Most libraries in the University of Wisconsin (UW) system use Ex Libris’ MetaLib to provide federated search service to its users and now UW is putting MetaLib to the test. UW is performing a MetaLib assessment to determine the overall usefulness of MetaLib as a research tool.
By August 21, the MetaLib Assessment Working group, charged with the usefulness study, will deliver its final report of its findings. The Assessment Wiki notes four key expectations of its investigation:
- Conduct a review of the literature and summarize the empirical research that 1) assesses usability of and user response to federated search tools and 2) analyzes user expectations about searching for information in general
- Develop a protocol for assessing the usefulness of MetaLib as a research tool as compared to other library research tools
- Deploy this protocol with selected groups of users in selected UW libraries
- Summarize and report key findings
The assessment protocol includes surveying students, faculty, and librarians at a number of UW campuses to determine satisfaction with MetaLib when compared with native search interfaces and popular sources. (The Wiki cites Google Scholar as an example of a popular source.)
The assessment should be of interest to anyone who follows the industry because formal studies into the usefulness of federated search applications are few and far between. Much of what I hear about federated search experiences is anecdotal so I welcome the formality with which UW is undertaking this effort. Hopefully, the findings will include sufficient documentation so that we can all learn from the conclusions drawn. I will follow this post up with another one later in the year, once the findings are reported.
One other thing – there’s a MetaLib Assessment bibliography on the Wiki that includes references to 56 scholarly works related to the subject areas of the assessment. The list is quite a gem and I’ve added a link to it in this blog’s resources page.