ASIS&T 2006 START Conference Manager    

Federated Searching: User Perceptions, System Design, and Library Instructions

Rong Tang, Ingrid Hsieh-Yee, David Lindahl, Karen Groves, and Lynn Lampert

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


The "Google Phenomenon" has fostered a generation of users who are accustomed to searching information across a variety of sources all at once. Some professional librarians believe that the federated search system interface provides a processing style similar to those of Google and other Web search engines that enables users to search library catalogs, subscription databases, e-journals, and other digital repositories through a single search interface (Miller, 2004; Fryer, 2004; Cervone, 2005). While the cross-database searching capability presents a powerful "one-stop desktop" solution, it may also promote a simplistic search mentality that values quick retrieval of full-text documents, lowers users' interest in conducting complicated searches, and removes the incentive for users to understand what sources their searches are running against (Frost, 2004; Curtis & Dorner, 2005). It is critical for librarians to keep in mind that the operational model of federated searching is fundamentally different from that of Google in multiple aspects. At the minimum, library users of federated searching need to select a set of databases under a "subject area" to start the search (Cervone, 2005). Unfortunately, as Cervone (2005) has indicated, currently users are not equipped with a "built-in mental model of federated searching." As a result, librarians face great challenges with regard to whether, and how, to incorporate federated searching into reference services and teach patrons to make use of federated search systems effectively.

The purpose of this panel is to explore various aspects of federated searching systems, including user perceptions of how federated search systems carry out searches and present results, how libraries use such systems to support user research, how libraries prepare users to take advantage of such systems, and how to design user-centered federated search systems. The first speaker will present findings on user perceptions of MetaLib Combined Search. The second speaker will describe the development of a metasearch program to facilitate "two clicks to full-text." The third speaker will present a vendor's perspective on the design of user-oriented search systems. The final presenter will discuss her views on the relevance of federated search skills to information literacy standards and library instructions.

References Cervone, F. (2005). What we've learned from doing usability testing on OpenURL resolvers and federated search engines. Computers in Libraries, 25(9), 10-15. Curtis, A. M. & Dorner, D. G. (2005). Knowledge Quest, 33(3), 35-37. Frost, W. J. (2004). Do we want or need metasearching? Library Journal, 129(6), 6. Fryer, D. (2004). Federated search. Online, 17-19. Miller, T. (2004). Federated Searching: Put it in its place. Library Journal, 1976, 32.

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