Abt Associates

Global research firm upgrades to EBSCO Discovery Service and increases use of library e-resources

At a Glance

Abt Associates
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Institution Type:   Corporations
Related Products:   EBSCO Discovery Service

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Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Abt Associates is a global research firm that serves a variety of clients in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. With five locations in the U.S. and 40 program offices worldwide, Abt Associates provides its 800+ researchers access to a number of EBSCOhost Research Databases through its corporate library’s intranet website. The relevant, high-quality content contained in these databases allows the firm’s employees to conduct the research they need to complete projects in areas such as implementation and technical assistance, survey and data collection, and social marketing and behavior change. Since upgrading to EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), a powerful, single-search platform that streamlines access to library content, Abt Associates has seen a marked increase in the use of its electronic resources.


As the first step in many projects, a researcher at Abt Associates conducts a thorough literature review on the given topic to determine what information is already known. The review, which also identifies gaps in knowledge, is then sent to the client with recommendations for further study.

Mark Spranca, Vice President of Reputational Capital and Technical Leadership at Abt Associates, acknowledged that people often go to a commercial internet search engine to gather information about what they don’t know.

“You get a lot of stuff that way, but it’s sometimes like a needle-in-a-haystack search,” Spranca said. “You get a lot of misses, and what’s more, the quality of what you get—not just the relevance—is variable.”

To assist employees in their research, Abt Associates sought to provide professional, reliable, and comprehensive content that could be easily accessed from the corporate library’s intranet site.

“The breadth of Abt’s work is great, and so we really needed a content provider that had access to relevant work across the broad portfolio of areas that our staff members are expert in,” Spranca explained. “EBSCO has that breadth of relevant, high-quality knowledge.”

In addition to purchasing a number of EBSCOhost Research Databases, including Academic Search Complete and Business Source Corporate Plus, Abt Associates subscribes to content from other vendors. To make these resources more findable, the firm upgraded its EBSCOhost Integrated Search (EHIS) subscription to EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), a powerful research platform that unifies a library’s resources and provides a single search experience.

“We’d been looking at EDS for a couple of years and watching it expand and grow,” said Sarah Curran, Librarian and Business Development Specialist. “We wanted to continue offering a search platform that allows our staff to search multiple databases at once, so it made sense to [upgrade].”

Curran said that EDS offered Abt Associates an affordable solution, one that preserves the organization’s “self-service” website and includes a relevancy ranking feature that returns quality results, regardless of vendor.


Implementing EDS was straightforward and easy. Curran worked with a Discovery Solutions Coordinator to set up an EDS profile, integrate the library’s holdings, and execute customization and branding decisions.

At Curran’s direction, one of EBSCO’s Discovery Solutions Engineers customized an EDS search box for the corporate library’s intranet home page. The search box is branded with the Abt Associates logo and its signature red, gray, and white colors. Users can click radio buttons to narrow their searches by keyword, title, or author. The bottom of the search box includes links that allow users to search for journals by title or contact the librarian. “It looks really nice, and I think it blends well with our internal branding,” Curran said.

In addition, records on the search results page display links that allow users to request items through Inter-Library Loan or the Reprints Desk without having to contact Curran directly. “It saves me time, and it saves the staff time in having to wait for me to respond to them,” she said. “It’s definitely a good thing for everyone.”

Prior to launch, Curran spent the summer piloting EDS and running test searches. “Items that weren’t turning up in EBSCOhost Integrated Search were showing up higher in the EDS results list,” she said. “There is that neutrality to EDS that we didn’t have before. The things that used to be hidden are now found much more easily.”

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Benefits & Results

EDS officially launched in September of 2013. Since then, Abt Associates has seen a notable increase in the use of its electronic resources. In 2013, the number of full-text downloads was up 17 percent over those seen in 2012. Curran attributes the increase to the introduction of EDS.

“People are pretty happy with it,” she said, adding that Inter-Library Loan requests and reprint orders have also increased. “I think people appreciate the number of results they’re getting, and they’re also finding a lot more information. Even if we don’t have access to something, they’re more likely to request access to it because they see it in the search results. That’s been a positive response.”

Spranca characterized the firm’s relationship with EBSCO as important and long-term. “We find that our library and our bedrock relationship with EBSCO give our staff access to highly relevant, high-quality knowledge,” he said. “That’s essential to being able to do high quality work for our clients.”

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