Mississippi State University

Students realize the true spirit of discovery with EBSCO Discovery Service

At a Glance

Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, Mississippi

Institution Type:   Academic Libraries
Related Products:   EBSCO Discovery Service


Established in 1878, Mississippi State University (MSU) offers approximately 160 academic programs leading to baccalaureate, masters, specialist, and doctorate degrees. With an emphasis on research and discovery, MSU needed to replace the library’s slow federated search product. The implementation of EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) has allowed students and faculty to access the library’s extensive collection of scholarly resources in a more efficient, user-friendly way.

Discovery has brought the relevancy back to the library. Having that one search box to discover all library resources makes it so much easier. Students just don’t understand going to one place for information, then another for different information. They want one place to search. EBSCO Discovery Service does that for them. They understand it. They get it.

Stephen Cunetto
Administrator of Systems
Mississippi State University Libraries


MSU’s challenges in helping students to discover the library’s quality resources were three-fold. In the past, the MSU library had attempted to implement a federated search product without success. Searching for information was slow because the system could not parse results until the entire search process was complete.

“Search is sophisticated and difficult to traverse,” said Dr. Deborah Lee, Associate Professor/Coordinator, Library Instructional Services/Corporate and Statistical Research Center and Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, MSU Libraries. “People want information in a very immediate way.”

The sluggishness of the system, along with overall faculty opposition to a federated search product, prompted MSU to consider implementing a discovery service.

In addition, MSU lacked an efficient search platform for its extensive array of quality, peer-reviewed research. As a result, library administrators struggled with purchasing decisions. “Special and digital collections were under-utilized,” Lee explained, adding that the library had no way of bringing them into the data stream. Therefore, MSU would need a search system that would allow them to easily integrate all of the library’s electronic resources.

Finally, MSU had numerous databases with multiple points of entry which made the search process confusing to students. MSU wanted to incorporate a discovery service that would allow students to search immediately from a single entry point. Systems Administrator Stephen Cunetto said staying with the familiar EBSCO interface appealed to MSU.

“We had several EBSCO databases, and we knew that students liked the EBSCO interface,” Cunetto said. “We thought the students would have an easier time adjusting. We liked the idea that they weren’t starting in one interface and then changing to another interface deeper in the search. That really stood out to us.”



MSU Library’s Systems team began the implementation process in the summer of 2010. Library administrators made the decision that they needed to make the new product very prominent on the library website in order to drive users to it.

The implementation team formed a committee to jointly launch EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) for fall 2010 introduction. The group included a representative from each department within the library (access services, systems, reference, instruction, and web services), as well as a cross-section of different faculty and staff who might be using the product.

“The committee was very helpful,” said Cunetto. “Like with any product it’s always hard to figure out what the end result will look like. That was the challenge—identifying what we needed and how we would make it available.”

Cunetto estimates that the online catalog and the EDS Foundation Index and the full-text databases took about a month to build. It took another month to add the digital collections. The process included looking at results, testing, reviewing with the committee, and adjusting. Cunetto solicited input from the entire implementation team and encouraged them to try different types of searches. The committee met to compare and discuss results.

“It was very helpful to have different perspectives during the implementation,” Lee said. “The additional input helped us to develop a solution that worked much better. We found you don’t just implement Discovery and you’re done. You continue to bring it forward. There were some things we didn’t know, but as we teach it we modify setups. Integrated search across quality databases and OPAC has given new life to our online catalog.”

Customization & Branding

The objective from the beginning was to make the searching experience as transparent to the user as possible.

Administrators were immediately pleased with the administrative tool. EBSCOadmin was familiar and it was very easy to change colors, add the university logo, and integrate popular widgets such as “Ask-a-Librarian.”

MSU uses EZ Proxy authentication for a lot of its products, and EBSCO’s continued support has made it feasible to continue with this authentication method.


To promote EDS, MSU features a customized search box prominently on the library’s home page. The search box drives users directly to Discovery.

“The search box as a single entry point has made an immediate impact,” said Lee, adding that EDS gives users a lot of information quickly and in a comprehensive fashion. “It’s been an interesting time to sit back and watch to see how students and faculty have gravitated to the search box – undergraduates, graduates, and faculty,” Lee said, noting that faculty members are using Discovery to conduct their own research.

The promotion plan also included internal training. According to Cunetto, past experience had taught MSU that training the service desk was critical to the successful implementation of any new product, so “frontline” librarians were trained first. From there, the librarians worked one-on-one with patrons to spread the word about the new discovery service and how to use it.

Next, a library liaison was assigned to each academic department. Promotion continued from department to department and through faculty meetings, newsletters, and email. The dean and library administrator also encouraged the academic department heads to participate in training sessions.

Finally, an announcement about EDS was included in student welcome-back packages. “We didn’t do a lot of promotion because we were still refining [the system],” said Lee. “But it’s been pretty heavily used. We were surprised.”

Benefits & Results

The EDS committee was involved in a great deal of testing. Results were consistently relevant which surprised many librarians. All sources are weighted equally and the most relevant resources were listed at the top regardless of the content provider.

Comparison searches were also consistent. A search performed in a single database produced the same result when performed in EDS, adding other collections, catalogs, and more.

One library instructor challenged her students to give her a topic that could not be found in EDS. No matter how obscure the topic, she has yet to “stump” EDS. Engaging students helps them to realize the quality resources available to them. Students have also realized that “I couldn’t find anything” is an excuse that they can no longer use.

Each year the library administration team meets with department heads from each academic unit. The feedback received during these one-on-one meetings has been very positive.

“It’s been great to talk to them about Discovery,” said Cunetto. “They love it and use it. We did some searches and were able to find resources they had missed with their own searches. These are researchers who are in tune with searching databases.”

Usage is up dramatically, and the number of searches has been much higher than expected. According to Cunetto, full-text searches have increased ten-fold.

“Discovery has brought the relevancy back to the library,” Cunetto said. “Having that one search box to discover all library resources makes it so much easier. Students just don’t understand going to one place for information, then another for different information. They want one place to search. The EBSCO Discovery Service does that for them. They understand it. They get it.”

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