Searching in Libraries

Amy Drayer amostrom at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 18 14:27:41 EDT 2014

Dear Lisa and Web4Libbers:

This is a great question, and I do not think it has one right answer.  I
believe we can agree on some basic points though, that the search utilities
need to behave as similarly as possible (although some just cannot based on
the type of data) with as seamless an experience as possible.

Beyond that, the answer is going to vary based on the mission of the
library and why/how the users use the library.  The biggest differentiation
might be between public library users and academic library users.  Public
library users may get frustrated and/or confused getting everything back in
a single search.  Academic library users, however, are more likely to want
to most relevant and newest content available, which is often going to come
from multiple database searches.

The best option is to make all those options easy to find and as obvious as
possible.  Whether that is using a single search with perhaps a bento box
results page, or presenting multiple search tabs with clear labels, is
likely up to those additional factors of library purpose, user intent, and
even additional aspects such as collection scope.

I personally would love to see a great implementation of a single search
interface that doesn't negatively the user experience (speed, relevancy,
functionality, etc); but if a user is asking very specifically for the
latest James Patterson book and gets slammed with an encyclopedia-thick
response, the single search interface might not be the best solution.  I
would also rather not leave the user up to the vendor's (interface)
discretion.  For what it's worth, my opinion is that a single search isn't
"dumbing it down" so much as it is making the content much easier for more
users to find.  Using the library shouldn't require a master's degree.

The best approach we can take is to fully understand the user needs and
implement/develop the tools necessary to achieve those needs more
successfully (and referring to the article, I would love to see search
engines, especially library searches, better provide the different
search/browse methods).

I look forward to seeing other responses to this inquiry.

In peace,

Amy M. Drayer, MLIS
Senior IT Specialist, Web Developer
amostrom at

On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 1:03 PM, Haitz, Lisa (haitzlm) <
haitzlm at> wrote:

>  At our library, we're discussing search. We have web site searches,
> Summon search, our Catalog search, etc...not to mention our 700+ databases.
> Our patrons, and even some library staff, cant understand why there is
> more than one box for search.
> On the other hand, we have some staff that think these searches should be
> distinctly different. They feel that our interface should not be
> dumbed-down and users should have to learn to search natively.
> This article had me thinking about search in libraries, and how some of
> these reccomendations can easily apply to us:
> What philosophy have you embraced at your institution, and what tools did
> you use to arrive at your philosophy?
> Thanks!
> Lisa Haitz
> Web Developer
> Univ of Cincinnati Libraries
>  ============================
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> 2014-08-18


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