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Magazines > Information Today > March 2011

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Information Today

Vol. 28 No. 3 — March 2011

FEATURE
EDS: A Single Point of Discovery
by Barbara Brynko


Galileo once said, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

That succinct quote gives credence to the mission of EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), a discovery product that lets library users search via one search box across a range of content that were once separated into silos. When EBSCO Publishing introduced EDS in January 2010, it wasn’t the only “discovery” service in town vying for libraries’ attention. In fact, EDS arrived almost a year after Summon from Serials Solutions and Ex Libris’ Primo Central.

“All discovery services provide an almost ridiculous number of results for each search,” says Sam Brooks, senior vice president of sales and marketing at EBSCO. So it’s important that users take a look at the quality of the metadata being searched and at the quality of the relevancy ranking algorithm being used, he says. Sure, end users may not care about this stuff (they just want results), but Brooks sees EDS digging deeper to answer queries “through far higher quality subject indexing and significantly more full-text searching.”

Brooks says the decision to release EDS when EBSCO did was intentional. “We held the release of our service until we had accomplished a far more ambitious scope than the other discovery services,” he says, which afforded EDS more time to deliver better breadth and depth of coverage and a powerful platform with built-in customization. The one disadvantage in releasing EDS after the other services was that a number of libraries had already committed to other discovery services, he says. “We had some concern that delaying our release would allow competitors to gain market share and notoriety, while we sat on the sidelines, quietly developing,” he says.

And that’s just what happened. While EDS was still on the drawing board, Summon had already been selected for trial by the University of Liverpool, Europe’s cutting-edge discovery site and a coveted academic showcase for the institution’s prestigious libraries. Nevertheless, when EDS was ready for academic consumption, the university also decided to accept a trial of EDS, run it side by side against Summon, and collect feedback from user groups. “[T]horough side-by-side comparisons favor EDS with its superior metadata and superior relevancy ranking,” says Brooks.

Competing With Google for End Users

With libraries facing budget limitations and reallocating resources to fund critical needs, Brooks sees EDS helping libraries compete with Goo­ gle for the attention of end users. “There are lots of things libraries have that Google doesn’t,” says Brooks, “but two of the most important ones are 1) high-quality full text that is not free on the web and 2) subject indexing from controlled vocabularies applied to nearly every piece of important research.” Since libraries are spending big bucks on journal collections and subject indexes, EDS lets them maximize the value of both and gives end users a single search box with better scholarly results than Google, he says. Subject indexes generate high-quality citations in result lists for EDS customers, so libraries get more value from their existing collections. Plus, EDS customers are eligible for a few rewards, such as discounts on new database purchases or discounts on upgrades. Brooks says EDS also includes some extra content from the U.S. Government Printing Office at no additional charge.

“It is worth noting that we recognize that in the current economy, price is important for all institutions, large and small,” says Brooks, who also points out that EDS has no setup fee.

He credits all the usability testing that EBSCO has done over the years with giving EDS an edge in discovery. “EDS is literally the culmination of everything we have learned,” he says. With so many discovery systems on the market, libraries have their choice of options in the marketplace. At the Charleston Conference last October, the “showdown” between EDS and Summon created plenty of buzz. “I think the librarians in attendance were hoping for some kind of fireworks,” says Brooks, “but I don’t think either vendor wanted to come off as antagonistic.”

Hindsight being 20/20, he says he would have preferred some changes in format, such as being able to show facts and figures, as well as pose questions to the competition and take questions directly from the audience. The showdown started and ended with comments from Serials Solutions, which left Brooks without an opportunity to respond to the question about quality subject indexing at the end. He cautions users about seeing a critical difference between depth and breadth of coverage. “The top subject indexes provide very high-quality indexing from controlled vocabularies, often with decades of back­ files, and that cannot be replaced by the comparatively flimsy coverage available from the weaker discovery services,” says Brooks. He wished he could have asked the question, “Which of the top 20 subject indexes are seamlessly included in its discovery service?” But that didn’t happen.

So individual libraries can ask that question for themselves, says Brooks. “Each library can and should take a few minutes to determine its most used and/or most important subject indexes and ask all of the discovery service vendors which would be included in their customized solution,” he says.

Brooks says EBSCO’s approach is very different because of the emphasis placed on these subject indexes and that they are included in EDS as often as possible. This can actually increase usage of the library’s subject indexes that contribute relevant citations to the discovery results, he says. While other discovery services can have a third party load content or make use of federated search, EDS offers lightning-fast platform blending that adds extra value by pulling in specific content the institution is already buying through EBSCOhost. “No other discovery service offers anything similar,” he says.

Adding Extra Value

And EDS is still a work in pro­ gress. There are many enhancements planned for this year, with the help of EDS’s customers and trial sites, says Brooks, from viewing catalog records to the library’s searchable cited references. For example, libraries with EDS and Web of Science can access cited references for 11,745 journals since Web of Science is already integrated into EDS for mutual customers. “While Web of Science is the premier service of its kind,” says Brooks, “EBSCO is also providing some cited references as a complement.” This added-extra file features 8,119 journals, 4,725 of which are not covered in the Web of Science. By the end of 2011 when the feature is implemented, customers who have both EDS and Web of Science will actually have access to cited references for 16,470 unduplicated journals, he says.

“We view EDS as a critical and core part of what we do,” says Brooks. “And we have an ambitious list of enhancements ready for 2011.”

Barbara Brynko is Editor-in-Chief of Information Today. Send your comments about this article to itletters@infotoday.com.
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