Library automation to resource
discovery: a review of emerging
Preedip Balaji Babu and M. Krishnamurthy
Documentation Research and Training Centre, Indian Statistical Institute,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyse the paradigm shift of library automation to
resource discovery by exploring the applications of resource discovery. The present status of India on
adapting resource discovery applications is discussed.
Design/methodology/approach – An evaluative method to examine the status quo of India
automation and resource discovery scenario is drawn with a related literature review. Moreover,
various pertinent global challenges of embracing discovery tools in the digital environment are
Findings – The growth of the Indian library automation industry is booming. However, library
software adaptation, next-generation catalogue enhancements and community development avenues
are dearth, seemingly remote and far from satisfactory.
Originality/value – The paper focuses on the emerging scenario of resource discovery applications
with an overview of global challenges.
Keywords Library automation, Integrated library management systems, Discovery tools,
Uniﬁed resource discovery, India
Paper type General review
The emergence of information technologies has brought about enormous changes as
society evolves, especially in the education, learning and research arenas, shaping our
collective future progressive by adapting change. Spurred on by technological
advancements, libraries are marching ahead as a complete automated medium of
hi-tech grounds for resource discovery, with pervasive computer applications. As a major
trend in the library automation industry, the discovery system model envisages a
collective set-up, where content integration from a variety of information products and
services is represented with consolidating index replication and searching massive
metadata for easier navigation and retrieval, regardless of where the located resources are
(Breeding, 2009b). Burke (2011) described what it means to be discoverable: “is that all of
the library’s collections, in all formats, need to be searched together and displayed in a
single result set”. Resource discovery is the cross-domain information needs of users who
require access to information about relevant resources irrespective of where they are
located, how they have been stored, or by whom (Onyancha et al., 2001). Even as the
overhaul of the discovery-based next generation of library catalogues has begun, the
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the Editor and reviewer for their constructive
comments for improving this paper.
Received 11 November 2011
Revised 22 December 2011
14 January 2012
Accepted 25 January 2012
The Electronic Library
Vol. 31 No. 4, 2013
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
functions of libraries are potentially growing in value and services, the role of
conventional services being strategized to repurpose modern services in spite of
competition from the internet. The mobile web is also encroaching into library services
through short message services (SMS), mobile OPAC and mobile applications taking
advantage of the smartphone market and mobile internet penetration among avid readers
(Mills, 2009). As this transition phase is obvious, the emergent web, recommender
systems and its search agents are slowly outstripping the niche market of information
services that was hitherto rendered by the library services community. A study by OCLC
on “Perceptions of libraries and information resources”, found that search engines are the
desired destination for research, with a snowballing rate of 84 per cent of where electronic
information searches begin (OCLC, 2005). As libraries are facing these challenges,
reinventing library services in the evolving digital information ecosystem is essential.
Various discovery tools, platforms and unifying layers are being experimented with to
build onto existing information architecture models to accommodate the entire gamut of
electronic resources on a larger scale by pre-indexing to facilitate improved, relevant and
contextualised search outputs with different salient features like relevance ranking,
multilingual support, faceted navigation and embedded social web. Next on the horizon
are digital assets management solutions with hosted-service models, about which leading
library automation industry players OCLC, EBSCO and ProQuest are thinking big to
bring up web-scale management services exploring cloud-based applications and
cooperative intelligence as a potential alternative to existing integrated library
management systems (ILMS) to manage extensive digital resources.
Library information search has been perceived to be transitioning to a resource
discovery destination, where a library’s entire resources are more uniﬁed, seamlessly
integrated and indexed with add-ons and applications to retrieve resources from one
search box from databases, e-journals, catalogues, and digital collections. Searching
library resources is increasingly becoming akin to ﬁnding through faceted browsing or
integrated approaches that are largely accommodated by compiling an enormous
index replacing a federated search, which crawls the silos of catalogues, databases,
then digital collections and so on: an integrated approach searches all of these things at
once (Library Journal, 2011). Library automation is embarking upon a new era where
data, communities, and services are enhanced with intelligent applications and
functionalities to provide a centralised, intuitive, and conﬁgurable system of modules
interacting with each other, overcoming restrictions on local hardware and saving
capital costs (OCLC, 2011).
The overarching digital economy has made libraries reinvent their existence through
web-based library services, ushering in great times ahead for “digital natives”. As user
behaviour towards the information approach has been changing radically to mobile
accessibility, e-books, electronic tablets and widgets with fewer face-to-face interactions,
so too has the complexity of ﬁnding exact, hidden, relevant resources likely increased on
the web. The internet has redeﬁned the availability of information, bringing in a sea of
change, but the complications of locating precise and accurate results for research
remain puzzling and unsolved, with a sea of noise. Even as the future of cataloguing is
being widely debated, and as a multitude of library resources are being born digital, the
future of library control will be collaborative, decentralised, international in scope and
web-based (Foster and Howard, 2008), having an integrated catalogue in all aspects of its
programmes and services (Gorman, 1995), catapulting into a new milieu.
