Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Follett Software’s ‘One Search’

For my library internship this week, I reviewed Follett Software documentation for One Search, which enables students to simultaneously search the library’s online public access catalog and selected websites, search engines and subscription databases.

From the One Search product description:
“One Search encourages your students to use the library more, giving them the confidence to conduct self-directed searches. They can search multiple resources, including the library collection and free and subscription databases, with one easy and time-saving search.”
One Search performs what the library industry terms “federated searching." As explained by Sarah E. Abercrombie in 2008 for School Library Media Research:
“Federated searching is the process whereby a search engine connects to multiple information resources simultaneously, broadcasts a query to each database in real time, then retrieves the results and displays them to the user. With substantial investments in subscription databases, schools are looking at federated searching tools to simplify and thus increase database usage by providing a single point of access and at the same time decrease student reliance on Web search engines.”
According to Follett, One Search supports “many of the most common K-12 online resources,” including World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, Gale and Proquest.

Abercrombie identifies arguments concerning the “merits and drawbacks” of federated search: they “dumb down” searching, on the one hand and cater to students’ preference for “ease-of-use and speed over relevance and depth.”

On the other hand, “libraries should make finding information easier” and federated search should be offered until libraries can teach users how to perform more complex searches. Moreover, the search tool’s resemblance to a web search engine “could wean students from their dependence on the Internet.”

(In its One Search brochure, Follett says that patrons “spend less time searching” and “more time using critical thinking skills and more quality time in the library.”)

Abercrombie identifies a characteristic of web search that Follett’s One Search (and another vendor’s search tool) fail to replicate: “Web searches retrieve results by relevance, but Follett and WebFeat federated searches don’t.” She does, however, credit One Search and WebFeat with consistently retrieving the same results as what she calls “native interfaces.”

Cross-posted to an internship log for Cuesta College’s LIBT 214