Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

A Hybrid Approach to Discovery Services: Reflections on Implementing Both Primo and Summon

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

A Hybrid Approach to Discovery Services: Reflections on Implementing Both Primo and Summon

Article excerpt

Over the last few years, changing user expectations and new technologies have led libraries to rethink their approach to helping users more easily discover the breadth of print and electronic resources offered by the library As a central component of this rethinking, many libraries have chosen to subscribe to one of the new web-scale discovery services provided by various library vendors. These services are designed to search "quickly and seamlessly across a vast range of local and remote preharvested and indexed content, providing relevancy-ranked results." (1) Princeton University Library (PUL) has also chosen to go this route but with a twist: we have adopted a hybrid combination of Ex Libris's Primo and ProQuest's Summon services. As a member of PUL's Discovery Implementation Group (LDIG) and Website Steering Group, I have been involved with this effort for more than three years. I believe our experience can prove helpful to other libraries implementing a discovery service.


In February 2010, PUL convened a Library Discovery Assessment Group to assess the landscape of these new discovery systems and recommend whether the library should adopt one. Ultimately, the group recommended adopting Primo, primarily because it felt that Primo offered the best option for updating our aging catalog interface. Since PUL uses Ex Libris's Voyager ILS, Primo held out the promise of a smoother transition and better integration of circulation functions and other features. However, there was some hesitation. Primo Central had only just been launched in beta testing in January 2010, and there were no live installations that the group could examine. (2) Also, there were concerns about the amount of content in Primo's unified index, especially compared to Summon, which at the time had broader article coverage and boasted a significant body of news content. In the end, PUL opted for a hybrid approach: using Primo (without its centralized index) as the new discovery interface to Princeton's local content--cataloging data and other repositories, like senior theses and finding aids--while also subscribing to Summon to leverage its unified index of article and news content.

In fall 2010, PUL created the LDIG to implement this hybrid solution. Over the past three years, LDIG's work has gone through three main phases.


The first phase of implementation involved becoming familiar with and configuring the new discovery systems. This primarily meant Primo, as there were numerous configuration choices necessary to prepare and normalize the Library's local data for ingestion. PUL contracted with Ex Libris to integrate the Summon content into the Primo interface via Summon's API, so Summon required little set up beyond turning on our full text packages in the ProQuest knowledgebase. (3) The new system was hosted by Ex Libris on a custom domain, and the Library branded this new system SearchIt@PUL.

LDIG initially planned for a public beta launch in early 2011, but that timetable proved too ambitious. LDIG introduced the new system to staff in April 2011, while the public beta launch was pushed back to the beginning of the fall 2011 semester. Various issues contributed to the delay. For one, it took time to learn how PUL's MARC records mapped to Primo's new PNX records, and figuring out which fields were being displayed and indexed for search often required investigation and experimentation. We also ran into significant challenges trying to tailor algorithms for search, deduplication of records, and FRBRization in Primo to work well with our large and diverse collections. For example, there were numerous issues related to the indexing and retrieval of records in foreign characters, especially Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, which was of particular concern because PUL has a highly regarded East Asian library.

Working through these and other issues was time-intensive for LDIG members. …

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