Summon

The Library will soon be switching from a dedicated in-house catalogue to Summon, a unified discovery service provided by Proquest. Summon promises the ability to search, discover and access reliable and credible Library content. Through a single search the user is able to access print and e-books, articles, e-journals, newspapers, theses and more. While this has obvious advantages over an in-house catalogue, such as the ability to access in a single search material from outside the library collection, I have some reservations. The ability to access material from outside the library collection is a disadvantage if you simply want to access the library catalogue, as is sometimes necessary for the purposes of collection development, stock-taking, weeding, etc. Summon does not currently offere the facility of switching to an internal search until you make the initial search and then specify a library collection-only search as a search criterion for your initial list of results. In addition, Summon’s relevancy ranking has an annoying habit of dumping what it considers the most relevant items at the top of the search regardless of age, so you might find it considers an article from 1906 the most relevant. Again, you cannot specify relevant dates except from choosing search-narrowing criteria once you have made the initial search.  You can of course solve these problems by undertaking an advanced search, however, that is an extra expenditure of time and effort, is not something our library users will likely be inclined to do, and not least, defeats the one simple search box idea which Summon has pushed as a major advantage. Perhaps there are ways around these problems I haven’t found yet, or they might be solved in Summon 2.0, which is due by the end of the year. Time will tell. For the moment, as I said, I have some reservations about this blanket move from catalogue to all-encompassing discovery tool.

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