The growth in digital information has affected the perceptions of information
seekers immensely. Libraries and cultural organisations have automated and
developed library management systems over the years, for example when libraries
embraced mechanisation techniques, especially for routine housekeeping processes, in
the late 1960s. In the beginning, library automation was mainly adapted for in-house
operations and developing machine-readable cataloguing records. However, the birth
of the internet economy in the 1990s necessitated online services and opened up a
plethora of opportunities for libraries to provide web-based services. Although Google
has captured the search technology market globally, its search experience feels like
being lost in maze in contrast to what libraries do – i.e. select, acquire and organise
information in a systematic way. As Walker (2009) stated: “although most students
today would cite Google as their premier source of research, to date, Google – and
other such search engines – is unlikely to fully satisfy the researcher who seeks
credible and unbiased scholarly content, which is not always available free of charge”.
Open content platforms and systems have gained wide attention as they do not hold
data hostage, but stimulate a collaborative, contributive and open content development
environment. Breeding (2009a), underscored the importance of open system for
libraries: “In the early days of library automation, when proprietary systems
dominated, the need for standards was paramount since other means of
interoperability and data exchange weren’t possible. Today’s focus on Application
Programming Interfaces (APIs), web services, and open source systems make it
possible a level of openness far beyond what was feasible in earlier times. In today’s
world where libraries face incredible challenges to be ever more interconnected within
their broader organisations, in cooperative arrangements with other libraries, and with
their users, we need to constantly work toward higher levels of openness”. The growth
of open-source based applications, scalable metadata, and discovery products are
transforming library automation into an all-new experience known as resource
discovery, drawing close to unleashing the discoverability potential of a multitude of
data. Library users’ expectations go far beyond ﬁnding not just bibliographic data, but
having features on library catalogues to browse, navigate and share, and more
importantly being part of the resource discovery process by contributing in the way of
tagging, reviewing, suggesting and creating lists, etc., on which the fundamentals of
Library 2.0 are ﬁrmly grounded. This emerging phenomenon in library automation is
being emphasised for its tremendous promise in the way that patrons search library
catalogues and library web portals. Libraries need simple yet intuitive web interfaces,
with reﬂective and combined search results to engage patrons to delve deep into
library resources for exuberant resource discovery. Discovery interfaces combined
with integrated library solutions have evolved with many advantages, such as:
.integrated web-accessible online public access catalogues (OPACs);
.Web 2.0 features with customised search engines on library websites searching
library resources using search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques;
.personalised service features including mail delivery alerts, print, save, export
and e-mail, etc.;
.one-stop resource portals incorporating meta-searching discovery tools,
federated search options and browsing functionalities;
.mobile accessible features and content comprising text alerts, SMS reference,
library applications for mobile phones, mobile OPACs, etc.;
.multilingual support with ﬁltering to languages, and federated and advanced
search options; and
.upcoming web-scale discovery, digital assets curation and management services.
Figure 1 shows a comparison of old catalogue search versus next-generation catalogue
Applications developed by committers, community developers, vendors and
academic library implementations have succeeded in many instances in deploying
innovative resource discovery products to bridge the gaps in integrating the
functional silos of different modules of library catalogues and resources. Coombs
and Hollister (2010) listed the federation search and discovery tools of new
applications being tested, integrated and augmented for academic libraries in the
North America (see Table I). The LibraryTechnology.org website also lists various
discovery products merged with integrated library management systems and
discovery interfaces (see www.librarytechnology.org/discovery.pl). To compare the
various leading uniﬁed resource discovery applications, visit
Old catalogue search
Library automation in India
In India, library automation began its journey in the latter decades of the twentieth
century. The ﬁrst use of computers for libraries was in 1965 at the Indian National
Scientiﬁc Documentation Centre (INSDOC), the present National Institute of Science
Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) at New Delhi (Sharma, 1993). In
the 1980s, the UNESCO-supported CDS-ISIS software package was ﬁrst used under the
National Information System for Science and Technology project, the Defence Library
Management System was developed by DESIDOC in 1988, and the Catman software
was developed by the Indian National Scientiﬁc Documentation Centre and
implemented at the National Science Library (Rai and Kumar, 2011). Special and
technical libraries attached to different federal R&D institutions such as CSIR, ICMR,
ICAR and DRDO followed the suit, and this led to the growth of library automation in
specialist libraries. Public sector libraries such as BHEL and SAIL eventually joined
the bandwagon (Haravu, 1993). Given the massive growth in higher education in
engineering, medicine, education and social sciences, Indian academic libraries have
embraced the library automation far and wide. According to a report by the
Association of Indian Universities, there are more than 475 universities in India as of
2009 (Dongaonkar and Negi, 2009). Although India has become a leading country in the
information technology sector in recent times, the culture and education sectors have
not been prioritised by proactive policies or effective programmes. Spending by
government on information services and the library sector is long overdue, especially
in various state public library departments. The lack of these developments has largely
affected library automation activities in India, with even basic library services like
inter-library loans, resource sharing and networking of libraries not having
materialised on a large scale for millions of users, hindering advocacy and the
promotion of libraries as public access avenues for education, literacy and intellectual
Library automation in India is still in its early stages of development, and the
discovery services market is yet to catch up, even though the library automation
industry has expanded considerably alongside the growth of the information
technology sector. Unfortunately, the culture sector as a whole has not strengthened its
cyber-infrastructure, so enhancements, ﬁnancing and development could be
streamlined. Of late, government spending on knowledge infrastructure has been
emphasised, with few a national initiatives having been taken up to develop consortia
and networking of libraries to facilitate interdisciplinary and mutual information
access, cutting across all ﬁnancial constraints that India encounters as a developing
nation. The Information Library Network (INFLIBNET) is a national inter-university
centre for networking and resource sharing that was founded in 1988. Under the aegis
of INFLIBNET, the National Library and Information Services Infrastructure for
Scholarly Content (N-LIST) project covers about new 6,000 government,
Federated search tools Next-generations catalogues Discovery platforms
dbWiz Scriblio Summons
Pazpar2 SOPAC EBSCO Discovery Service
LibraryFind VuFind WorldCat Local
Solr Blacklight Primo Central
List of some emerging
discovery tools and
government-aided and unaided colleges across India to enable them to have electronic
resources access, afﬁliated to under 300 odd universities, with a total registration of
users 2,17,774 as of 31 October 2011 (Information Library Network, 2011). The federal
cyber-infrastructure National Knowledge Network project is aimed at connecting all
research and higher education institutions on a high-speed network for research and
resources sharing, and was founded in 2008.
Software development for libraries by committed programmers, volunteers and
community software developers is in its embryonic stages. The National Informatics
Centre has taken initiatives to automate public libraries with the e-Granthalaya library
automation software. Confronted with the perennial problems in the mechanisation of
libraries and administration (Vyas, 1997; Matoria et al., 2007; Joshi and Nikose, 2010),
present conditions do not augur well for Indian libraries, because enhancing library
automation to resource discovery applications is handicapped by the factors listed
below, which could also be related to other developing countries:
.lack of willingness, attitude and indifference of library staff with little training
and development avenues and exposure;
.non-supportive attitude of top management and administrative apathy;
.poor government funding for libraries, inordinate delays, and lack of
coordination by both federal and state governments; and
.no strong leadership, authority, professional engagement for advocacy and
Resource discovery scenario in India
Although many indigenous private library softwares like Libsys, Libsoft, Libgenie and
a host of software developed by public sector organisations – e.g. Granthalaya, Sanjay
and Maitreyi – have originated in India, needs-based development and library
community consultation to customise the software to the needs of Indian libraries are
not conducive with a lack of platforms for programming, co-operation, and community
networking opportunities (Rai and Kumar, 2011). Competition in the library
automation industry is gaining momentum as more and more vendors from other
countries such as Alice for Windows, VTLS, Techlib Plus and the open-source
software Koha have tested the waters in India (Husain and Ansari, 2007). In spite of the
growing number of proprietary products in the library automation industry, the
indigenous ILMS software NewGenLib was developed in India by Verus Solutions
Private Limited with the domain expertise of the Kesavan Institute of Information and
Knowledge Management, Hyderabad. An example of the NewGenLib search results
interface is shown in Figure 2; this could be the ﬁrst instance of its kind of
next-generation catalogue in India, with its search features and reﬁning results by
author and subject, implemented at Osmania University Library. The NewGenLib
website claims that “in the last 2 years 2,500 libraries across 58 countries deployed
NewGenLib ILMS” (see www.verussolutions.biz/digitalLibrary.php), which evidences
the growth of library automation. The amount of time being spent on administrative
tasks is reduced and the speed of in-house library workﬂows has been streamlined, but
more importantly discovery layers are being integrated with ILMS (see Figure 3,
showing the university ILMS integrated with the VuFind discovery tool at Bangalore
University Library’s web OPAC). Similarly, open source ILMSs adaptations have been
increasing worldwide, since open source ILMSs are free of charge and no lock-ins of
data are hidden. They provide customisability and compatibility across various
platforms, and community engagement for further development is promising to be
sufﬁciently sustainable, especially for developing countries. Citing the example of the
Koha software, Utpat-Digrajkar (2011), highlighted cost beneﬁts and core services as
great advantages of using open-source ILMSs over proprietary software.
Many libraries have adapted Koha as an ILMS, and Delhi Public library was the
ﬁrst in India to put Koha 3.0 into production (Breeding, 2008a). Many other libraries are
working towards the use of open-source based, integrated library solutions. The
National Research Centre for Free/Open Source Software, a research centre at Anna
Library, using NewGenLib
(used with permission)
VuFind – discovery tool
integrated with ILMS at
Library (used with
University, Chennai, helped to launch the Koha-supported centralised online public
access catalogue of 4,028 public libraries spread over 32 districts with over three
million records in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu (Arivoli, 2010). The Koha wiki
worldwide community indicates that India has 25 instances of Koha installations
(Koha, 2011). The government of Kerala has approved in principle the use of Koha for
state-run libraries (Koha, 2008). Koha as an integrated library system is widely known
for its features, such as Indic scripts supporting multilingual collections, Unicode
compliance, tagging, and creating lists suitable for Indian libraries. Though the
feasibility of resource discovery platforms are being investigated around the world, it
is still alien to the Indian library automation industry, as there are only a few sporadic
trail access instances and implementation is sparse in India (see www.cftri.com/lb/23/
news.html). Academic libraries are slowly taking up library automation, and the SOUL
library automation software is being used by government -funded institutions with a
total of 2,016 installations as of 31 May 31 2010 (see www.inﬂibnet.ac.in/soul/).
Status quo of library automation
Despite the information technology revolutionising library services, the training and
development of personnel is a challenging task. Strategizing on human resources
development is critically important, which is why organisations should support and
encourage their staff to participate actively in associations, since librarians who
participate actively are more “marketable”, more likely to be promoted, and more likely
to succeed in their careers (Frank, 1997). Neelakandan et al. (2010), reported the issues
encountered in creating a departmental library at the School of Chemistry,
Bharathidasan University, attributing them to a lack of infrastructure needs.
Undertaking a survey of automation in college libraries in Karnataka, Kumar and
Biradar (2010) found a “low level of automation in college libraries, major reasons
being lack of manpower, skilled staff and training”. These ﬁndings are also
comparable with ﬁnancial constraints, lack of support from the parent organisation,
lack of computer facilities (Mulla et al., 2010). Rai and Kumar (2011) investigated the
features of six web-based library automation systems – i.e. Liberty, Virtua, Libsys,
Alice for Windows, NettLib and E-Granthalaya – and ranked them respectively as the
best performing ILMSs. Although Koha has become a popular ILMS in India,
proprietary software is also gaining considerable prominence. For example, state
public library projects such as the Connemara Public Library (see http://connemara.
tnopac.gov.in/) is implemented on Koha and West Bengal Public Libraries Network
was developed on Libsys, a proprietary ILMS (see http://libsys.wbpublibnet.gov.
in:8080/sclopac/GwtOPAC/GwtOPAC.html). The State Central Library Catalogue of
Tamil Nadu, hosted at Connemara Public Library, and its advanced search features
and ﬁltering search options are shown in Figure 4. In India the both open source
software and the proprietary ILMS markets are thriving, and carving a niche in the
expanding higher education sector.
Although generation gaps and the perception of library staff towards computing
technologies have been major hindrances, a lack of government support for libraries
has side-lined the development of library automation to a great extent. Moreover,
organisational support meted out to the development of libraries, and a lack of
initiatives by federal and state governments, still remain. Given the level of expertise
that library personnel possess and the scale of development that has taken place in
next-generation cataloguing technologies, the situation much the same as summarised
by Manjunath (1998) 13 years ago for the growth of libraries:
.fear of an adverse impact on employment;
.apprehension that the technology could be too expensive;
.library staff having to undergo extensive training;
.lack of support from top management, and budget constraints; and
.the retrospective conversion of data.
As far as library automation in India is concerned, growth has been witnessed across
the academic sector. But the next phase in the transition – i.e. the resource discovery
approach – is not on the yet on the menu due to a lack of local initiatives, unmet
organisational infrastructure needs and a lack of unstinting support from all
stakeholders. As libraries are reeling under the perils of non-autonomy, the apathy of
their administrations and the pall of ﬁnancial woes, it is difﬁcult to adopt
next-generation catalogues and resource discovery tools with no critical investments.
