[ Editor’s note: This review of one of the chapters from Christopher Cox’s collection of federated search articles is by Susan Fingerman. Susan is on the staff of the R.E. Gibson Library, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in Laurel, MD.
Susan, like other reviewers, selected three articles to read and comment on. Susan picked the theme of user expectations for all three of her articles. Below is her first review which tells of how one library marketed its newly acquired federated search solution to its constituents plus lessons learned.
Susan can be reached at susan dot fingerman at jhuapl dot edu.
You can find other reviews of essays from Mr. Cox’s book in the “Cox essay review” category]
User expectations and how to satisfy them are the themes of the three chapters I reviewed. As an experienced librarian, a member of a team tasked with selecting and implementing a federated search product, and a long time marketer of information services, I found both the familiar and the new in each chapter. One sure thing was repeated in each chapter, that our customers have expectations of a fast, one click, comprehensive solution to their information seeking. Whether we can satisfy those expectations with current federated search is quite another story.
“Build it (and Customize and Market It) and They Will Come,” by Jeff Wisniewski, describes the process he and his colleagues at the University Library System (ULS) of the University of Pittsburgh went through to federate and market the many services and resources available to University students and faculty. As the author writes, selecting the WebFeat federated search product was just the beginning of a long road to implementing and marketing the tool.
As Web Services Librarian for the ULS, the author was the single point of contact for the vendor and his experience seems to have been a felicitous one. He gives WebFeat high marks for responsiveness and for working with him and the library committee in a highly collaborative fashion. One difficulty mentioned was the use of email and Excel for communication, but in 2004 the wiki software that he would use now was not widely well-known.
The chapter focuses on the marketing effort embarked upon once the application was up and running. The ULS was fortunate first to realize the need for a concerted, professional marketing effort, and second to have the resources to hire the University’s onsite fee-based marketing and design service, University Marketing and Communication (UMC.)
The ULS staff selected two possible names for the new service; PantherSearch – the University’s mascot is a panther -and Pitt-oogle. Neither of these really represented the two critical system components of speed and a single search box interface. The UMC came up with the name Zoom, and the librarians added the tagline “any easier and it wouldn’t be research!”
Though it certainly captured the speed component of the message, and the University is still using the name, in hindsight Wisniewski muses that the name may mislead users into false expectations of Google-like speed, which he admits cannot be matched by WebFeat.
The author details the marketing efforts, from newspaper articles and ads to postcards and mousepads. Readers are afforded the valuable hindsight from two years of experience with these marketing efforts. This includes the enviable fact that the ULS has created a marketing position within the Library organization, giving them complete control of future projects.
Lessons learned also included the results of an “awareness” study, done in conjunction with a usability study. Though only twelve users were polled, they represented three levels of users, graduates, undergraduates and faculty. The ULS were pleased with the results that half of those polled knew of the service before the usability test, and of those 2/3 had used the Zoom service. It would also have been good learn more about the usability test and its results, but that information was left out of the article.
Readers can certainly agree with the author’s conclusions that libraries are in an extremely competitive environment, and that “simple, professional, ubiquitous, and persistent” marketing and promotion are crucial to the success of federated search.