Computers in Libraries has published a set of four federated search vendor-sponsored white papers: Federated Search For Your Library and in Your Enterprise.
- Building a Better Search Query Through Content Mining, by Swets
- Discover: It’s Not About Federated Search, it’s About Discovery, by Gale
- Primo Discovery and Delivery – Beyond the OPAC: A unified interface for finding and getting all library resources, by ExLibris
- Taming Multiple Search Engines in Your Organization, by Jean Bedord
This article is not intended as a review of the white papers but a brief introduction to their topics. The papers are instructional and make worthwhile reading.
“Building a Better Search Query Through Content Mining,” the first of the white papers, makes the claim that federated search isn’t enough, and that, by itself, it can lead to, or exacerbate, information overload. Abe wrote about information overload and the Swets portion of this white paper is what he was referring to when he mentioned SwetsWise. Swets makes the argument that federated search is severely limited in cases where users specify their queries poorly, which is the common case. SwetsWise’s approach to solving that problem is to guide users to create better queries. SwetsWise provides a hosted federated search service, SwetsWise Searcher, that aims to keep users from wasting time plowing through the less than useful result sets created by less than useful queries. Swets describes their approach:
SwetsWise Searcher’s unique content mining functionality “mines” terms and phrases from content retrieved “on the fly.” It then analyzes the terms and produces a term weight, determining the relative importance of that term within that set of results. This content mining process is completely independent of other categorization products and does not rely on taxonomies or other pre-indexed material.
The second white paper, “Discover: It’s Not About Federated Search, it’s About Discovery,” is from Gale Cengage Learning, a creator and maintainer of online databases in the research and education fields. Gale, in collaboration with Groxis, has produced a product, PowerSearch Plus, that is designed to do explicitly what many users, already do implicitly with federated search — discover the most relevant sources. Gale explains their approach:
… PowerSearch Plus makes it easier for patrons to find your catalogue, databases and vetted websites. The hope is, through this discovery, they will come back time and time again to these resources when they have specific needs. In contrast, they will use PowerSearch Plus when they don’t know where to start.
“Primo Discovery and Delivery — Beyond the OPAC: A unified interface for finding and getting all library resources”, by ExLibris, is the third white paper. ExLibris’ Primo discovery and delivery system enriches the federated search experience, supporting tagging and commenting of documents, and in other ways:
… findings are enriched by a mashup of additional data, such as abstracts, tables of contents, and book jacket images … Primo groups search results by facets …
“Taming Multiple Search Engines in Your Organization,” by Jean Bedord, is the final white paper. Bedord, a search consultant, analyst and faculty lecturer, explores the question of how to manage multiple search engines in the enterprise — federated or not. Interestingly, Bedord argues against giving in to the desire some organizations have of limiting the number of search engines to one. Specific to enterprise search, but certainly relevant to federated search, is this statement from Bedord:
Another myth of enterprise search is the feasibility of standardizing on a single search vendor. Search engine software creates proprietary indexes and relevancy ranking, with each having different strengths and weaknesses. Products from the same company, say IBM or Autonomy, do not necessarily provide compatible upgrade paths as search applications grow.
I found the white papers to be interesting, well written, and informative. I’m delighted to hear of new offerings from companies I’m not very familiar with. Now I have some new things to explore. And, if I can get my hands on demos of the white paper offerings, I’ll document my impressions.