Thursday, 24 January 2013

Discovery tools and information literacy

In September we launched our new discovery tool at Newcastle. It's called LibrarySearch, based on Primo from Ex Libris. The team have put a huge amount of work into it and I'm more impressed than I expected to be! It's a much more user friendly way of finding our books and ebooks and of course, it also indexes a lot of our full text journal content, so can be seen as a one stop shop for many students.
However, it does raise some questions about how we now teach information literacy to our students. Library search is quite "google like" so how can we get across the concepts of different types of resource giving different kinds of information -does it matter that students understand the difference between a book and a journal any more? I think it does, as they do have a different purpose. With a discovery tool, even though there are lovely icons which says they are different, do students really understand?
More importantly, not all of our resources are indexed in library search, so how can we ensure students still use the most appropriate source. Will it just become the new Google?
There are lots of advantages still of using individual databases. Some, like Mintel, have unique information, others, like Scifinder's structure drawing, Proquest's deep indexing, Ovid's controlled vocabulary, have functionality which the discovery tool can't replicate. Are we risking dumbing down info skills for the sake of "meeting user needs"? are we really meeting their needs by giving them easy and quick and maybe good rather than definitely best?
I'm interested to know how other folks are dealing with this.

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