, which was a better turnout than Thorpe had expected.

“We had a steady stream of students, and really what was important to me wasn’t the quantity but the quality of the interaction,” she said. “Students who actually came and tested it did see the value of it. Several of them said they’d already used it.”

Thorpe was able to give those students already familiar with EDS some additional tips on how to employ the tool’s more advanced filtering features. “It was really nice to hear that feedback that they’d already seen it … and they thought it was useful,” she said.

Thorpe also worked with IU Kokomo’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (CTLA) to promote EDS among the university faculty. In addition to hanging posters around campus, Thorpe presented EDS at a brown bag session hosted by the CTLA.

“We know that what the faculty recommend as research tools carries a lot of weight with students,” Thorpe said. “We wanted the faculty to be on board as well.”

Finally, EDS training has been incorporated into IU Kokomo’s information literacy sessions. While these sessions primarily benefit college students, they are also offered to local high school students who visit the campus with their classes. Thorpe hopes that students may be encouraged to apply to IU Kokomo when they see the abundant library resources available to them.

“We hope that will factor into their decision to maybe come to our school because [IU Kokomo has] a lot to offer them including a great library collection,” Thorpe said.


Benefits & Results

Since implementing EDS, the number of searches across all databases has increased. Thorpe believes the familiar, easy-to-use interface keeps students from becoming intimidated by the research process.

“Primarily, they see the results they are expecting, [and] that’s really what we want,” Thorpe said. “EDS allows our students to find resources much more quickly, so they can spend their time analyzing the sources they’ve found, rather than tracking down materials.”

In addition, Thorpe said, having EDS shows to the wider community that the IU Kokomo Library is cutting-edge.

“We’re trying to provide the technologies of today, which I think is really important in order to show the value of our library to our community as a whole,” Thorpe said. “It’s a way for us to demonstrate that we’re aware of what the research situation looks like today, that it is digital, that we know what the landscape is in terms of other competing search engines, and that we’re trying to provide a quality library experience.”

To learn more about EBSCO Discovery Service, or to request a free trial, click here.