Improved 24/7 search capability for defence science researchers

Defence Science and Technology Group

Overview

The Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group) is the Australian government’s lead agency dedicated to providing science and technology in support of the country’s defence and security needs. The DST Group Research Library supports approximately 2,400 researchers, scientists and staff in eight locations across Australia by delivering a range of essential information services that help to develop and maintain the country’s national security and defence.

In 2013, the DST Group Research Library began subscribing to EBSCO Discovery Service™ (EDS), a powerful library research platform that allows users to search a library’s entire collection from a single search box. Launched a year later as “SearchLight,” the tool uses single sign-on technology through OpenAthens MD to provide Library users with seamless access to high-quality information resources.

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Challenges

To support its researchers, the DST Group had long-subscribed to a federated search tool and link resolver. In late 2010, Acting Deputy Director of Science Knowledge Services Jane Angel and her colleagues began investigating discovery layers to replace their outdated platform. The team determined that the new library research tool must be compatible with the organisation’s existing e-resource infrastructure and as many of the Library’s resources as possible. In addition, the tool would need to feature a highly customisable interface that the Library could rebrand and tailor specifically to the DST Group. Furthermore, they sought a secure, single access portal through which users could discover and easily access most of the library’s content, regardless of where the content resided.

The Library leadership team invited three discovery vendors to demonstrate their products. Ultimately, Angel said, the team chose EDS because it met all of their requirements.

In June 2012, the team had experienced an unexpected setback when a DST Group network reconfiguration caused the Library to lose its discrete IP range. This loss disrupted the Library’s existing federated search service, and users no longer had seamless access to e-content. Sharing an IP range with the larger Defence Directorate of Library and Information Services meant that 50,000 workers would have access to resources meant for only 2,400. To avoid breaking its licence agreements with publishers, Angel said, the DST Group Research Library devised “laborious workarounds” that required users to enter multiple IDs and passwords for every e-journal, e-book and database.

“It was a very cumbersome situation, and we felt stymied in being able to move forward,” Angel said. However, the Library was able to purchase OpenAthens, an identity management system that simplifies access to subscription-based content by giving users a single username and password. “Once we had decided to use OpenAthens,” Angel said, “we were able to [begin] the implementation of EDS.”

Solutions

Branding & Customisation

Early on, the Library leadership team decided to rename EDS in order to establish and build brand recognition and loyalty among DST Group users. Library staff were asked to submit suggestions for renaming the discovery layer and later cast votes for the winner.

“We had a lot of fun branding and customising EDS,” Angel said. The team ultimately chose the name “SearchLight” because it reflected the tool’s ability to retrieve quality content that illuminates research. In addition, they drafted a positioning statement to reinforce the purpose of the service: “Powering the Discovery of Knowledge.” Once the name was established, Angel said, staff referred to SearchLight only by this name so that it would become “second nature” and entrenched as a DST Group-branded service.

To meet the Library’s ambitious deadline for launching SearchLight, the team enlisted EBSCO’s help in customising the service while in-house web experts designed a search box for the library landing page.

On the search results page, the right-hand column features a number of widgets that were built to accommodate some of the Library’s niche products.

Authentication

To control access to its e-content, the DST Group Research Library uses OpenAthens MD, a single sign-on authentication tool that could be tailored to comply with DST Group’s requirement for security and privacy. As many government agencies share an IP range, Angel explained, the use of a single sign-on technology allows the Library’s clients to access discrete e-resources and services purchased only by the DST Group and not by the greater Directorate of Library and Information Services.

“By having an IP proxy courtesy of OpenAthens, we in effect had a discrete IP range once again,” Angel said, adding that the DST Group’s use of OpenAthens is different than that of most institutions who offer it as a way to access resources when off-site. “In our case OpenAthens authentication is the means by which we offer our online library both within and external to the institution.”

OpenAthens offers an easy self-registration process; authentication is available from numerous starting points including individual databases, e-journals or e-books, publisher platforms, Google Scholar or SearchLight.

Angel said that the DST Group Research Library launched OpenAthens simultaneously with SearchLight on June 16, 2014, “to provide for the strategic integration of accessibility and discoverability in a uniquely restrictive environment.”

Training & Promotion

DST Group Research Library staff members were trained by EBSCO personnel three months prior to launch so they would be familiar with the product once it was rolled out to end users. In addition, a coordinated marketing campaign to promote SearchLight included posters, articles in the internal DST Group magazine, and announcements on the intranet.

The week SearchLight went live, the Library conducted a five-day five-city tour around Australia to promote the tool, visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, and Stirling in Western Australia. Library clients were invited to the launch with customised invitations bearing the SearchLight logo. SearchLight presentations were video-conferenced to smaller, remote sites. In all, 245 Library clients attended the roadshows.

Angel said that Liaison Librarians from the Information Services Team have since visited additional groups of clients and individuals, and the Library website includes a number of in-house training tools, videos and online FAQs to assist users.

Benefits & Results

Angel reported that, in the first week after the launch, SearchLight experienced more than 50,000 searches. By late September, more than 1,000 DST Group staff members had requested OpenAthens accounts.

Five months after launching SearchLight, the DST Group Research Library conducted a survey to gauge stakeholder reaction, interest and acceptance. Results showed that 96 percent of users found the OpenAthens registration process to be “very easy” or “easy,” and 80 percent rated SearchLight as “very easy” or “easy” to use.

So far, Angel said, clients have been enthusiastic about SearchLight. “Over three days I was able to pretty much complete my literature search,” one client said. “I very easily pinpointed key researchers and papers. To get to this point would have taken me weeks or months in the past.”

Angel said the SearchLight-OpenAthens implementation has positioned the DST Group Research Library favourably for the future.

“Quality staff-selected resources and sophisticated technology have combined to empower library clients with research capability 24/7, ubiquitously,” she said.

"Quality staff-selected resources and sophisticated technology have combined to empower library clients with research capability 24/7, ubiquitously."

-Jane Angel, Deputy Director of Science Knowledge Services, DST Group


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