January 24, 2009

Introducing Summon

“Everything has been leading to this”

Introducing “Summon” to do the things Joan Lippincott talked about

with your collections today being predominantly digital (look at your statistics), it’s more difficult than ever to connect students to your resources

PQ looked very closely at how students are trying to discover information and content
did “extreme ethnographic research” where the kids were searching, including into their dorm rooms
did in-person observational research in the dorm, in the coffee shop, etc.
recorded sessions in-person with users and saw their rates of success
surveyed more than 10,000 users
did online focus groups

the good news about these kids is that they believe we offer the most credible, superior source (by a wide margin)
also believe we have the most efficient search engine for them, although their behavior doesn’t support this
and they say that, too – that they go to Google first
they’re realistic about how they actual go about finding information

the library is increasingly disintermediated from the search for information, which is causing the belief that the library is not the center of campus

– no clear and compelling starting place (library’s pages say a lot about the library – literally says a lot – but difficult for end-users to find appropriate starting point for research)
– difficulty identifying appropriate resources (they can’t find a specific resource even when they know what they’re looking for; we have more digital resources than ever & it’s difficult to distinguish between them)
– general lack of awareness of resources (the OPAC, built on the print model, has only a small portion of the library’s resources; they get discouraged trying to find things & their unwillingness to go through long lists of resources is increasing)

underlying technical issues prevent easy searches
compare that to “simple, easy, fast” of Google and web searching

if only there was a Google-like search for libraries
welcome to Summon

a compelling place for your end users to start their research to discover the wealth of your resources available to them
enables quick discovery of all of your library’s digital and physical resources (repositories, databases, OPAC, books, ejournal articles, etc.)
does it in a Google-like single search, very fast, very coordinated, takes them into the discovery phase very, very quickly

what is a unified discovery service?
NOT federated search – doesn’t use connectors or translators
it pre-harvests massive amounts of data to bring them together in a single search through a single search box
pre-built, pre-coordinated

urge libraries to bring to Summon everything Joan described in her talk
because they know what your library subscribes to, they can make sure your end user doesn’t get into dead ends
end users only see the things they actually have access to (unlike Google Scholar)
it’s an open system with APIs – put the search box wherever you want
not a nextgen catalog, although you could use the API in one

“I’ll believe it when I see it” (when pigs fly)

more than 40 publishers are providing metadata today
more than 50,000 journals are already represented
300+ million items indexed so far (as of today)
update service weekly with new publishers
Gale and ProQuest are leading the way with SerialsSolutions

also have the support of Springer, SAGE, CrossRef, Taylor & Francis, HighWire (helping with harvesting), Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press, Houghton Mifflin, Academy of Sciences, society publishers, open access content, EconList, Sociological Abstracts, GPO, Medline, ERIC, Agricola, and more

through their use of the A&I resrouces, can still lead users to content even if they don’t have a partnership with them
85% of EBSCO Academic SearchPremier is available via Summon
64% of JSTOR
87% of Ovid

Summon is in beta at Dartmouth and Oklahoma State (since November)


did two quick searches
the opening screen is just a search box and nothing else
let a branded search box be your digital presence
– keep it clean and focused

can filter by full text online items only
can filter by peer-reviewed or scholarly resources

will be a subscription service that is fully hosted

stop by their booth (#1904) to see it in action
sign up on their website for news about the service

Q – how is this related to AquaBrowser?
A – AB is a nextgen catalog so you can bring Summon content into it through the Summon API

Q – don’t you have 2 federated search tools that you were combining, and what has happened to them?
A – we do, and we are, but different libraries have different needs; still need to offer a good federated search product for those libraries that want one; but they believe the compelling starting point is Summon

Q – we’re talking about tons and tons of data, how do you show current status?
A – pre-harvest with metadata but click through in real-time

Q – is there a potential to aggregate all of the collections among libraries?
A – we’ll have to wait and see; right now, the focus is to provide this Google-like, compelling presence

Q – for those things that aren’t in Summon, is there a way to lead them to further resources?
A – yes, the screens are all very customizable; want to keep the opening screen clean, though

Q – one of the advantages of pre-harvesting is finding relationships between things – will you be doing that instead of just providing facts?
A – yes, but right now it’s still just in beta; will take time

Q – ??
A – have already brought into Summon the contents of one partner’s OPAC (didn’t say which one), so they know these protocols work

Q – is the pricing going to be in the “dream come true” range, too?
A – pricing has not yet been determined, but they are aware of the issues around cost

9:51 am Comments (7)


  1. Would have loved to see the demo. Have you heard thoughts and reactions from folks at Dartmouth or OK State?

    Comment by Jen Waller — January 24, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

  2. Andrew Nagy kindly showed me the search platform from Dartmouth and OK State at the exhibition hall. Nicely done. I think this is going to be a big hit among students *and* faculty.

    Comment by ranti — January 25, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

  3. Jen, we didn’t hear anything from the beta testers, which I thought was a little strange. While I was impressed with what I saw of Summon, the meeting/demo was very 20th century. It was a breakfast where folks sat at round tables, which meant no place for my laptop. There were no power strips at the tables, so I chose to sit on the floor by an outlet (which turned out not to work anyway). I was surprised they weren’t set up for bloggers, but then the audience was clearly administrators at academic libraries.

    Joan Lippincott’s talk was great, but they never had the beta testers stand up and talk about their experiences. They didn’t show comments from users or offer any usage statistics. There were only a couple of demo searches, and they didn’t take suggested topics from the audience. There was no row of laptops available where we could immediately play with the service, so they’re relying on attendees to make it to the exhibit floor and have time to talk to someone there, something I’ve not had time to do so far.

    So while I’m tentatively impressed with Summon, I’m also surprised that they didn’t do more to let the service do the talking for them. I thought they missed some big opportunities.

    Comment by jenny — January 25, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  4. Ranti, did they give you any feedback from the beta test sites?

    Comment by jenny — January 25, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  5. Jenny, no, they don’t give feedback from the beta tester. Perhaps it’s NDA? Then again, I didn’t ask. I didn’t see anybody from any of those two institution on the hall. But I did give some feedback, based on the demo only.

    Comment by ranti — January 26, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  6. Thought you might like this:

    Comment by Dr. No — January 26, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  7. I find this a VERY interesting development. I guess they’re primarily targeting academics, but I think some database-rich publics could really use this, too. We use SS’ 360 Search. It’s a hard sell to convince Ref staff that it’s really that useful (althought I’ve had some very good results from it). The major issue is that it’s “broadcast” search, while the user’s expectation is that it’s more like a search on a “harvested” set of records. It’s hard to get most folks (even librarians) to understand the “first set of records from each database” concept, as well as the fact that fed search results don’t really have relevance ranking (because you’re not really ranking against the full set of contending articles…thus they default to date-ranked–or at least 360 search does). The date issue also means that results from non-periodical sources (like reference articles from Gale databases) gets relegated to the end of the results set, even though they might be the most useful content. Did they demonstrate whether or not Summons will do relevance ranking? Did it seem like a good result?

    Other thoughts…are they truly aggregating full-text, or are you only searching citation/abstract? How do they do with retrieving record-level citations/abstracts from FirstSearch sources (do they have an arrangement w/OCLC)?

    Before I ramble on even more…I just want to show that those are some of the frustrations we currently see in the current generation of fed/broadcast search systems. I’m very interested in seeing how Summons deals with those.

    Comment by Bill Pardue — January 27, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

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