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Technology upgrades improve student life

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Reference Librarian and Webmanager, Jennifer Heise shows Anthony Barnette (’13) how to research using the new system (Photo by James McCourt)

Reference Librarian and Webmanager, Jennifer Heise shows Anthony Barnette (’13) how to research using the new system (Photo by James McCourt)

Research will now be easier for students due to a technological makeover that occurred this summer in the Drew Library. The Library’s main update is the addition of the search tool Summon which uses features similar to Google to find texts in various library databases simultaneously. The Head of Research and Reference Services Jody Caldwell said that Summon, though similar to Google, offers some key benefits.

“You’re searching only what’s available in library catalogue, not the open web,” Caldwell said. “That means what you find someone has looked through and deemed worthy.”

To use Summon, a student only needs to type the topic he or she is looking for into the search bar. Summon then runs and returns the results of a full text search. A full text search, however, does have some drawbacks. “Summon is just looking for the term,” Caldwell said. “It doesn’t care where it appears, and no one looks through to determine if the topic you search is the actual subject of the text.”

Web Manager Jennifer Heise explained that by using algorithms that produce relevance ranking Summon does attempt to remedy this problem more than a traditional library catalogue search. “The software is designed to push what you’re looking for up to the top of the results,” Heise said. “In a traditional database search, everything is catalogued in reverse chronological order.”

Caldwell said this upgrade in searching software was supposed to come at the expense of an underutilized library tool that provided a listing of electronic journals. Because this service was of comparable cost to Summon, swapping the two was, according to Caldwell, thought to be “pretty much a wash.”

However, when the librarians went to the provider of the two services, Serial Solutions, with their proposition, things went even better than they expected. “We went to Serial Solutions and said we want to drop the service in order to pay for Summon,” Caldwell said. “They came back with an offer to give us both the services at the same cost.”

This means that the addition of Summon will simultaneously save the Library from having to spend extra money and keep all of its existing services.

“I appreciate how SUMMON allows me to look at most of the resources that the Library is able to provide in one search,”

-Student on a comment card

Caldwell said the addition of Summon will be beneficial for many students, especially those whose fields don’t focus much attention on cataloguing their materials.

A focus group that took place over the summer had students test Summon and write down their reactions. “I appreciate how SUMMON allows me to look at most of the resources that the Library is able to provide in one search,” one student wrote on a comment card. “I also like how it assumes ‘AND’ for my search.” Other updates took place over the summer, including a specialized business-searching database named ABI-Inform and the addition of 77,000 e-books. Caldwell said the updates being made are a source of enthusiasm for the Library.

“We’re very proud of what we can offer this year that we couldn’t offer last year,” Caldwell said. Both Caldwell and Heise said that even with these new tools, students should come to librarians to ask for help. “That’s what we’re here for,” Heise said. To access Summon, ABI-Inform or any other database to which Drew has access, students can go to the Library’s webpage on Treehouse.