An Info Island or the Kitchen Sink: When You Think about Federated Search Engines, Think about What You'll Include in the Searches

By Todd, Richard L. | Information Outlook, September 2007 | Go to article overview

An Info Island or the Kitchen Sink: When You Think about Federated Search Engines, Think about What You'll Include in the Searches


Todd, Richard L., Information Outlook


Now that federated search engine software is more affordable and technically easier to implement, more medium and small libraries may be able to offer their patrons this popular "Google-like" interface. If your library decides to build a federated search engine, remember that in the midst of implementing all the technical and security requirements, it is easy to overlook the importance of establishing a collection policy specifically for this service.

Many of us are accustomed to working with the "comprehensive" collection policies of our libraries that govern what we purchase, subscribe to, and maintain. A federated search engine constitutes a new collection that can integrate freely available resources found on the Web with internal or subscribed resources that have met the criteria of an organization's comprehensive collection policy.

In the course of implementing a federated search engine at my organization, I eventually recognized three fundamental approaches for determining which of the available sources to include in our system. I call these three guiding concepts the kitchen sink approach, the Easter Island approach, and the gatekeeper approach.

THE KITCHEN SINK APPROACH

While this "no-stone-left-unturned" approach may attempt to demonstrate the full power of the federated search engine, it risks frustrating patrons by becoming not so much "Google-like" as rather "just another Google."

As information professionals, we encounter all kinds of resources that have at one time or another assisted us in providing solutions for our patrons. It is in our nature to educate, inform, and share knowledge of these resources with our patrons. In the kitchen sink approach, the federated search engine is used as a platform, or reservoir if you will, for this transfer of knowledge. At its extreme, in addition to the organization's subscription resources and internal databases, every available external resource that might possibly be of use is included, right down to the Amazon. coms and Google Scholars.

This approach may be desirable for certain applications such as in prior-art searches where the concern is to avoid overlooking any potential resource. However, should you include too many Web sources, the possibility exists that your organization's subscription resources and internal databases could become buried in the mix.

THE EASTER ISLAND APPROACH

This method represents the extreme opposite of the kitchen sink approach. …

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