Although new-breed, path-breaking resource discovery technologies are of paramount
importance for libraries, the utilities of the discovery system can be projected to be low
in view of the prevailing circumstances in India, which can be largely ascribed to a lack
of initiatives, a lack of programmes reviving the cultural sector, and a lack of
fully-ﬂedged support from the government for libraries. If all stakeholders engage,
advocate and strive to raise the proﬁle of libraries the days are not far off where we will
see the libraries as better places for learning, education and resource discovery.
The paradigm shift to resource discovery – global challenges
In a recent Library Journal (2011) review on discovery interface experiences, it was
stated that “Patrons are used to Google. They don’t want to use different search
methods to explore different databases. Discovery services promise to enable all of a
library’s material – print and ebooks, journal articles, streaming video, everything – to
be uncovered through one search box [...] instead of crawling through the catalogues,
then the databases, then the various ebook repositories, and so on, it compiles an
enormous index of all of those things and searches it all at once”. Since the stage is set
to have research experience of resource discovery, it is imperative for libraries to
provide information with tailor-made expansive representation of library collections
and relevant content. Finding a way to combine the best of the just-in-case and
Koha’s multilingual search
features – Connemara
Public Library catalogue
(used with permission)
just-in-time technologies using the pre-harvested, pre-massaged and pre-indexed
approach of search engines to meet changing user expectations is the current challenge
for librarians and their vendors (Walker, 2009). According to a report by the Research
Information Network (2008) on building research tools from the physical artefacts and
resources of museums, “technological developments offer opportunities for cross
searching, for making records ﬁndable by Google and other search engines, for linking
to associated documentation, and for integrating museum catalogues with other
resources, such as library catalogues. In order to realize the potential of the beneﬁcial
changes that are now being offered by technological and related developments, there
needs to be a change [...] to encourage more openness, more sharing and more
Examining the various upfront issues of resource discovery from a grid computing
standpoint, Kaur and Sengupta (2007) identiﬁed “various technical constraints and
geographical limitations such as autonomous, heterogeneous resources, dynamic
nature and status of resources, geographical dispersion of resources, large number of
users and large distributed networks, different operating systems/platforms, different
administrative domains, lack of portability, availability status of resources and
different technology policies”
Strengthening library automation today needs meticulous planning of discovery
interfaces, indexing systems and conﬁguring with the workﬂow modules of ILMSs, but
also integrating them consistently on a portal to enable users to have access to
heterogeneous resources from one search box. Borgman (1996) argued that “online
catalogs continue to be difﬁcult to use because their design does not incorporate
sufﬁcient understanding of searching behaviour; information retrieval challenges,
query models and processing, and interface design are the important areas evoking for
a next-generation catalogues”. In order to achieve this, the architecture of integrated
library management systems (ILMS) has to be scaled up with other modules that
would interact with each other in a collaborative way in terms of localisms,
vendor-administered content and external systems. The development of smart
integrating discovery tools, local indexing, and application programming interfaces
(APIs) calls for a strategic approach towards ushering in the discovery experience of
Underscoring the importance the of online retrievability of resources, Cerbo (2011)
argued that “all of a university’s theses, faculty publications, student projects,
institution research, gray literature, and more can and is being placed online for users
to access, but if that information is not easily retrievable, the beneﬁt of having all of
that information together is lost”.
Even when library automation operations were commercialised in the late twentieth
century, open source applications came as a revolution in the library automation
marketplace both in terms of cost, economy and customisation. Alongside scaling up
the cyber-infrastructure for libraries, library personnel need to project libraries not
only in user services but also in the planning of web services to raise libraries’ proﬁle
and to keep up in the information services delivery race. As the internet is moving
towards containing more open content, striving for neutrality and freedom, and
breaking down market monopolies, libraries have to display their content as simply as
possible for retrieval on search engines with targeted information marketing
approaches to facilitate the optimum use of library resources. A survey of UK higher
education libraries commissioned by JISC and SCONUL pointed out that “adaptation of
new developments such as vertical search is relatively low; however libraries are
increasingly aware of the need to ’liberate’ their data for users to create new services
and applications and approach development of open interfaces within a Service
Oriented Architecture and developing Web 2.0 models” (Adamson et al., 2008). In its
recommendations, the survey concluded that:
.libraries reviewing library management systems contracts should seek increased
value, looking at ways to improve services by implementing features around the
.the focus on breaking down barriers to resources was endorsed, involving single
sign-on, unifying workﬂows and liberating metadata for re-use; and
.service oriented architecture-based interoperability across institutional systems
is emphasised as the foundation for future services and possibly the de-coupling
of LMS components.
Libraries need inherent and cohesive interfaces with enhanced search capabilities that
ensure precision, predictability, and scope that are in tune with users’ demands. In his
comparison, Breeding (2008b) described library automation in its current conditions to
be siloed, closed, monolithic and brittle against the SOA architecture and its
enhancements, which are shared services, collaborative, interoperable and integrated.
Coming up with a single search box is an arduous task involving costs, maintenance
and management of massive local indexed data, hosted content and ﬁnding resources
at article level, displaying of merged data from local holdings etc. An example is shown
in Figure 5, where the catalogue and article results are displayed in a single search box.
According to Prescott and Erway (2011), integrating collections at the institutional
level is the ﬁrst step to exposing them to aggregators and search engine spiders for
network-level discovery. In their concluding remarks they further stated that:
An example of
[...] resources are often compartmentalized in a plethora of informational silos, each with its
own dedicated system, search categories and user interfaces. The result of this segregation is
to place the burden of discovery on individual users, who may or may not be
methodologically and technologically equipped to conduct searches in multiple information
repositories. The challenges inherent in this informational divide ultimately expect
researchers to compartmentalize their interests in a similar manner, rather than encouraging
more multi-disciplinary approaches that focus on the research inquiry.
Figure 5 is an example of uniﬁed, web discovery platform which brings the
information resources of various formats, and the possibilities of navigability. As we
can see, the library portal is integrated, ﬁne-tuned to search across the stacks of online
resources, then narrowing down the results by videos, articles, formats etc. For the
search “music”, catalogue and article results were displayed, while the results can be
further narrowed down to “music results” and “video results”, thus making up a
wonderful resource discovery navigation process.
Figure 6 captures the resource discovery process in its inter-connected workﬂows to
create a uniﬁed design in order that online library services can be strengthened to interact
with the existing information architecture models. Each of these components is
interwoven with other in the fabric of resource discovery development, and the success of
web library services depend heavily on how these components interact with each other.
Uniﬁed resource discovery development - emerging challenges
In order to provide uniﬁed access, brokering architectures to integrate access to the
library catalogue and the library’s digital collections through standard protocols is one
way; another way is to build a central set of indexes for resource discovery purpose
with an architectural model that would facilitate building robust, scalable, and
interoperable heterogeneous distributed library systems (California Digital Library,
2008). The emerging resource discovery applications could mesh both the real and
virtual worlds with innovative applications for virtual references, enhanced
functionalities and increasing user interactivity. Library portals can be equipped as
a starting point for research, even as the technology, resources and support should be
brought together. However, the various challenges are still elusive, and discovery
A workﬂow model of
uniﬁed resource discovery
products and implementation processes do have some negatives too. Libraries are
under pressure to ﬁnd viable models to keep the library resources ﬁndable to augment
end user discovery. Illuminating the realities of searching for resources, Bates (2003)
noted that “people do not just use information that is easy to ﬁnd; they even use
information that they know to be of poor quality and less reliable – so long as it
requires little effort to ﬁnd – rather than using information they know to be of high
quality and reliable, though harder to ﬁnd”.
Emphasising the importance of co-operation for achieving resource discovery,
Breeding (2011) stated that “to the extent that libraries favor this approach of
discovery based on consolidated indexes, they have an interest in the highest level of
cooperation between the publishers and providers from which they licence content and
the organisations that offer discovery systems”.
Garraway (2010) described the following factors when adapting to a uniﬁed
resource discovery process in the University of Auckland Library, New Zealand:
.local data sources requiring development time to enable an export to Primo;
.negative user reaction to the response time of federated searching for remote data
sources, resulting in this functionality being switched off; and
.aggregated content in commercial databases that cannot be connected for
federated searching or is not available for pre-indexing.
As academic libraries are building up more digital collections nowadays, the situation
gets complex. As Dempsey (2003) puts it, “the digital environment is one that lacks
consistency; it is as if each book coming into the library was a different shape and had
to be read in a different way”. Moreover, advanced features like the semantic digital
library, linked data, folksonomies, faceted infrastructure and Web 2.0 can be envisaged
for semantic web services if the potentialities of web-based library services, metadata
re-use, and open content development are harnessed. Rescaling the library
infrastructure with state-of-the-art facilities, web discovery layers and migrating
data to discoverability undoubtedly have become the needs of the hour. The emerging
information ecosystem can be characterised by the challenges outlined below in
developing uniﬁed discovery platforms for sustainability.
Local indexing and custom search engines
As more and more information resources are born digital or converted to digital media,
it is a huge task for web crawlers to index all the documents available on the internet.
