Minuteman Library Network is a consortium of 36 public libraries and seven academic libraries in the Metrowest region of Massachusetts. Founded in 1983, Minuteman offers its patrons access to more than 6.5 million titles including 46,000 e-books and 6,100 e-audiobooks, as well as a suite of Gale resources provided by the state.
After years of maintaining content in multiple “silos,” Minuteman Library Network looked for a platform that would (1) enable users to search all state and consortial resources at once, (2) quickly deliver relevant search results with real-time availability, (3) meet the needs of both public and academic member libraries, and (4) simplify the organization’s management processes.
In June 2014, Minuteman Library Network implemented EBSCO Discovery Service™ (EDS) via Encore Duet, a discovery solution that combines EDS content and metadata with a library’s local collections. Since then, use of Encore Duet in FY2015 has already surpassed what Encore saw in FY2014, with still three months left in the fiscal year before total usage numbers are in. The consortium is now working with its academic member libraries to integrate their unique subscription content.
According to Susan McAlister, Executive Director of Minuteman Library Network, consortial leaders wanted to provide patrons with quick and easy access to local, network, and state resources. Their first solution was to load MARC records into the shared catalog database using 856 links which sent users to the content provider website. Later, the consortium provided its member libraries with customized HTML pages featuring an alphabetical list of database links. As the list grew, however, the pages became too difficult for users to navigate and too labor intensive for library staff to maintain.
“Not only was the content siloed, but each search interface was different and that can be intimidating to users,” McAlister explained. “The goal has always been to get all those resources searchable in one place and not have users going all over to find information.”
In addition to providing users with a single-search option, the consortium wanted to ensure that results were relevant and reflected real-time availability.
“We shouldn’t have to teach our users how to search for our materials,” McAlister said. “They should be able to type in some search terms, like they do in Google, and find relevant results.”
In April of 2014, after a network-wide review of Integrated Library Services, Minuteman Library Network upgraded from the Millennium ILS to the Sierra Library Services Platform, both Innovative products. It was around that time that EBSCO formed a partnership with Innovative to sell the EDS API with Encore. Branded Encore Duet, this single-search solution provides a unified results set that includes a library’s local content plus full-text articles from EDS, the largest single index of the world’s literature with tens of thousands of participating publishers.
“We’ve always wanted to have some way to integrate the article searching in the catalog search,” McAlister said, adding that EDS indexes nearly 100 percent of the Gale content that Minuteman libraries have access to through the state. “The promise of this API with EBSCO was that we’d be able to do that and bring those results right into Encore.”
In June of 2014, Minuteman Library Network implemented Encore Duet, becoming one of the first consortia to do so.
With Encore Duet, Minuteman Library Network was able to maintain the familiar Encore interface. The only change is that now users can choose between two tabs on the search results page – “Catalog,” the default tab, and “CatalogPlus.” The Catalog tab displays results from the consortial catalog. However, to see article results, users simply select the CatalogPlus tab, which displays results that are pulled from both the catalog and EDS.
McAlister said the consortium may revisit the two-tabbed approach. “The relevancy is so good,” she said, “I think we could get away with just one tab.”
Inna Ivers, Web Services Librarian, said Encore Duet’s superior relevance ranking feature helps users, particularly public library patrons, be successful with known-item searching. For example, she said, a patron who enters the title of a bestseller in the search box most likely wants to find the book itself, not a review or article about the book.
“The EDS API really takes into consideration Encore’s relevancy,” Ivers said. “Some libraries were afraid the articles would crowd out the records for the actual book, [but] if you look up Gone Girl in CatalogPlus, you’ll get the title at the top. If you want to look at reviews or articles about Gone Girl, they’re there, but those results won’t be listed first.”
McAlister said the single search box appeals to users of all ages, particularly those of the Google generation.
“Our public libraries serve a lot of high school students and a lot of middle school students who have to do reports,” she said, adding that public libraries are open at night and on the weekend when school libraries typically are not. “Students use the public library a lot for their projects.”
In addition, Encore Duet provides real-time availability information right in the detailed record, so patrons can quickly see which libraries have what they need.
“If a book gets checked out at Natick Library, it immediately shows its status in Encore,” McAlister said. “That wouldn’t be the case with a third-party platform. Patrons in Minuteman really do travel around; they look to see if something is on the shelf and will drive if it’s there.”
Finally, McAlister said the Encore Duet implementation has been beneficial from a management perspective. “The use of an API is far better than loading thousands of MARC records for the journal content and dealing with the maintenance of adds and deletes,” she said.
Ivers said that overall the implementation went smoothly. “EBSCO works with Encore beautifully,” she said. “We’re very pleased.”
"The goal has always been to get all of our resources searchable in one place and not have users going all over to find information."
"EBSCO works with Encore beautifully. We’re very pleased."