Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Expanding access to serials and other holdings through Faceted Browse

James Mouw's breakout session gave a fascinating overview of how the University of Chicago's library has launched a new discovery tool that they are calling Lens.

By way of background, he explained that Chicago has 9.5 volumes in its main library (one of the largest collections under one roof). The library has had multiple interfaces for accessing its various resources, including a clunky catalogue and an underused and somewhat un-useable CrossSearch system.

Lens seeks to bring all of the library's resources together and allow users to search and browse across the entire collection in an intuitive manner. The library's procurement process resulted in the choice of MediaLab's Aquabrowser: a system widely used in public libraries but les known in the academic community. James explained how the system was adapted for the academic library, had the initial features required by Chicago added, and had the library's main records (5.3 million MARC

records, 58,000 e-journal records) loaded ready for a beta launch - all in a rather speedy four months.

It's worth going to take a look at Lens for yourself to see the searching and browsing features it has to offer. A search from the homepage returns the expected relevance-ranked results, but also gives you a word cloud of related terms and the option to refine your seach in all kinds of ways including author, genre, date, format, availability, topic or library call number. A nifty breadcrumb feature reminds you how you've refined your search, but also lets you remove or "lock in" any of your refinements for the rest of your session.

External resources are now being added to Lens, and the next phase of development will see metasearch added. James and his team are looking at the use of the system to help determine its development, and have already found some interesting trends: users rarely click on to the next page of search results; the most commonly used refinement is by year. User testing has shown positive results, with seasoned researchers discovering new content in their disciplines that they didn't previously know was available.

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