Again, success in retrieving web documents depends on the mark-up language schema
and keywords and sitemaps assigned to websites for search engines such as MSN,
Google and Yahoo! to retrieve. Getting information resources visible on the internet
search engines is a big challenge. Developing applications and tweaking the presence
of heterogeneous information resources of libraries for more visibility on the web
require long-term investment of organisations and libraries. New search engine
technologies, such as Endeca, FAST, and Lucene, are promising search technologies.
But, when the content of resources is not under the library’s control, pre-processing
huge amounts of resources is not possible, especially hosted content and indexes
(Walker, 2009 p. 86). Customised search engines are an area that libraries should look
at to build customised search engines to retrieve local web pages such as library
guides, etc. Library site indexes and keywords of web pages should be more
meticulous, which would enable library web pages to get top hits on the web.
Reminding readers to strategize the web presence of libraries, Breeding (2008c) added:
“more than anything else, the key to increasing interest in your library’s web presence
involves offering compelling and interesting content. Design your site to enhance,
promote, and deliver access to the library’s collections and services. While it’s probably
necessary to also include information about policies, rules, and regulations, these are
not what attract patrons to your website”.
Future of cataloguing and metadata standards
In the rise of resource discovery phenomenon, the need for quality and consistency of
bibliographic records have been widely questioned (Bade, 2008). The future of
bibliographic records and cataloguing is debatable given the evolving metadata
schemas and standards for bibliographic control. Newer universal cataloguing
standards and networking protocols for harvestable records, subject access points,
indexing ﬁelds in catalogues have to be deliberated for their universal acceptance and
consensus to keep the momentum up for developing database models, sharable
structures and metadata frameworks. As the granularity of metadata is examined for
semantics, its applications for the “semantic web” are realisable with research in the
frontiers of linked data, knowledge organisation systems and the development of
ontologies. Even existing metadata standards and schemes like Machine Readable
Cataloguing (MARC), the Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) and
the Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) are paving the way for improved
cataloguing standards and models. Resource Description and Access (RDA),
standardised international authority ﬁles, controlled vocabularies and resource
description framework (RDF) models for resource discovery are envisaged in that
direction. In order to achieve shareable data models with a high level of intelligibility,
interpretation and interoperability among various brands and generations of technical
systems, institutions and adaptations are critical (Bade, 2008). In this connection,
OCLC’s Virtual International Authority File and FAST Linked Data being developed
jointly by the Library of Congress and OCLC are ongoing research projects.
Web-scale discovery services for uniﬁed access and interoperability
A library’s hybrid resources in their entirety in a distributed environment with
catalogue records, cooperative catalogues, institutional repository collections, and
e-resources complicate management of these resources in a distributed environment,
and digital collections pose a complex structure against the standalone collections of
physical resources. Hence, bringing siloed modules into resource discovery platforms
is a challenging task. The nature of digital collections is difﬁcult to manage, with the
following factors to be considered (Walker, 2009):
.many different – and emerging – metadata formats are used to describe
resources and are not always applied consistently;
.complex licensing requirements make for complex presentation of resources and
access to resources; and
.each resource typically has its own interface and its own authentication method.
Moreover, as a key issue, ensuring interoperability to enable uniﬁed access extend users’
searches by increasing the opportunity for discovery of resources and providing
additional resources related to the library’s local collections (Pandian and Karisiddappa,
2007, p. 43). In a technology-enabled distributed library ecosystem, interoperability
means being able to search, browse, and retrieve information from distributed libraries
based on a variety of software solutions, search and retrieve protocols and metadata
formats (Arms, 2000). Creating a comprehensive digital resource management model,
future library management systems should be robust, scalable, and based on the
service-oriented architecture and software as a service (SaaS) models to replace the
monolithic legacy architectures of the past. The need of web-scale discovery services
necessitates a single, uniﬁed search tool that is seamlessly integrated for a single library
or a consortium of libraries with shared integrated library systems (ILSs). With shared
features among groups of libraries, it becomes easier to manage content and services like
library loans, and service requests are more streamlined too, saving resources, staff time
and costs. Sensing a desperate necessity for resource discovery, Vaughan (2011) stated
that the “library (or systems supported and maintained by the library) is often not the
ﬁrst stop for research – or worse, not a stop at all. Users accustomed to a quick, easy,
‘must have it now’ environment have defected [...] given that these web scale discovery
services include or even primarily focus on indexing a large amount of scholarly
research, such services can serve as another tool in the library’s arsenal. Results retrieved
from these services – largely content licensed/purchased by libraries – is accurate,
relevant, and vetted, compared to the questionable or opinionated content which may
often be returned through a web search engine query”.
