Iris Jastram, librarian, at the Pegasus Librarian blog, has a recent post, As Federated Search Matures, What Is Possible and What Still Isn’t? The post is a worthwhile read as it shares some sobering thoughts on the limitations of federated search as students experience it. The belief that many of us in the federated search industry hold that accessing more collections and having more results is better is not a universally held belief.
Jastram writes that many students are overwhelmed with the sheer number of results that are returned from their searches and that navigating collections of collections is a frustrating experience for many as well.
Jastram believes that being able to build interfaces that search a targeted subset of all databases available would be of great value to students, helping them to focus on exploring just the resources they need for a particular course or assignment. Jastram proposes:
… limiting exposure to the “search every database under the sun” search box, and placing all kinds of subject-specific search boxes in the places where students will be likely to find and use them. I can imagine search boxes on every research guide, and I bet professors would be happy to put course-specific search boxes into their pages in our Course Management System.
I think Jastram is onto something. Combine the power of federated search to access multiple databases with the flexibility to quickly and easily build applications that restrict the number of collections searched. In many cases and for many users this makes perfect sense.