Millersville University

Shortening the chain from discovery to learning and critical thinking

At a Glance

Millersville University
Millersville, Pennsylvania

Institution Type:   Academic Libraries
Related Products:   EBSCO Discovery Service

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Founded in 1855, Millersville University is a state-owned, regional comprehensive master’s level institution in Pennsylvania with a student body of more than 8,500. Today, Millersville offers 55 bachelor and two associate degree programs in the arts and sciences, industrial technology, business, and education. The University also offers master's degrees in 24 programs in the arts and sciences and education along with selected certification programs. In 2010, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included Millersville as one 115 U.S. colleagues and universities in its Community Engagement Classification, and it has been cited as one of the top 10 public universities in the North.

"It's all about what a platform enables us to do with the students. EBSCO Discovery Service provides a unifying platform that lets us leverage the resources we have while moving our focus to helping students learn."

Scott R. Anderson
Associate Professor & Information Systems Librarian
Millersville University


Millersville was not aggressively looking for a discovery service in 2009. What they were looking for was a platform with a unifying functionality for all their content that would enable the library to support the university’s mission of community and student engagement.

Their student communities of undergraduate and graduate students need to quickly reach the most relevant content. Novice users need to see the universe of content without a deep knowledge of the sources and experienced users require the freedom to select specific databases of their choosing.

As the university’s website states, “the use of the library building has shifted dramatically to a more technologically-rich, flexible and multipurpose educational space.” Library faculty wanted to move their focus from the mechanics of discovery to information literacy and critical thinking. As part of that shift, content stores (databases, catalogs, full text, etc.) needed to be readily manipulated to facilitate discovery, specific items readily identifiable in terms of currency, authority, subject area and source, and delivered and managed through a consistent interface. Access points needed to range from the traditional individual database for a department or discipline, but also expanded to work seamlessly with a library-wide or discipline-based search box inclusive of multiple databases and internal resources along with out of the box mobile access.

Search and discovery expectations of users have grown while the library’s operational resources to manage e-resources have declined. Programming and technical resources required to manipulate multiple services or massage data and links based on the external requirements of new services are also not a realistic option.

The forthcoming library renovation, which will close the building for two years, accelerated the discussion of how the library faculty could best serve their students, and how they could integrate their services into the curriculum of the university while decoupling their services from the actual physical library.


The Decision: Adding new capabilities to a familiar platform

Millersville examined several solutions, and quickly eliminated other choices because they did not offer EBSCO’s combination of comprehensive content, a powerful and familiar interface, unifying discovery services, and a robust bundle of back-office services. Information Systems Librarian Scott Anderson and his colleagues looked at the entire package that EBSCO offered:

  • The synergies provided by combining content databases, discovery solutions, and back-office management of e-resources services
  • The bundle of services EDS provides: the highly customizable interfaces, deep subject indexing and relevancy-ranked search, subject-specific collections and profiles, citation management, persistent links, and widgets such as “Ask a Librarian” or EBSCO’s customizable search box.
  • The familiarity of the EBSCOhost interface.

Millersville also had the reassurance of a long and positive relationship with EBSCO support.

The Implementation: Content and customization

An important factor in the decision-making process was the ease with which EDS could be implemented. Branding and customization were implemented using the same administrative interface. Using EBSCOadmin, Anderson continued to add enhancements, create links, and test ideas on an ongoing basis. EBSCO added Millersville catalog data in native format using an established process for easily adding a local catalog to the platform, and included it in a unified and customized index without requiring Millersville to massage and manipulate data.

Millersville deployed EDS in March of 2009. As part of the implementation, they established an all inclusive library search profile, subject oriented profiles for Art, Books, Communications, Computer Science and Education with additional profiles under development. Millersville was also able to establish specific database and resource combinations to support specific faculty and graduate research.

They enabled already-existing capabilities, such as Text-to-Speech, enhanced their branding with a custom toolbar for each profile that linked to the appropriate resource, and added ‘Ask a Librarian’ widget to the results page.

To support the launch Millersville staff produced videos and carried out general and discipline-specific seminars on information literacy, focusing on using the discovery interface as a way to facilitate information literacy, answering questions such as:

“What types of content are generally available and utilized in a particular discipline?”

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Part of a community

Part of being an EDS customer is the ability to participate in an ongoing community of EDS customers and EBSCO developers.

“The EDS Partner listserv is a great place to get a sense of how other institutions are configuring their service and implementing new ideas. Common issues are discussed and there is a good interplay between multiple efforts to arrive at solutions and pushing issues to the fore so they can be addressed in a timely manner,” Anderson said.

Benefits & Results

Extracting more from existing resources

Statistics show that the EBSCO Discovery Solution has facilitated users pulling more citations unique to a specific resource. Scott estimates that viewing of abstracts has increased 3-fold since the EDS deployment, making the combined solution cost-effective by maximizing the value of existing resources.

"Golden nuggets come from places you would not expect," Anderson said.

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Moving the focus to information literacy

The activities of library faculty and staff have changed. At a recent computer science class for freshmen, Anderson used the discovery solution interface’s ability to show content types, content sources, publication distributions on a particular topic, and languages to illustrate for the students what the universe of literature looks like in the computer science discipline, and how to evaluate their sources. So instead of focusing the conversation on how to find the content, Anderson said, “we move on to how to evaluate what you have already found, and how to help students make wise choices about what they’re using.”

Library leaders are pleased to have realized their vision of providing the Millersville community with a unifying service that leverages what faculty, staff, and students already know and use to support their learning mission.

“The library is moving from being that singular repository to being infused within the institution,” Anderson said.

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