The University of Western Ontario recently changed their Library Web Page so that the user can no longer search the Catalogue from the home page. Their Discovery Tool, Summon, is now the sole search bar and thus the primary tool for doing research at Western:
I’ve been thinking (and asked) lately about the benefits of searching with the Discovery Tool versus the Catalogue. This led me to create this fictional – but somewhat truthful- exchange:
Client: Do I need to search both the Discovery Tool and the Catalogue in order to get the best search results?
Librarian: Not necessarily, the Discovery Tool will give you articles, reports, and books, for results. The Catalogue will just give you results for books in our collection and the titles of the journals we subscribe too.
Client: So they both give you book results? Is the Discovery Tool only ebook results and the Catalogue physical books?
Librarian: No, the Discovery Tool searches all the books in the Catalogue, plus ebooks and other books that we don’t have in our collection. The Catalogue searches all the books we have in physical format, plus a number of the ebooks we have.
Client: Which one searches more books? If I want to get the most bang for my buck…
Librarian: The Discovery Tool searches all the books in the Catalogue, plus more ebooks and books that we don’t have copies of but for which there are records in the Discovery Tool.
Client: So why does anyone use the Catalogue? Is it because they are looking for books only in our collection? Or because articles get interfiled with the search results when they only want books?
Librarian: Well… You can limit the Discovery Tool so that it only searches books. So you don’t need to worry about getting articles in your search results. Also you can limit your search – quite easily in fact- so that results are only books in our collection.
Client: Um. You seem to be telling me that everything the Catalogue does, the Discovery Tool does that and more. So why does anyone use it?
Librarian: Well, the Catalogue allows you to search the Journal Titles and the Databases that your library subscribes too.
Client: And I can’t do these searches on the Discovery Tool?
Librarian: You can but…uh…it’s a little bit smoother to do it using the Catalogue. The Catalogue allows you the capability to browse. The Discovery Tool doesn’t have a browse feature. Browse is helpful when you are not quite sure what the title of the item is that you are looking for is or if you want to find similar items.
Client: I am not exactly sure what “Browse” means. But wouldn’t it be best just to search in Google to get the proper spelling or find similar items?
Librarian: Well yes, that does help, but using browse offers a more subtle advantage by-
Client: Wait a sec. Is there one clear and simple reason you can give me as to why – and when – I should do a search on the Catalogue instead of the Discovery Tool?
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I am not saying Catalogue is useless. The Library Catalogue does provide a good place for libraries to host their own content and manage it that is internal and stable. It also is an interface a lot of older users are familiar with and prefer to use. But as library collections become more and more digital and Discovery Tools get better and better, how long will it be before the Catalogue is completely swallowed up by the Discovery Tool?
I am guessing that a pretty substantial amount of library users currently only interact with a Catalogue when they click on a result in a Discovery Tool search that just happens to be a Catalogue item and they are directed toward the Catalogue page.
Why not just host the Catalogue directly in the Discovery Tool? Instead of linking to another interface?
I welcome any defenses of encouraging clients to use the library Catalogue or stories of how you have (or would) explain the difference to them.