CCL-EAR Discovery Forum, February 4 2016, Prepared by Brian Greene, Modesto Jr. College

The Electronic Access and Resources Committee hosted a forum on discovery-layer tools. The event was held in Sacramento on February 4, 2016 and had approximately 23 attendees, including committee members. The day started with a review of the results from a survey that was conducted by subgroup of the CCL-EAR Committee. The survey was distributed to librarians at all 113 California community colleges and 107 complete responses were received. The vast majority of responses from librarians currently using a discovery tool in their library use either EBSCO’s EDS or OCLC’s Worldcat Local/Discovery. Only four total responses spoke to Innovative’s Encore, ProQuest/ExLibris’ Primo or ProQuest’s Summon.  

The bulk of the day featured presentations from five different libraries on their experience with different discovery solutions: Jeff Karlsen from Sacramento City College, on EBSCO’s EDS; Bin Zhang and Christian Ward from CSU Sacramento on ProQuest/ExLibris’ Primo; Shelley Blackman from Evergreen Valley College on Innovative’s Encore Synergy; Paula Demanett from Fresno City College on OCLC’s Worldcat Local/Discovery; and Ken Lin from West LA College on ProQuest’s Summon. The presenters described the most common benefits from a discovery tool, such as providing a single search box that is more Google-like and highlighting resources that students would otherwise be unlikely to find. However, throughout the day the shared concerns stood out. These include uneven content neutrality/relevance ranking and database/content support, link resolvers inconsistently resolving, immature course reserve modules (except OCLC’s Worldcat Local/Discovery), a delay in catalog record updates appearing live (except OCLC’s Worldcat Local/Discovery and Innovative’s Synergy) and problems with system response downtime, especially during peak usage periods or heavy demand (e.g. lots of integrated databases). All of the presenters also noted the substantial tech support requirements (e.g. staff resources) for implementation and maintenance of a discovery solution and that the tools were generally not quickly adopted or embraced by either librarians or patrons.

Overall, the presenters thought their respective discovery tools were helpful (for some in theory if not in practice), but cautioned that migration, training, marketing and ongoing maintenance were resource intensive and sometimes challenging. Comments from the audience suggested a strong interest in the discovery concept, but also concerns about having enough technical expertise on staff and the time to devote to a new, labor-intensive tool.