Web-scale discovery services are potential tools transforming the nature of library
systems. These tools are capable of indexing and searching across local content and
hosted systems with advanced retrievable features. There are different vendor
products available in the market, including OCLC’s WorldCat, ProQuest’s Summon,
EBSCO’s EBSCO Discovery Services, and Ex Libris’s Primo.
Developing full-text metasearching tools
As the web presence of libraries grows into a robust, sophisticated mechanism for
resource discovery, full text searching is becoming necessary. Unfortunately the
OPACs of many software packages provide advanced search features of retrieving
bibliographic records, and none of them are helpful in full-text search. In complying
with library standards and protocols, SRU/W, Z39.50 features and Dublin Core (DC)
metadata, this was tested using a longitudinal study on Koha, GSDL and Fedora
Commons. Anuradha et al. (2011), demonstrated the full-text indexing and searching
features in Koha Version 3.0.2 by integrating it with open source digital library
software packages, i.e. Greenstone Digital Library Software (GSDL) and Fedora
Generic Search Service (FGSS), both independently. As information resources are
diversiﬁed, as in aggregations as e-journals, e-books, and digital collections, it is
essential to facilitate full-text search on library catalogues.
Local holdings versus search display
Should physical and electronic holdings of libraries be displayed by category? Should
the entire resources of a library be indexed centrally or should the hosted index be
displayed separately on library catalogues? Describing the transition of physical
resources to digital collections, Katz (2011) stated that “deﬁnitely it’s not a stable
playing ﬁeld” from the experience of resource discovery implementation at Villanova
University. He reasoned that “Villanova’s decision to keep local holdings out of
Summon and present two lists separately in our VuFind instance was inﬂuenced by the
sense that searching for book-like items in our physical location and article-like items
in our electronic holdings were two distinct tasks, and merging them into a single list
would potentially bury useful results in a sea of noise”. It remains to be seen whether
different display options for local holdings versus electronic holdings should be
differentiated, and whether article-level and format-level display should be maintained.
An example of different catalogue search boxes is shown in Figure 1 even as the search
presentation approach varies from one library to another. Burke (2011) noted three
important searches – i.e. federated search, hybrid search and web-scale discovery –
for library discovery services.
User empowerment and data security
As Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 principles widen the concept of user-centric approach, it is
increasingly important to equip library systems to be interactive enough for the users to
tag, create lists, and share data on library portals using social media and mobile apps. As
social media is surging ahead, crowdsourcing is becoming popular for achieving more
visibility, awareness and usage among different user groups. In the marriage of Web 2.0
and social media, the socialising web offer more beneﬁts, recreating a wonderful
opportunity for users to recommend, review, append and direct peer groups on the web
for ﬁnding information resources. Managing users online through authorisation and
authentication is a critical area to ensure data security, and the privacy of patrons should
be given utmost importance. However, accessibility and usage of resources by single
sign-on access and necessity of multiple access points remains to be evaluated.
As emerging discovery platforms for libraries offer enormous potential, they certainly
leverage implementation of other web-based library services (Clarke, 2006).
Transitioning to the next phase in the library automation history, discovery
platforms promise an impeccable resource discovery experience for users, if the
resources are relevant, contextual and convenient, most importantly retaining them on
library portals. For the researchers ﬁnding the right resources through the medley of
overloaded information resources is a demanding job and a pressing need for which
discovery platforms would give a major ﬁllip. Although the technological adaptation
and diffusion vary to different countries, in India the library automation industry’s
growth has been rather slack and sluggish. Still, as a growing economy it has
tremendous potential to transform the library experience and bring about the
much-awaited resource discovery existential change.
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About the authors
Preedip Balaji Babu is a Junior Research Fellow at the Documentation Research and Training
Centre, Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore, India. Preedip Balaji Babu is the corresponding
author and can be contacted at: email@example.com
Dr M. Krishnamurthy is an Associate Professor of Information Science at DRTC, Indian
Statistical Institute, Bangalore. Prior to taking this assignment he served as a Librarian of the
Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore Centre, and University Librarian at the University of
Mysore. He has 18 years of experience as a librarian. He holds a Master’s degree in Economics
and Library and Information Science from Bangalore University and a doctoral degree, also from
Bangalore University. He was a Fulbright Scholar in 2006 and visited the Graduate School of
Library and Information Science, Illinois (USA), and was a recipient of an Open Repository
Scholarship to attend the Sydney Conference in 2006. He has visited many countries such as the
UK, Germany, France, Australia, Singapore, Italy and Japan and has contributed extensively to
national, international journals and conferences, with over 60 articles. His main areas of interest
are digital libraries, institutional repositories, open source software, social networking, library
management and automation, and information seeking behaviour. At present he is Treasurer for
the Association of British Scholars, Bangalore.
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