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Our Trek to Discovery: A Tale of Implementation
By ,
Volume 39, Number 2 - March/April 2015

The Library’s Website

We had a clean, useful homepage with all the expected links: left sidebar navigation for access to library site content, center homepage content linking to the usual stuff. When considering discovery, we did not even think of whether or how our website would be affected by this major change in accessing library resources. This was a big mistake. After all, with the financial cost involved in licensing the product and the human cost of implementation, it was imperative that we consider the best way to deliver discovery. Should we add a link to it on the library homepage or should we showcase it with a search box? Showcasing it was the overwhelming response, which we realized also meant making the website as streamlined as possible. With simplicity and functionality as the end goal, we considered these questions:

• How much real estate should the search box get? Should it visually dominate the page? We elected to put the search box front and center, above the fold, to invite attention as soon as visitors landed on the library’s homepage.

• What about the catalog? For various reasons, we are not ready to engage the “Should we let discovery replace the catalog?” question. And we do not want to de-emphasize it. After investigating what other libraries had done, we decided to create a tabbed search interface with discovery as the default tab. The catalog was the natural choice for the second tab.

• What about the “stand-alone” databases? All of our research made it clear that we (and by extension, our students) would not be using discovery to the exclusion of other resources. So we needed to “serve” these resources, too. Perhaps not at the top of our “menu” but close to the top. This seemed to be the obvious choice for a third tab on the tabbed interface.

• What about … everything else? What other resources would be best represented by tabs? The two additional tabs that emerged from our discussions were for course reserves and research guides/LibGuides. Since we wanted to keep the number of tabs as low as possible, we next had to consider how we would represent the other links from our previous homepage, including links to campus resources such as the Writing Center, government documents information, and the monthly “Spotlight On …” page that highlights library resources and services around a timely topic. We decided to keep only a few of them and presented them in a linkable image slider. Slides for announcements, hours, etc., change regularly. Others—such as copyright information—are (so far) permanent fixtures.

• We couldn’t make all these changes without making some changes to the side navigation, but that was pretty easy. The biggest issue was making sure that the most important items available in the tabbed interface were clickable from the navigation menu since the tabbed interface was only available on the homepage.

• After only a couple of weeks, the librarians noted regular requests about accessing EasyBib and Films on Demand, both of which had previously been linked on the homepage. Because of the frequency of the requests, we added one row of icons linking to these two resources and our Publication Finder (alphabetical list of periodicals we have print or online access to).

Serving Databases

There is no rational reason why we didn’t think of this sooner, but we didn’t. We had to figure out how to serve our databases individually. We don’t manually create our database lists. Rather, our journal listing service’s DatabaseFinder, a WT Cox product, creates them dynamically. We enter relevant information once, and voilà! Databases show up in subject lists as well as alphabetical ones. But we were giving up our journal listing service as part of moving to discovery since the discovery service includes a link resolver and their journal listing service as well. Neither of us had the time or knowledge level to recreate a tool with this facility. Creating various HTML pages is possible, but time-intensive, especially if we want to continue providing subject lists of databases as well as an alphabetical list. Fortunately, our vendor was willing to decouple the database tool from the journal tool and let us subscribe to that piece of it at a mutually acceptable price.

Are We There Yet?

It is December 2014 as we write this. We started actively participating in pre-implementation webinars in November 2013 and started doing the work of implementation in December 2013. We have accomplished far more than we planned on. We have learned tons. We keep waiting for the room to breathe that going live was supposed to bring. We went live in August. By now, we should be on other tasks.

And, in truth, we could have had a rudimentary system up and running within a couple of weeks. But we did not want clunky. We wanted something that would truly enhance our students’ ability to find and retrieve information. Still, we had that in August. So, why are we still gasping? As anyone with the same ethos will tell you, you are never done. Implementation was just about setting it up. There will always be glitches. Someone needs to be reporting them. I (Jeannie) realized a few weeks ago that I need a system to track open issues. (I just cannot keep up with them in my head like I used to. Is that discovery or aging? I prefer to think it is discovery!) We have each been in meetings and webinars since implementation where user experience people have stated that the tabs are not user-friendly. We are so used to them, it had not even occurred to us that this might be the case. We had already planned on doing usability testing and now we have even more reason to do so.

 When we were discussing the content of this article, we acknowledged that we had felt like the last library in the United States to get a discovery tool, and we were so thankful for those who helped us through the process. It is gratifying to both of us that we might be able to do for some of you what others did for us. Don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to share our experience (it is not expertise, only experience) with you. 


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