This chapter discusses the results of a review of the first 25 results for some of the most common searches in one college’s instance of Summon™1 and the results for the same searches in Google Scholar™2. The results of the searches were provided to a panel of three librarians who did not know from which discovery service the results came. The chapter treats each search and its results as case studies and discusses both quantitative and qualitative evaluations. The study finds that neither search tool can provide reliable results for a simple search without further refinement of the search.
First released in mid-2009, Summon™ is a discovery tool built by Serials Solutions®5. It integrates well with the ERM (Electronic Resource Management) software and link resolver in their 360 Suite. Serials Solutions® ingests content into a unified index from databases, publishers, open access sources, and library catalogs and other local records. All subscribers share the same data set. When a search is performed, access rights and holdings are checked against access specified in an ERM, but a patron may choose to search beyond the respective library’s collections. When last checked, Summon™ returned over two hundred twenty seven million items in a blank search. Not long ago, the number was twice this, but Serials Solutions® recently merged e-book titles with print books, which could account for this seeming decrease.
According to Google,
Google Scholar™ provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other Web sites. Google Scholar™ helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research (Google, 2011, “What is Google Scholar?”).
Google Scholar™ (GS™) has met a mixed reception from the librarian community. It has some advanced search features, but it provides no interface for narrowing a set of results. Users can set preferences such as language, libraries with which to link, showing citation export options in results. It is free, but Google is quite secretive about the coverage of Google Scholar (GS™). The library does not know exactly what it is not paying for.
Rollins is a master’s level university in Winter Park, Florida. In 2011, the college had a little over three thousand students, about three quarters of whom were undergraduates, and two hundred eight full-time faculty. The college is served by the Olin Library, which provides access to over three hundred thousand volumes, about 50,000 serial titles (print and electronic), and over one hundred databases.
Summon™ was selected by the Olin Library in the summer of 2009. Olin was using a federated search engine, but slow response, a clunky feel, complexity in choosing databases, difficulty with authentication, and ineffective use by students led to a lack of buy-in from the librarians. A focus on full text articles, the ability to refine and limit with faceted searching, ability to expand beyond Rollins, a clean interface, searching before authenticating, and integration with the Serials Solutions® 360 Suite were the primary factors leading to the selection of Summon™ .