Tag Archives: Discovery tool platforms

Choosing a Discovery Tool

So, you’ve decided that you want a social catalogue, a discovery tool (and often referred to as a “solution” or “platform”).  How are you going to decide which one?  What if you don’t even know about them?

Like any software, discovery tools have their problems. You can find a number of articles discussing the technical difficulties or support issues that have been encountered for each solution. However, all discovery tools offer a package that many libraries can no longer afford to ignore. Especially if we want to compete with information giants such as Google, Amazon and LibraryThing.  Without switching to a new ILS, we can implement a “did you mean?” function, spelling recommendations, search results with no dead ends, social tagging, list making, review writing and user ratings. We can finally include tag clouds and federated searching in a single search box. Given the relative newness of this software, their features are continually being enhanced and expanded. And, unlike an ILS, you are not “stuck” with a solution if you want to change it.

If you’ve been playing with the idea of implementing a discovery tool in your library, here are some tips that I recommend:

1. Look at what our competitors are doing.  Check out other libraries, play with Amazon, LibraryThing, Facebook and other social catalogues, networks and software. What are they doing?  Has it been successful and why?

2. Research. At this time, don’t pigeon-hole yourself into looking at your options.  This research should be a bit broader.  What are people saying about social catalogues? Are their surveys available regarding the use of social catalogues and their features? Stories of successes and failures? What about lessons learned or blog posts of first-hand experiences? Even if you start researching with only a basic understanding of discovery tool, this process will introduce you to the software available, as well as studies, research, opinions and surveys available for review. Why reinvent the wheel?

3. Now that you’ve got a good foundation of knowledge on social catalogues, it’s time to consider the following:

Proprietary vs. Open Source Software
System Requirements (ie. What would you like the software to do? what does it have to do?)
Budget, staff resources and time-line

By this point, you’ve probably narrowed down your choices to a handful of options. Call those vendors or software developers to ask them about their product. Many times, they’ll even send you sample RFPs to assist you if you’re required to draft one.  If not, this will give you a good idea of what other libraries require of the software. This is a great time to ask about special customized features or to address concerns you have about something you’ve read. And, of coure, contact other libraries. Don’y be afraid to speak with colleagues at other libraries about their experiences or opinions.

For those of you who really want to learn more about discovery tool platforms, check out the following resources:

Dicovering the Library: Finding the Hidden Barriers to Success Using the Catalog

New Discovery Tools: Ranking Customer Results First

Discovery Tools blog by John Houser

OPAC: The Next Generation

MOBIUS ILS Task Force Report

Integrated Library Systems and Discovery Applications


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Social Catalogue – CLA and APLA conference summary

I have only just realized that the pdf of the conference summary I posted the other day is not easy to access.  You have to right click on the image and open the link to view.  So, to make it easier, I’ve posted the summary below.

The Impact of Social Cataloguing Sites on the Public Library Catalogue: Patrons, Social Tagging and the New Face of the Catalogue


Dr. Louise Spiteri is Associate Professor at the School of Information Management, Dalhousie University.  Dr. Spiteri teaches in the areas of metadata, cataloguing, classification, indexing, thesaurus construction, and records management. Dr. Spiteri’s research interests involve the creation of subject analysis systems, such as classification systems and thesauri.  Dr. Spiteri’s recent research has focused on the contributions of social tagging systems, or folksonomies, to the design of library catalogues.


Laurel Tarulli is the Collections Access Librarian at Halifax Public Libraries.  Her professional interests focus on the future of cataloguing, including social tagging, discovery tools and enhanced interaction between the library catalogue and its patrons.   As the author of the blog The Cataloguing Librarian, Ms. Tarulli not only focusses on the future of cataloguing, but the enhancement of Readers Advisory services through the library catalogue and information ethics.



Sites like LibraryThing, Junklog, and Bibliophil provide important examples of how comprehensive bibliographic records and library catalogues can be created to not only describe items in the library, but to also provide an important avenue for people to share their reading interests and to create interactive and dynamic communities of interest.


Dr. Spiteri will present on her paper, which examines and evaluates the social features and comprehensiveness of the catalogue records of 16 popular social cataloguing web sites to determine the extent to which the social and cataloguing features of the social cataloguing sites examined could or should impact the design of library catalogue records.


Laurel Tarulli will examine what’s happening in public library catalogues today.  Exploring new discovery tool platforms, providing ideas for collaborative projects among the patrons and staff, and enhancing existing features in the catalogue to create a social feel will be examined in this session.


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The Impact of Social Cataloguing Sites on the Public Library Catalogue: Patrons, Social Tagging and the New Face of the Catalogue

Dr. Louise Spiteri and I will be presenting on the above topic at both the Canadian Library Association Conference in Montreal as well the Atlantic Provinces Library Association Conference in Halifax.

I’ve attached a short conference summary about this presentation.

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, future of cataloguing, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue